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  1. #1
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    Default Safety for Pro-Touring Track Cars

    This Forum Thread is for discussing & learning about “Safety for Pro-Touring Track Cars”

    This thread has a narrow focus, just as the title says.
    This thread has a narrow focus, just as the title says.
    For a thread focused on: Overall Handling & Tuning for Track Performance ... click HERE.
    For a thread focused on: Front Suspension & Steering Geometry for Track Performance ... click HERE.
    For a thread focused on: Rear Suspension & Geometry for Track Performance ... click HERE.
    For a thread focused on: Measuring & Modifying Your Front Suspension Geometry ... click HERE.
    For a thread focused on: Designing Aerodynamics for Track Performance ... click HERE.
    For a thread focused on: Brake Selection ... click HERE.

    I promise to post advice only when I have significant knowledge & experience on the topic. Please don’t be offended if you ask me to speculate & I decline. I don’t like to guess, wing it or BS on things I don’t know. I figure you can guess & wing it without my input, so no reason for me to do it for you.

    A few guidelines I’m asking for this thread:
    1. I want people to ask questions and share their experiences about safety related topics. That’s why I’m starting this thread ... so we can discuss & learn about car safety. There are no stupid questions, so please don’t be embarrassed to ask about anything within the scope of the thread.

    2. Safety is very subjective and each person needs to make their own decisions. Please don’t shoot down other people or their thoughts on here. That’s not productive.

    3. I don't enjoy debating. It's not fun or valuable for me, so I simply don’t do it. If you have different viewpoints … post them. Please don’t get mad if I won’t debate with you. If we see it different … let’s just agree to disagree & each of us can make the best safety decisions for ourselves based on the information we get. Arguing on an internet forum just makes us all look stupid.

    4. To my engineering friends … I promise to use the wrong terms … or the right terms the wrong way. Please don’t have a cow. To my car guy friends … I promise to communicate as clear as I can in “car guy” terms. Some stuff is just complex or very involved. If I’m not clear … call me on it. I’m writing some books and want car guys to understand them. When you’re really not clear on something I said … please bring it up & help me improve.

    5. I type so much, so fast, I often misspell or leave out words. Ignore the mistakes if it makes sense. But please bring it up if it doesn’t.

    6. If I think your questions … and the answers to them will be valuable to others … I want to have it on this thread for all of us to learn from. If your questions get too specific to your car & I think it won’t be of value to others … I may ask you to start a separate thread where you & I can discuss your safety needs more in-depth.

    7. It’s enjoyable for me to share my experience & help people improve the safety of their cars. It’s fun for me to learn stuff too. Let’s keep this thread positive.

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    Welcome,
    The foundation for this safety forum is based on my experience & opinion. I get on my soap box because I’m passionate about safety. No extra charge for the soap box.

    I am normally a pretty positive & happy guy. But this thread brings out a lot of memories for me of people getting seriously injured or killed needlessly. So this topic brings out my dark side. I am pretty passionate about safety, because there is no good reason not to be as safe as we can be.

    When I drove race cars I was one of the most aggressive drivers you could imagine. When I developed drivers, we were hardcore serious about getting to the front & winning races. I teach drivers how to drive at the very edge of the car’s limit … the tire’s limit and their limit … and frankly to push & find new limits. That is easier to do the driver is confident … because every safety precaution has been taken … and stupid to even be on the race track if every precaution hasn’t been taken.

    I do not want to offend anyone or come off as a know it all. I do not consider myself to be the “ultimate safety authority” … but I have a lot of real world crash experience & want to share what I learned. I am passionate about building safe track cars and protecting the driver. Please do not take anything I say as condescending. I just want to see people get informed & make smart decisions.

    I won’t tell anyone “you have to do this” … but I can tell you what I’m doing … and I’ll happily offer advice in the areas I have experience. I’m building a wicked-fast PT Track Car to run AutoX, Road Courses, Drags & Silver State. My daughter will co-pilot with me at Silver State. Because I value my life & my family … I am putting all the safety know-how I have into my car. I respect everyone’s right to their own opinions and their own decisions. It’s your hot rod and your life. Well … it’s also the life of people around you. I’ll share what I have learned and believe … and you can decide what makes sense for you.

    I believe in taking personal responsibility as much as is possible & reasonable. When I drive a car … any car … I take personal responsibility for my safety … and the safety of my passengers … and the safety of the cars & people around me. It doesn’t matter who built the car or who worked on the car. It doesn’t matter who caused the crash at 1xx mph … I am responsible for my safety and my passengers. Anything less is irresponsible. That is my belief.

    I am not naïve enough to think everyone has the same belief. Nor am I trying to “convert” anyone’s beliefs. I’ve simply seen too many people get serious hurt & paralyzed … and too many people die … in race track accidents. These have shaped my beliefs.

    Others do not embrace that belief. Some people may believe if someone built their car … and it breaks & they are paralyzed or die … someone else is responsible. Of if someone else makes a mistake and crashes them … and people die … someone else is responsible. Old Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty would surely say, “But you’re still dead … Jack!”

    Others want to pretend it won’t happen to them. Or they won’t drive hard enough, or often enough, for bad things to happen. I believe those guys are kidding themselves & playing Russian Roulette with their lives.

    My hope & goal with this forum thread is to provide knowledge to the guys & gals that also believe they need to take responsibility for their safety … and of the others around them.

    I believe if we’re going to play with race car level power & handling … and race level speeds … we need race car level safety.
    If we’re going to build Supercar level power & handling … and Supercar level speeds … we need Supercar level safety. I think it’s cool a lot of PT guys build their cars to beat the modern Corvettes and other Supercars. But those cars have a tremendous level of safety designed in them. I believe we need Supercar safety too. It may not be feasible to add airbags, but there are plenty of things we can do to improve safety in our 1950-1980’s based Pro-Touring/Track Cars.

    In my 35 years of racing, I’ve seen a lot of cars wreck because of part failure. I take car safety decisions … and precaution from proper maintenance & car preparation …. just as seriously as driver safety gear. Many guys don’t and blame “bad luck.” It’s usually not.

    These are more fun to say … when spoken like you’re listening to Jeff Foxworthy say … you might be a redneck.
    • If a cheap rod end fails causing suspension failure … and you crash … that’s not bad luck.
    • If an old bolt breaks because it was cycled too much, causing suspension failure … and you crash … that’s not bad luck.
    • If a bearing designed to handle forces from a G70-14 tire … fails with big, grippy tires & you crash … that’s not bad luck.
    • If you lose your brakes because they weren’t designed for track abuse ... and you crash … that’s not bad luck.
    • If an inferior ball joint breaks causing suspension failure … and steering loss & you crash … that’s not bad luck.
    • If a suspension bracket cracks at the weld & goes un-inspected … then breaks & you crash … that’s not bad luck.
    • If the engine is worn out, or built shabbily, and blows up … putting oil under the tires & you crash … that’s not bad luck.
    • If the transmission is worn out, or built shabbily, and blows up … putting oil under the tires & you crash … that’s not bad luck.
    • If the rear end is worn out, or built shabbily, breaks & locks up … backing you into the wall … that’s not bad luck.

    There are typically six causes of wrecks:
    1. Part failure … tire, bearing, brakes, steering, suspension, engine, etc … doesn’t matter what.
    2. Driver mistake/human error.
    3. Driver pushed & drove past limits of set-up, grip, etc. (Not the same as human error, as you intended to push the limits)
    4. Someone hits you from the side or behind.
    5. You hit another car because you couldn’t avoid their chaos.
    6. You hit something else … avoiding their chaos.

    When you read this … I hope you realize you are not in control of everything that happens on track. Simply driving at 9/10’s “to be safe” is not insurance against 1, 2, 4, 5 or 6. You can not prevent all the causes of wrecks. So if you’re going to run on race tracks, you need to be prepared to crash, regardless of cause or fault.

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    My focus in this thread will be primarily safety for high speed road course track cars. I feel there is much less risk in AutoX events running 60 mph than there is on a road course running 120 mph. But there are still risks and ways to minimize those risks.

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    Here are the topics we’ll start with:

    Crash Protection

    Roll Bars, Door Bars & Cages
    Padding
    Racing & Full Containment Seats
    Seat Belt Harnesses
    Fire Suppression System
    Fuel Cells
    Electrical Shutoff
    Insulation
    Lexan/Glass

    Driver Gear
    Helmets
    HANS
    Fire Suits
    Underwear
    Gloves & Shoes
    Window Nets & Arm Restraints

    Preventing Breakage
    Suspension Components
    Rod Ends & Fasteners
    Bearings, Spindles & Front Hubs
    Rear Axles, Hubs & C-Clip Eliminators
    Driveshaft & U-joints
    Wheels & Tires
    Fabricated Materials

    Preventing Problems
    Running Wires, Hoses & Fuel Lines
    Radiator Overflow
    Brakes Overheating
    Exhaust Fumes
    Radio Communication

    Inspection
    Visual & Touch Inspection Routine
    Proper Nut & Bolt Strategy
    Safety Wire, Locking Nuts & Loctite
    Last edited by Ron Sutton; 12-07-2014 at 02:00 PM.
    Feel free to chime in or ask technical questions. I am here to help where I can.

    Ron Sutton

    Ron Sutton Race Technology
    Your One Stop, Turn & Go Fast, Car Building Resource Center for Autocross, Track, Road Racing & Triple Duty Pro-Touring Cars

    Check out our 400 Page Car Building Catalog HERE

    Features: Suspension, Chassis, Cages, Brakes, Rear Ends, Engines, Transmisssions, Aero & Much, Much More!


  2. #2
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    Default

    CRASH PROTECTION

    Roll Bars, Door Bars & Cages for REAL Safety


    I have a long background in chassis building & a lot of real world crash experience where people lived & died. Since losing a friend in a crash and almost losing another in a crash in the 80's … I have studied, worked toward & developed safer race cars. Most of my knowledge is from having seen many race cars wreck ... and studied the old design failures. We would implemented new designs … and eventually see them wreck too … and see if what did proved safer. Of course I’ve learned from other teams and safety engineers where I could too.

    I do not consider myself to be the “ultimate safety authority” … but I have a lot of real world crash experience.

    In my driver development program, we lived, breathed, taught, practiced & required safety. If one of those young drivers had been disabled or died on my watch, I don’t think I could live with myself. I required HANS devices & full containment seats before the racing sanctioning bodies did.

    My young drivers personally committed they would protect themselves, as a promise to me. One driver showed up at the track without his fire retardant underwear. No fire retardant underwear … no driving my race cars. “Aw Ron, but it’s just practice. I’ll have it on tomorrow for the race.” Not no … but hell no. He ran & bought some Carbon-X underwear & made the last half of practice.

    I have lost friends because they were “just”. They were just practicing, just playing around, just testing. Cars, guard rails, cliffs & concrete barriers don’t know you’re just playing, just practicing, just testing, etc. A drag racing friend died in 1985 doing a private test. He had his helmet & 5-point harness on … but not fully tight … because they were just testing. But when a car flips & crashes … the forces don’t know you were you “Just …”

    I had a young driver, hit the concrete wall on a practice day at a ½ mile track when I wasn't there. He was hurt & bruised bad, but otherwise ok. Some of the injuries suggested he wasn’t wearing his HANS. I later found out he wasn’t … and I dropped him from my program. He broke his promise to me to be smart & protect himself in this dangerous sport.

    I’ve been on fire, been upside down at 177 mph, hit walls so hard I’m lucky to be alive & broke my back in 1991 … almost didn’t walk again. This stuff is serious. If you’re going to build your car to be more like a race car … and drive it in race situations … then plan for race level safety measures. The sport of Pro Touring … where drivers compete on real road courses & fast events like the Silver State Challenge … are just asking for someone to get killed or disabled … because there are less rules.

    Don’t let the lack of rules guide your safety.

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    In my drag race chassis building business, we had a funny … but true … phrase we lived by. We built our cars to win races … and protect the driver. We called our additional safety procedures “our client retention program” … and with a bit of tongue-in-cheek-humor, we would tell prospective clients, “if you crash one of our race cars & live … you may buy another one. But if you crash & die … you won’t be buying any cars.”

    We built our cars with methods that took more time & money, but protected the driver. We didn’t allow the customer to choose parts if they affected safety. All of this safety was “built into the cost” and wasn’t “optional” to the customer. If they didn’t want to spend the money for our level of car & safety, they weren’t our kind of customer.

    Don’t want anyone dying on my watch … and I have seen too many people die … including a prospective customer who went somewhere else because we wouldn’t use his homemade fuel cell. Another chassis builder did build a car with it. The fire didn’t kill him … when he went through the guard rail at Green Valley Raceway in Ft Worth, Texas. The fuel cell ruptured & broke free, allowing fuel to go forward in the cockpit. He died 4 days later in the hospital from pneumonia … which I learned is common with severe burn victims.

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    Alright, I’ll get off my soapbox and share some safety details …

    Roll Bars

    A. A 4-point roll bar with plates bolted to or welded to thin sheet metal in unibody type cars … adds a very small level of protection. I believe more to satisfy race event insurance companies than to protect the driver. Car owners add them thinking they are getting a degree of safety that really doesn’t exist … and then have a false sense of security when driving in races, or race like conditions.

    B. A 4-point roll bar that mounts to actual frame structure, does offers a higher degree of crush protection in the event of a roll over or impact to the roof.

    C. The more footprint points the roll bar or cage has, and the bigger, the stronger it will be. The more of these points that actually connect to frame structure, the stronger it will be.

    D. A 4-point roll bar with 2 extra struts that connect the main hoop to the subframe connectors in unibody type cars, makes a difference. The frame connectors, when welded in, add a degree of stiffness. And when the roll bar utilizes braces from the main hoop ... under the cross bar ... attached to frame connectors ... the roll bar is much better prepared to withstand roof impacts ... than compared to just welding plates to the sheet metal. Look at the red bars in the photo.

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    E. A 4-point roll bar with 2 extra connector struts … with the 2 rear bars attaching to real rear subframe … is significantly better.

    F. A 4-point roll bar with 2 extra connector struts … with the 2 rear bars attaching to real rear subframe … in an X-brace fashion … is substantially better.

    G. Building a 6-point roll bar with 4 rearward bars … 2 straight & 2 in an X-brace … both attaching to real frame … is as good as you can build without adding door bars or a cage. There are various designs. I think some are safer than others.

    H. For Pete’s sake … don’t install a roll bar so close to the driver’s or passenger’s head … that they hit it in an impact … UNLESS you are ALWAYS going to wear a helmet … including on the street. Guys have died from moderate wrecks on city streets, when their unprotected head hit the roll bar and split their head open. In those type of typical auto wrecks, they would have been better off to have no roll bar. Please don’t use this as an excuse to not have one. Just install it with this in mind.

    NHRA requires the roll bar to be within 6” of the driver’s helmet. My rule of thumb is make sure the roll bar is 5” from the primary driver’s head with no helmet on, which should work out to 4” from the driver’s head with a helmet on. Most 5-point harnesses … if cinched really tight (as in uncomfortable at first) … allow about 2” of driver movement in hard wrecks. (I know from in-car video.) 4”-5” distance between human heads and steel tubing “should” keep the driver & passenger’s heads from hitting the roll bar, yet still be close enough for the roll bar to provide driver protection in a roll over.

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    Door Bars

    I. Door bars are one the best additions you can add to a roll bar for safety & performance … as long as you don’t mount them too low. It supports the roll bar from “folding” in the middle of the main hoop … with the added bonus of strengthening the chassis for improved performance. Running door bars at the correct height raises the level of safety while improving the torsional rigidity of the chassis quite a bit. It is probably the second best chassis reinforcement you can do … and pound for pound … the best chassis stiffener for the least added weight.

    J. An added bonus, if you didn’t mount them so low they’re worthless, are door bars add major protection in side impacts, when someone runs a red light & crashes into your door, or the passenger door where your loved ones ride. On the track, door bars … properly placed … prevent things from coming through the door and killing you.

    Ten door bar tips:

    1. They typically connect to the main hoop at the bend, in line with the bar behind the seats. But this is just a starting point.

    2. Ideally, you want to run the lower mount as far forward as you can, to create a wide "truss-like" footprint.

    3. After you mock up some plastic sprinkler pipe at these two points ... we need to see if we run into "packaging problems."

    4. We want to make SURE the door bars don't interfere with your ability to steer the hot rod. Because seat height, door bar height & driver height all play a role. I never know exactly where to mount door bars until I mock them up with the driver in the seat.

    5. Often times, the bar is too close into the driver's seat (passenger too) and putting a bend in the door bar, with the curve "out" ... provides more driver cockpit room.

    6. At the other end, we simply need to make sure it doesn't interfere with your feet or pedals.

    7. Don't put a downward bend in it if you can avoid it … unless you triangulate it. Especially in a track car. The improved strength & safety of having the bar at the right height outweighs the inconvenience of climbing over the bar. The door bar being lower doesn't offer as much side impact protection in a crash. I say "often", because it all depends on the height of the bar versus the people in the seats. Ultimately, for safety, you want the door bar to prevent things ... cars, telephone poles, ends of concrete barriers, etc ... from coming in & hitting the driver or passenger in side impacts.

    8. I like to use 4130 Chromoly for door bars, regardless of what the main hoop is made of. Chromoly welds to mild steel just fine & the increased driver & passenger protection is worth the small difference in tubing cost.

    9. I typically use the same size of tubing for the door bars as the main hoop ... 1-3/4" or 1-5/8". An exception would be if we need to go down 1/8 or 1/4" for clearance purposes. If you use 1-3/4" or 1-5/8" diameter Chromoly ... .083" wall is good. If you drop down to 1-1/2" diameter ... bump the wall thickness to .095"

    10. Stock Car style door bars with uprights & 1/8" plate are safest & Pro/Stock X-braces work well too, but both require people to "crawl in" through the window sized opening. For single down bar with braces, I prefer the structure & placement in this photo.

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    Material Matters:

    K. Most roll bars & cages are made with less expensive seam welded mild steel. Mild steel grades commonly vary from 1010 to 1030. The higher the number, the stronger it is. Most seam welded tubing commonly available is 1010 or 1012, the cheapest with the least strength. But 1018 is available, for slightly more money, if you look for it. When buying a roll bar … ask the manufacturer what they use.

    L. DOM stands for drawn over mandrel. It is a better process for manufacturing round tubing, working with the grain of the steel & leaving no weak seam. It is still mild steel … but because the process costs more, manufacturers use higher grades ... typically 1018 to 1026. Most stock car cages are made from this. A small percentage are made with chromoly. Because of the constant crashes & repairs in oval track racing, stock car racers & chassis builders like that the mild steel DOM bends easily creating localized crush zones. Personally, I don’t want a roll bar over my head as a crush zone.

    M. Stainless steel tubing is similar in strength to high grade DOM mild steel. In racing, we use it on bumpers & nerf bars that we WANT to bend on impact. We use stainless, instead of DOM, only so we don’t need to paint it or chrome it. We tig weld it & bolt it on.

    N. 4130 Chromoly is the strongest option of commonly available & affordable tubing materials. OMG! Chromoly is SO MUCH STRONGER than mild steel, DOM or stainless steel … it’s hard to compare them. NHRA understands this & requires mild steel bars to be 1-3/4” x .134” wall or 4130 Chromoly at 1-5/8” x .083” wall … and the Chromoly is STILL STRONGER. All pro level drag cars are made from Chromoly for this reason. Chromoly is so strong, that often when a car wrecks, instead of crushing, it spreads the load over the whole car … and therefore the entire chassis “bows.”

    If I were installing a 4 or 6 point roll bar without door bars ... or a 4, 6 or 8 point roll bar with door bars ... but not a "roll cage" ... I would use 1-3/4” x .095” 4130 Chromoly for ultimate strength ... and mount to as many frame structure points as I could.

    Roll Cages:

    O. When you up your game to a well designed roll cage with 8, 10, 12 or 46 points, you just increased the safety factor by triple, and the chassis rigidity too. Again, in unibody type cars, you will want it to connect to real frame structure as much as possible. The increase in torsional rigidity ... and the performance gains make this a double win.

    P. The optimum set up for safety & performance, is to make the cage out of Chromoly for the best driver & passenger protection … and make the front & rear bars out of DOM for crush zones in the event of front or rear impacts.

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    Roll Bar Padding

    You do not want your helmet hitting the steel tubing of a cage or roll bar. Having at least 2” of helmet-to-roll-bar clearance is critical because the belts will stretch that much … so 3” is better and 4” is best. Having the proper density padding on the bars is also essential in reducing head injuries. Do not use “just any old foam” as most are too soft, which makes them practically useless. More false security.

    Use the padding that is SFI approved for roll bars. SFI has worked out the proper density to absorb a majority of the impact in a hard crash. I use the profiled mini-padding, that is thinner on the sides and thick where your head may contact it.

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    For Pete’s sake … do not kid yourself into thinking roll bar padding will cushion the blow enough for your helmet-less head hitting the roll bar. (Who is this Pete guy anyway?)

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    Racing & Full Containment Seats

    I can not comment much on street seats because I don’t run them. This is probably a generalized over statement, but I consider most street seats to be unsafe in racing environments. I’m sure there are exceptions. Please don’t flame me telling me how safe your street seats are. I look at it this way …
    • If your seat back folds forward and/or back … that mechanism can break in an impact.
    • If your seat has the typical factory slider with small tab that grabs on one side … that mechanism can break in an impact, sliding you into the steering wheel.
    • If your seat is soft & cushy … you are not being properly supported for 1.5+ g cornering forces.
    • If your seat doesn’t have rigid side supports for your hips & torso … you are not being properly supported for 1.5+ g cornering forces.

    So this section is about racing seats. For safety, your racing seat needs to:
    • Hold the driver securely in place for racing
    • Not move, shift, fold or deform in a crash
    • Not break free in a crash
    • Hold your torso in place during a crash

    Driver weight … along with speed, g-forces, etc, plays a role in proper seat selection. The heavier a driver is, the stronger the seat needs to be built to not “fold up” under hard impacts. Racing seat manufacturers are in a tough spot, because the “it won’t happen to me” idiot racers buy seats that are light & cheap. So they need to offer light & cheap seats or they will miss sales to their competitors. This advice is simple … don’t be an idiot by buying the cheapest & lightest seat like this ...

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    If you can literally flex your seat by moving around in it (parked) … well that my friends is what we call a clue. The seat needs to be strong enough to hold a heavy mass (you) in place during a high-G crash. Do not buy into the myth that the seat needs to flex with you. The seat & 5-7 point harness need to work together to contain you from flinging around in the cockpit in bad crashes. So paper thin “economy racing seats” with no bracing should not be considered safe.

    A racing seat’s strength comes from four primary things:
    • Material
    • Wall thickness
    • Number of layers
    • Bracing around back & sides of seat

    While I am sure fiberglass can be made into a safe racing seat, I do not have any experience with fiberglass racing seats. Carbon fiber can, of course, be strong enough for a safe racing seat, as there are very safe carbon fiber seats available … just very expensive. Most racing seats are aluminum & that is what I have most experience with.

    Like most things, there are poor, ok, fair, good, better & best options in aluminum racing seats. Cost is sometimes an indicator, but there are some bargains. I wish I could just give you a wall thickness for each body weight range, but bracing design differences make this more complex. Bracing or reinforcement around the torso area of the seat increases it rigidity and is very important.

    Here are some sample seat design parameters with my “acceptable” driver weight suggestions for road course duty:
    • Economy: .090”-.100” wall aluminum seat with no torso bracing (100-120#)
    • Economy Plus: .125” wall aluminum seat with no torso bracing (120-140#)
    • Mid-level: .090”-.100” wall aluminum seat with minor torso bracing (140-150#)
    • Mid-level Plus: .125” wall aluminum seat with minor torso bracing (150-170#)
    • High level: .090”-.100” wall aluminum seat with major torso bracing (170-200#)
    • High level Plus: .125” wall aluminum seat with major torso bracing (200# +)

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    • High level Plus: .090”-.100” double wall aluminum seat in torso area (200# +)

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    Let’s talk full containment seats …
    Two safety innovations in the last 15 years have saved an amazing amount of lives … and probably an even larger number of drivers from being paralyzed. The HANS devices & full containment seats.

    Why? How?
    Simple. Neck injuries kill or paralyze drivers in hard crashes. HANS devices prevent the head from snapping forward too far in head on crashes. This prevents broken necks. But the HANS devices do nothing in side impacts. Full Containment seats prevent the head from snapping sideways too far in side impact crashes.

    What does “Full Containment” mean?
    In addition to holding your torso in place … the seat has two additional “wrap around” supports … one for your shoulders and one for you head/helmet. (See photo)

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    Here are some guidelines for full containment seats:

    • Use the guide above in selecting the lower & torso area design of the seat.
    • It is “ok” to add on head & shoulder supports to an existing seat as long as they are mounted in the correct spot & attached securely.
    • It is “ok” to add shoulder supports by themselves, but this is not “full containment.”
    • Never add a head support without shoulder supports. That can cause a broken neck.
    • The shoulder supports need to be close enough to your shoulders when driving to limit side movement in an impact, without limiting your steering movement.
    • The head supports need to be close enough to your head when driving to limit side movement in an impact, without limiting your ability to turn your head 20° or so.
    • The head supports need to be high enough to support the side of your helmet, but not so tall as to impede your vision above the front tips.

    Fit:
    This is simple. The seat needs to fit you very snuggly on the sides and offer support under your thighs. If the seat is too wide, you’ll just move around in the seat and have a hard time driving well or safely. Do NOT rely on the seat belt harness to hold you in a seat that is too big. Under high G loads … especially in the 1.2g to 1.6g range we see on road courses … your torso will slide side to side. The harness “stretches” under these loads.

    Then you find yourself trying to “hang on for dear life” to the steering wheel. That’s no way to drive fast cars. You want to be snug & secure in the seat (side to side) and snug (down & back) in the seat with tight harness adjustment. Then your body is secure at 150mph & 1.6g … and you can relax and steer the race car. Anything less is dangerous and leads to lower driver performance and inconsistency.

    Can’t say this strongly enough … get a seat that fits well, even if that means custom order.

    HANS space:
    Even you don’t use a HANS device now … make sure there is room in between your helmet & the seat head rest for a HANS device. Some seat designs do & some don’t. Some have to be stepped back, while others are simply angled. Regardless, make sure your seat has space for you to run a HANS. I see the trends coming & suspect someday they will be mandatory in all of motorsports, just like a helmet.


    Mounting:
    A quick little math exercise. Add your weight with suit & driver gear to the seat weight … accelerate that to 120-150mph (or more if you plan to) … then stop that weight instantly from a sudden impact into a barrier. This makes it real clear that we need to mount the seat strong. Super strong. Sure … your harness will help hold you in, but don’t make it do more work than it was intended for. Give the harness a helping hand by mounting the seat …
    • In multiple places
    • In the right places
    • With adequate sized bolts & bracket thickness.

    I like to mount aluminum seats at 4 points
    … 2 on the bottom & 2 in between the torso & shoulders. I pick bolt & bracket thickness based on driver weights:
    • .125” aluminum or .090” steel for drivers 75-150# & 5/16” grade 8 bolts
    • .188” aluminum or .125” steel for drivers 150-225# & 3/8” grade 8 bolts

    You have 4 key mounting dimensions to get right:
    1. Is the seat centered with the steering
    2. Is the seat bottom square to the car
    3. Is the layback angle optimum
    4. Is the fore & aft location optimum for pedals, shifting, seeing, roll bar clearance, etc.

    Tips:
    • Take the time now … in the shop … to get the driver comfortable when first mounting the seat.
    • Shop time is easy. Changing it at the track is a pain in the ass.
    • Mock it up & have the driver sit in the seat for ½ hour or longer. If it’s not optimum, adjust it.
    • If the butt goes to sleep first, you need more leg support. If the legs go to sleep first, you need more butt support.
    • Obviously, keep the mounting bolts out of sensitive areas. (I prefer round head bolts)

    Work hardening:
    Aluminum is a funny thing. If it is bolted down tight and doesn’t flex or move around, it doesn’t work harden. But if it flexes or moves around, it work hardens … and cracks. If this happens at the mounting bolt holes … the aluminum cracks & tears. So make sure you bolt all points of the seat down securely … and check the bolts occasionally to ensure the seat mounting points are not moving.
    • P.S. If you have a “flexi-flyer” seat this will most likely happen anyway.
    • P.P.S. If you have a seat that the mounting holes have cracked & torn, reinforce that area by welding in aluminum patches top & bottom.

    Recommendations:

    I do not usually publicly endorse products, but for seats I make an exception. I have been a dealer for 7 of the top brands. From seeing how they are all built and years of experience seeing these seats in crashes, I often recommend ButlerBuilt. I believe their Advantage II Sportsman & Advantage II Speedway are the safest full containment racing seats in the under $2000 price range. And their EZ-Seat is the safest full containment racing seats under $1000 ($699 currently).

    Plus Butlerbuilt ships when they say they will, and builds custom seats right the first time. So Butlerbuilt is my preferred brand. Now, having said that, I have Kirkey seats in my new PT car. I usually do not recommend Kirkey, because they typically build the thinnest, lightest seats. Mine are the High level Plus versions made with .100” double wall aluminum construction in torso area for my 200#+++ body.

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    Seat Belt Harnesses/Restraints


    This is probably the simplest safety item. There still some key things to know along with some tips. I’ll go over them here in no particular order.

    4, 5, 6 or 7 point:
    First, do not utilize a 4-point belt which only has the lap belt (2 points) & shoulder harnesses (the other 2 points) without an anti-submarine (or crotch) belt. Drivers literally slide down & out of the seat in head on impacts without an anti-submarine (or crotch) belt.

    So what is the difference between 5, 6 & 7 point harnesses?

    • The only difference in a basic 5 or 6 point is whether you have a single or dual (v-shaped) anti-submarine belt.
    • You could count the additional point if you have a sternum belt built in, which is a short belt & latch between the 2 shoulder straps.
    • But true 7-point harnesses are for drag racing with 3 anti-submarine belts holding the driver in when they pop the chutes.

    I think your choice of single or dual (v-shaped) anti-submarine belt comes down to mounting options. As long as you have a good, solid location under the center of the seat (going through slot in the seat base) a single is good.

    Sternum belts:
    First a story of why they exist. In super high-g head on impacts … with big drivers … if the forces are high enough … the driver’s torso can (and have) pushed so hard forward that the shoulder straps pushed outward & held the shoulders … while the center of the driver’s body pushed through … breaking their sternum. Hence the name sternum belts.

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    I am a fan of sternum belts, and they will be on my car. But they’re not without installation challenges. If you sew them into the harness, you have to get them just right, or the sternum belt ends up being more of a belly or neck belt. Another issue is with a HANS. Most HANS devices have the shoulder area angled outward, so it can be a challenge to keep the belts in place. They want to push the belts outward & off the HANS, which would make it useless. If you place the sternum belt in the right place, it positively keeps the shoulder straps in place and over the HANS device, positively keeping it in place too. But again, if you sew the sternum belt into the shoulder straps too high, it gets in the way of the HANS device.

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    This is not a big deal to get it right. Just realize you need to tailor the sternum belt height to fit your body.

    Width:
    There are 2” & 3” seat belts & shoulder harnesses available. I never consider 2” wide belts or shoulder harnesses except for very light drivers or vehicles destined for low speed tracks. Some drivers prefer 2” wide shoulder harnesses because they fit into the HANS slots better. Again, for me, with drivers 150# & above, I’m going with 3” seat belts & shoulder harnesses. The anti-submarine belts are always smaller than that. Some racing sanctioning bodies do not even
    allow 2” wide belts except on the anti-submarine belt.

    Latch or Camlock?
    I feel this is personal preference as I have had drivers swear by one or the other. Personally, I am a latch guy, because I can see every part of the mechanism … and know it is working correctly.

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    Pull up or down?
    Many of you may not know you can get the seat belts that pull “down” on each sides or pull “up” to the center. Also, with shoulder harnesses, you can get them that pull down or up. In a full size pro-touring car, I prefer the seat belts that pull up & shoulder harnesses that pull down.

    Mounting tips:
    • Shoulder harnesses should be level or running downhill back to the cross bar … never uphill.
    • Level is the most comfortable with the least force pulling you down into the seat.
    • Running downhill back to the cross bar holds the driver in most securely. NHRA limits this to 4” below driver’s shoulders.
    • When I have driver head to roll bar clearance concerns, I choose the running downhill back to the cross bar mounting.
    • Wrapping the shoulder harnesses cross bar around or using the slotted tabs & bolting to the crossbar results in the same safety levels.
    • ALWAYS mount the seat belts at, or near, a 45° angle to the car floor. This provides the best retention in all forms of crashes.
    • I recommend a minimum of 7/16” NF grade 8 bolts for mounting the seat belts & shoulder harness. 3/8” is good for the anti-submarine belt mount. Some sanctioning bodies have rules for mounting hardware & some don’t. These bolt sizes will pass all rules.

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    Fire Suppression System

    For AutoX, an onboard hand held fire extinguisher that is clamped in place may be fine because you can get stopped much quicker. But on road courses, I suggest an actual on-board fire extinguisher system.

    Here’s why …
    • At 120-150 mph when you realize the car is on fire … it can take a long time to get stopped.
    • Fire can spread fast. In a few seconds the whole car can be ablaze but it may take you 10-20 seconds to get stopped.
    • If the fire is in the cockpit … you’re trying to save your life and drive at the same time.
    • A good fire suit & driver gear can not protect you from fire long term … only for a short bit. It just buys you time.
    • If you hit the fire extinguisher button at the first sign of fire … and safely pulled off course … you should be unharmed if you’re wearing good driver gear. And the damage to your car should be minimal.
    • Without an on-board fire extinguisher system … by the time you get stopped using the brakes … if you do … you will be on fire and your life will be in the hands of the safety crew.
    • If you don’t get the car stopped with the brakes … and it stops after hitting something … and you’re knocked out from the impact … and on fire … ah … oh man … uh … game over.
    • In this situation, think of a fire suppression system as “life insurance” to save your life … otherwise someone will be collecting on your life insurance.

    If the fire is not in the cockpit …

    • If the fire is “just” in the rear by the fuel tank or in the front with the engine (and fuel) … you hope you have time to get stopped before the fire spreads and/or it blows up.
    • By the time you get stopped using the brakes … if you do … and get your fire extinguisher out … the damage to your car is done. The fire damage to your car in 20-30 seconds can be huge.
    • If you hit the fire extinguisher button at the first sign of fire … and safely pulled off course … the damage should be minimal.
    • Think of this as “car insurance” … because for sure … your actual insurance company is not going to pay for fire damage at a track event.

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    There are a few good brands. I prefer Safecraft because the quality of parts is higher and the price is about the same. For $500 or less, you can buy a complete system.

    You will want to plumb it with three spray nozzles … one each in the fuel cell area, engine bay & driver compartment. The two red nozzles for the fuel cell area & engine bay have larger ports to spray more chemical to deal with fuel fires. The blue nozzle sprays less for the driver compartment, so you can still see & breathe. You need a system with a 5# bottle minimum. Anything smaller is going to run out of Halon 1211 or DuPont FE36 before the fire is out and you get stopped.

    Halon 1211 has been the standard for years. DuPont FE36 is a newer product that is safer for people when inhaled and easier to clean up after the fire with no residue. A complete 5# fire suppression system will add about 7# to your car. Nothing compared to the added safety. A 10# system would add 12# and provide twice the Halon or Dupont FE36.

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    Fuel Cells

    Let’s face it … basically you’re carrying a potential gas bomb back there. You need to prevent it from rupturing & spilling fuel. There are several key components to a safe fuel cell system.
    • The bladder
    • The metal case
    • Framework around the shell/case
    • The mounting hardware
    • Foam & baffles

    Working backwards, foam helps to prevent and slow fuel slosh. Baffles help keep the fuel near the pickup. Both are important but not a fire safety component.

    The hardware mounting the cell should be obviously very important, but I’ve seen loaded cells weighing 250# mounted with 5/16” bolts. I can not say there is one way, or one best way, but the mounts need to be very secure.

    I am a big fan of framework around the metal case, like you see in top notch stock cars. This framework forms a safety cage around the metal case. The metal case drops into the cage. The bladder goes inside the metal case. The metal top of case clam shell bolts together with the lower metal case. Then top framework cage bars are bolted to the lower framework holding the cell in. That is about is good as it gets.

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    The decision before that (besides how big, shape & dimensions) are on what type of bladder to get. There are flexible rubber-based bladders & hard plastic-based bladders. The flexible bladder’s advantage is they won’t split even if the case is severely deformed. Their weakness is they can be punctured easier with a sharp object than the hard plastic-based bladders. Up until recently, with flexible bladders, you had to chose fuel type … gasoline or alcohol. With the hard bladders you could always run any fuel. Now the fuel cell companies have soft bladders with the fuel versatility too.

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    Electrical Shutoff

    Most sanctioning bodies require an external electrical shut off switch so emergency workers can turn off the battery power at a crash. They do this so they can instantly turn off the engine … if it is running or stuck throttle … and the electrical fuel pump, which if left on to run is supplying the fire fuel.

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    I believe you also need one master electrical switch inside the cockpit too. Think about it this way. Why wait for the safety crew to turn the electrical power off? Heck ... I’m hitting the master switch the instant I get stopped.

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    Insulation

    I have very little experience with insulation, as we don’t insulate race cars. But we do want to insulate our PT Track cars for both noise & heat suppression. Are we adding fuel for a fire? I don’t know. I know I don’t want to use insulation that adds to the flammability of my PT track car … so we need to research it, test & talk.

    Craig ?

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    Lexan/Glass

    This will be a short discussion as Lexan (polycarbonate) windows are much safer than glass in a few key ways:

    Safety glass, when shattered in an impact stays together “mostly” … but small, sharp pieces of glass do come off of the laminate and cut stuff, people, etc. Lexan does not. It can be broken, but it doesn’t shatter into a zillion little pieces like glass.

    Lexan has WAY more impact resistance … is less likely to star from rocks … and is much lighter. The downsides of Lexan are it is easier to scratch and fades/yellows over time. FYI: You can polish it back up.

    I know road race teams that race in the rain run Lexan windshields and regular wiper blades, but the windshield can be toast after a long rain event and need to be replaced.

    If you don’t plan to drive your PT Track Car in the rain much, or at all, Lexan is a safer route. It just won’t hold up to long term wiper usage.

    .
    Last edited by Ron Sutton; 12-05-2013 at 04:30 PM.
    Feel free to chime in or ask technical questions. I am here to help where I can.

    Ron Sutton

    Ron Sutton Race Technology
    Your One Stop, Turn & Go Fast, Car Building Resource Center for Autocross, Track, Road Racing & Triple Duty Pro-Touring Cars

    Check out our 400 Page Car Building Catalog HERE

    Features: Suspension, Chassis, Cages, Brakes, Rear Ends, Engines, Transmisssions, Aero & Much, Much More!

  3. #3
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    Driver Gear
    I don’t like, buy or recommend anything that is not SNELL or SFI rated. SNELL exclusively tests helmets. SFI is the group that actually tests driver gear to insure it works. Otherwise you, the driver, are the “crash test dummy.”

    Helmets:

    Open versus full face:
    The first part is pretty simple. Open face helmets were designed to protect your brain. Full face helmets protect your brain, face, nasal system & jaw. Modern safety technology has shown open face helmets allow a lot of unnecessary injuries if the driver’s face hits an object in the cockpit or if an object comes into the car and hits the driver in the face. As with all safety decisions, you need to make your own choices. For me, I can not fathom not wearing a full face helmet.

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    DOT & SNELL ratings:
    DOT ratings are for cheap, inferior helmets. It’s the minimum that would pass for “some type” of protection. SNELL ratings are king. Stay away from M & K rated helmets in auto racing. M is for Motorcycle & K is for Kart Racing. Neither have nomex on the interior, so there is no fire resistance. SNELL comes out with new updated ratings every 5 years. SA2010 are the current highest rated auto racing helmet.

    There is a new SAH2010 rating that means the helmet has been rated for tether attachments common with HANS type devices. A helmet without the SAH2010 rating does not necessarily mean it can’t use a HANS. Quite the contrary, as the HANS devices as been used effectively for years with SA rated helmets. It’s just a new test SNELL added to their process.

    Never run the helmet strap loose . I lost a good friend in a race car wreck because he had his helmet strap on “comfortable” because they were “just testing.” In the wreck, his helmet came off and he suffered head trauma & died. When they found his helmet … the helmet straps were still connected, just not tight.

    Shields & goggles:
    Two tips here. One is shields can withstand more impact than goggles, because they are attached to the helmet and supported 360° around the eye opening of a full faced helmet. Tip #2 is thickness. Most motorcycle shields use 2mm thick shields and most goggles are 1-1.5mm. Car racing shields are 3mm to provide a higher degree of safety from objects piercing the shield in a crash. All SA2010 helmets have 3mm shields.

    Helmets are not a “forever” item.
    You need to update occasionally, partially so you’re utilizing the latest technology & partly because older fiberglass helmets become slightly more brittle with age. Regardless of materials used in your helmet construction, if your helmet is involved in an impact, either get it inspected by the helmet manufacturer or replace it. It survived the impact … that was its job. But now it may have stress risers or crack and not be able to withstand another impact without coming apart.

    Weight:
    I am a fan of lightweight helmets if they are designed well. Lighter weigh on your head produces less neck problems, less fatigue and less neck injuries in a crash. As long as it is SA2010 rated, lighter is better.

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    HANS

    HANS is short for Head And Neck Safety. I use the term HANS universally. Like saying give me a Kleenex or Coke. HANS is of course also a big name brand of head & neck restraint system. Two safety innovations in the last 15 years have saved an amazing amount of lives … and probably an even larger number of drivers from being paralyzed. The HANS devices & full containment seats.

    Why? How?

    Simple. Neck injuries kill or paralyze drivers in hard crashes. HANS devices prevent the head from snapping forward too FAR in head on crashes. This prevents broken necks. But the HANS devices do nothing in side impacts. Full Containment seats prevent the head from snapping sideways too FAR in side impact crashes.

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    HANS is a great brand and product, that was recently sold to Simpson. They were the innovators. The cool part is they have developed products to be more affordable. Gone are the days where you needed to spend $2000 & have them custom made. Now you can buy the size & model you need for $700-800.

    I have required my drivers to run some form of SFI 38.1 approved head & neck restraint device long before the racing sanctioning bodies did. I can not recommend this strongly enough.

    There are other brands too
    . Safety Solutions offers a Hybrid Pro Rage unit that has some pros & cons compared to the HANS. I was a big fan of the DefeNder head & neck restraint device, but they were sued by HANS and closed their business. The new NecksGen was designed by the same guy and it is a very good unit. Cost is only a little less than a HANS.

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    Foam Neck Braces:
    The high density foam donuts are a joke. I’m not sure who came up with them, but they do nothing but provide a false sense of security. Probably required by an insurance company and designed to be cheap & pacify the underwriters.

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    Fire Suits

    Don’t buy “fire-resistant cotton” suits. These were made for people that don't care about living & insurance companies. The chemical that makes them “fire resistant” washes off after a number of washings and all you have left is “cotton.” But the insurance companies that insure motorsports events can justify that they required the drivers to wear safety gear. They look like racing suits. Don't be fooled.

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    Shopping for suits can be complex because there are so many manufacturers, models, specifications, etc, etc. I can help you narrow it down somewhat. First, you want a multi-layer Nomex suit. Nomex is a brand of fire retardant material. They make several versions of the material.

    You do not need to become an expert … simply pay attention to the TPP # (Thermal Protection Performance) from SFI, which is the fire duration test number.


    The TPP test evaluates the suits thermal insulation in the presence of both direct flame and radiant heat and measures the length of time that the person wearing the suit can be exposed before incurring a second degree, or skin blistering, burn. The higher the suit’s TPP rating, the more protection that is provided before a second degree burn will occur.

    Keeping this simple, the amount of time in seconds of burn protection a suit provides is equal to half the TPP#. So a suit with a TPP rating of 20, will provide 10 seconds of burn protection. NHRA requires a TPP rating of 80 for top fuel racers for 40 seconds of protection. NASCAR requires a TPP rating of 38 for 19 seconds of fire protection in its top divisions.

    I am a strong supporter of suits above 20 TPP# for short track oval racing and in the high 20’s to low 30’s for road course racing. It all comes down to how fast you’re going and the time it takes to get stopped. To me … 10 seconds of protection is the MINIMUM you should consider … which is a TPP# of 20. When you select a TPP rating … you are deciding how many seconds of fire protection you want.

    Many sanctioning bodies only require a SFI 3.2A/5 rated suit. Forget what the sanctioning body requires or doesn’t require. This is your life we’re talking about. I always require my drivers to wear a suit with 2 layers of Nomex … PLUS Nomex or Carbon-X underwear. Not all suits rated SFI 3.2A/5 have 2 layers of nomex & not all fire test the same. There are a LOT of NAME BRANDS with Nomex racing suits that test below 20, including big names like Impact, Simpson, Sparco, etc. (All Simpson SFI 3.2A/5 suits only fire test at a TPP# of 19.)

    It’s ok to buy premium brands like Oakley, Alpine Stars, Sparco, etc, if you want. They all make quality products. Just realize you are paying a premium for the brand. The same quality & safety is available for less money in other brands. I urge you not to buy the “low end” product of a big brand name. Their low end stuff is just that. If budget is an issue … and it often is … I recommend you go with “value brands” that offer great products at prices that are truly a value.

    K1 is one of the best suits for the money. You can get a full, 1-piece racing suit, 2-layer Nomex with a TPP rating of 25.6 like this for $500.

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    Underwear

    I am a strong believer in running a 2-layer Nomex racing suit along with a layer of Nomex or Carbon-X underwear. Many people ask why not just get a 3-layer Nomex suit. I have two reasons.

    First, the 3-layer suits offer awesome protection, but cost twice the money. You can get the same level of fire protection for a lot less by buying a 2-layer suit & underwear. Second, as you sweat, the underwear absorbs most of it, so you’re not stinking up your suit as fast, requiring much less cleaning of the suit. It’s much easier to wash the underwear. Third, wearing underwear protects the inside of the suit, so the suit lasts longer.

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    I recommend you wear long sleeve tops (shirt) and full leg bottoms (like long johns) under your suit. Carbon-X is lighter, cooler and has twice the fire safety of Nomex. It costs 20-40% more but it is worth it.

    Socks:
    Even fire retardant shoes need extra help. You’re going to wear socks anyway. Why wear cotton socks and add fuel to the fire. Go Nomex or Carbon-X on the socks.

    Head sock/balaclava:
    Yes, the Nomex liner inside the SA2010 helmet provides “some” fire protection Get “some more” with a Nomex or Carbon-X (Single or double layer) head sock. This protects your neck & face where the helmet has a gap. Again, Carbon-X is lighter, cooler and has twice the fire safety of Nomex. It costs only 20-40% more.

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    Gloves & Shoes

    Two tips:
    1. It’s hard to drive & save your life when your feet & hands are on fire.
    2. Trust me when I say you do NOT want burned hands or feet after a crash.

    I recommend gloves with a SFI 3.3/5 rating, which are double layer Nomex. In fact, I required it of all my development drivers. Gloves with a SFI3.3/1 rating are single layer gloves, and not safe enough in my opinion.

    For shoes I recommend SFI 3.3/5 rating … and mid or high tops … no low tops. Combine this with Nomex or Carbon-X socks and you should have good protection.

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    Window Nets & Arm Restraints

    It can be said that window nets keep objects from coming into the car in a crash, but their primary purpose is to keep the driver’s hands & arms from coming out the window & getting “removed” during a crash or roll over. Another option is arm restraints.

    Before you stop reading … hear me out. You do not want to restrain your arms from driving to any degree. And arm restraints do NOT do that. They are like sleeve cuffs with a tether that attaches to your harness latch. They are all adjustable … and you adjust them long enough to give you full driving capabilities … but short enough so your hands & arms can not go out the window.

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    They are inexpensive, comfortable, easy & a great alternative to window nets … which you weren’t going to install on your PT Track car anyway.
    Last edited by Ron Sutton; 12-04-2013 at 10:43 PM.
    Feel free to chime in or ask technical questions. I am here to help where I can.

    Ron Sutton

    Ron Sutton Race Technology
    Your One Stop, Turn & Go Fast, Car Building Resource Center for Autocross, Track, Road Racing & Triple Duty Pro-Touring Cars

    Check out our 400 Page Car Building Catalog HERE

    Features: Suspension, Chassis, Cages, Brakes, Rear Ends, Engines, Transmisssions, Aero & Much, Much More!

  4. #4
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    Preventing Breakage

    Before we get into do’s & don’ts … let’s address the elephant in the room. Weight and strength are enemies. If we build parts thicker & stronger they are heavier. Heavier cars are less competitive. So in racing … and many of you are running what I consider racing parts … the age old battle is weight versus durability.

    We can build a vehicle that will withstand long term abuse … but it will be a tank. So in building all race cars, track cars, performance cars, supercars, etc … running lighter weight components for optimum performance means these parts can not … and will not … last for long terms of race track abuse. Everything has a limit of load … and everything that moves, has a life limit of cycles.

    Let’s have a quick & brief metallurgy class:
    There are three kinds of stresses (tension, compression & shear), so there are three kinds of elasticity for any material (steel, aluminum, titanium, whatever) to deal with.
    1. Ductility is the ability of steel to undergo permanent changes (forming, bending) in shape without fracture at room temperature. Also thought of as the capacity of a material to deform plastically without fracturing.

    2. Malleability is the property that determines the ease of deforming a metal when the metal is subjected to rolling or hammering. The more malleable metals can be hammered or rolled into thin sheet more easily than others.

    3. Elasticity is the property of recovering original shape and dimensions upon removal of a deforming force. A metal’s elastic limit is the maximum stress that a material will withstand without permanent deformation. Elastic deformation is stretching of the material below the point at which a permanent "set" takes place. That is, in the range where the metal acts spring-like or elastic.

    Why do things “fail” or break?

    Fatigue is the phenomenon leading to fracture under repeated or fluctuating stresses. Fatigue strength is the maximum stress that a material will endure without failure for a specified number of load cycles. Fracture is a crack in the metal or separation of part. Fracture toughness is a generic term for the measure of resistance to extension of a crack.

    Tensile Strength is the maximum stress in uniaxial tension testing which a material will withstand prior to fracture. The ultimate tensile strength is calculated from the maximum load applied during the test divided by the original cross-sectional area. Then you have embrittlement, which is the loss of ductility of a metal due to chemical or physical change, such as work hardening that comes from being cycled.

    Stated as simple as possible … when objects are “cycled” … they work harden & fatigue … losing a degree of elasticity & become more brittle … then fracture or break. It is inevitable. So if you don’t want a crash to happen because of this inevitable process … you need to have a routine in place to inspect & replace items that cycle & work harden … along with inspecting & replacing items that wear too.

    I embrace a preventative maintenance concept that includes figuring out how long items should last. This is complicated & I’m not saying you have to do it. But I am sharing my experience with you, so those of you that care to … can. This requires an understanding of cyclic loads, forces & strengths. It is impossible to predict exactly when something will fail. But from my 35 years of racing experience I have some guidelines I use that have served me well. When experiences have shown me something will last approximately XX long … whether that be measured in days, hours, minutes, cycles, events, etc. … then I have said, “OK, let’s replace that somewhere around 70%-80% of its life cycle.”

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    Engine components:

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    Items like cranks, rods, rod bolts, pistons, piston pins, lifter, pushrods, rockers, valves, retainers, springs, etc all “cycle” so they have a “life” before they eventually work harden, fatigue & fail. Most grassroots racers run stuff until it breaks. But that get’s real costly, especially if it causes a crash. In my oval track race engines, built with a higher degree of quality parts, we calculated they were good for about 5600 laps. So we “freshened” them around 4500 laps +/- … which worked out to twice a year. This included rod bolts & valve springs, along with rings, bearings, etc.

    Every second “freshen”, the engine got new lifters, cam button, timing belt, oil pump, pickup, shaft, pistons & pins. We would also rebuild the distributor & carb. Every fourth freshen (two seasons) we replaced the crank, rods, camshaft, pushrods, rev kit, valves & retainers.

    Some guys can’t fathom throwing away a non-broken crank, rods, camshaft, etc … but those parts are going to break. It just a matter of cycles (not time). If I get two racing seasons out of a $1200 crank with zero failures … I’m a happy guy. But when most guys run their stuff until it breaks … and blame their DNF on “bad luck” … I do not feel sorry for them.

    The same concept can be & is applied to transmissions & rear ends.

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    Suspension Components:
    Most guys know “sprung weight” is the main part of the car that doesn’t move with the suspension and that “unsprung weight” is the weight sensitive parts of the suspension that move. Lighter suspensions respond quicker to surface irregularities and therefore achieve higher tire contact percentages with the track surface … aka MORE GRIP … and more cornering speed. Heavy suspensions respond slower to surface irregularities and therefore achieve lower tire contact percentages with the track surface … aka LESS GRIP … and less cornering speed.

    So lightweight suspension components … will take less abuse than heavier components … and need to be inspected, repaired or replaced more often when subjected to ongoing race conditions & loads.

    My suggestions:
    Control arms: Inspect for cracks & replace both of them at the first sign of cracking. Do not weld or repair them, as other areas on the control arms are fatigued too. Treat the uppers & lowers as separate, because they see very different loads & are built accordingly.

    Spindles: Inspect for cracks & replace at the first sign of cracking. Do not weld or repair them, as other areas of the spindle is fatigued too. You need a replacement schedule, but this varies depending on car weight, g-force loads & how many high load cycles they are subjected to. My rule of thumb for lightweight spindles is 20,000 cycles which is about 1700 to 2000 laps of road course racing. Medium duty spindles (like the ones for my new PT/Track Car are good for about 32,000 cycles. I simply throw them away at that point & put new ones on the car. Can you imagine the spindle pin snapping off at 120mph on corner entry under hard braking. I’ve seen it.

    All rear suspension links/bars, watt’s link & panhard bars: Inspect for cracks and pulled threads. Replace both of them at the first sign of cracking or pulled threads. Treat the uppers & lower links as separate, because they see very different loads. Do not weld, re-tap & repair them, as other areas on the links are fatigued too.

    Frame mounts & brackets: Inspect for cracks and enlarged holes. Both are common and very bad. Repair or replace the brackets, mounts, etc with new metal and ensure the bolts are snug in the holes. Otherwise, this area will be an ongoing source of suspension breakage.

    Key Safety Tip:
    Always replace all the items impacted in a crash. I see guys trying to “save” rod ends, suspension links, bolts, etc & re-use them. If they took a hit … you may not be able to see the internal metal grain distortion and impending stress fracture. Toss ‘em.

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    Ball Joints, Rod Ends & Fasteners:

    I replace every ball joint, rod end & bolt in the front & rear suspension after a full season of racing … regardless of how they “look.” The ball joints, rod ends & bolts in a suspension system take the brunt of the loads, cycle more & work harden quicker … and fail more often … than any part in the suspension. Ball joints, rod ends & bolts are the cheapest insurance you can get to prevent suspension failures & crashes. Maybe you run your car less … so you decide to do it every 2 or 3 years. Your call. Just know these items fail and the results are ugly.

    Of course buying high quality ball joints like Howe makes the car safer from the start.

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    In between replacement, you should inspect them often. Look for cracks, stretching, bending … any deformation. Replace if you find any issues. Some ball joints are rebuildable, like the Howes. This allows you to take them apart, clean, regrease & set the tension on them. We did this every few races, but you decide what makes sense for you.

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    Bearings, Spindles & Front Hubs:

    This area is one of my biggest concerns, because I know how load is put on the spindle, bearings & hub during high-g braking & cornering. The outside front wheels see over 1600# of load.

    Smart chassis builders & racers pay attention to the thrust load rating on the outer bearing of the front hubs. This smaller bearing is the weak link. When you drive a heavy full size car deep into the corner, brake hard & corner at high g loads … the weakest link is the small outside front hub bearing … and you know what happens to the weakest link.

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    Just for reference, here are the thrust load ratings for common outer hub bearings:
    • Most GM mid-size cars (A, F & X Body) from 60’s & 70’s use LM11949 Bearing rated at 917#
    • Pinto/Mustang II/Granada/Willwood Pro Spindle use LM12749 Bearing rated at 921#
    • GM ‘82-‘88 G-Bodies use LM12749 Bearing rated at 921#
    • GM 70’s Impala & C10 Pickup use M12649 Bearing rated at 1130#
    • GM ‘79-‘81 G & F-Bodies use M12649 Bearing rated at 1130#
    • C5/C6 outer bearings are rated at 1080#

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    It isn’t that these bearings will fail instantly. Quite the contrary. They will survive for a surprising amount of time. Then the surprise will be when they fail. You can exceed the thrust load rating of a bearing many times … but eventually … they will disintegrate and the result is catastrophic.

    In my opinion … these stock spindles & outer bearings …
    • Most GM mid-size cars (A, F & X Body) from 60’s & 70’s use LM11949 Bearing rated at 917#
    • Pinto/Mustang II/Granada/Willwood Pro Spindle use LM12749 Bearing rated at 921#
    • GM ‘82-‘88 G-Bodies use LM12749 Bearing rated at 921#
    … are too risky for hard, continuous road course track use without being monitored & replaced regularly. Even then … Whew! They make me nervous.

    In my opinion … these stock spindles & outer bearings …
    • GM 70’s Impala & C10 Pickup use M12649 Bearing rated at 1130#
    • GM ‘79-‘81 G & F-Bodies use M12649 Bearing rated at 1130#
    • C5/C6 outer bearings rated at 1080#
    … are better … and a decent choice for street tired cars.

    But they’re not as strong as they need to be for 3000# or heavier cars on slicks pulling 1.5g+ … lap after lap … as primarily a road course track car. For safety, these bearings will need to be monitored & replaced regularly. Even then … I’m still nervous. It makes more sense to put a stronger spindle with a bigger spindle pin and a hub that utilizes bigger, stronger bearings.

    I originally thought about running 70’s Impala hubs with the M12649 outer bearing rated at 1130# … like we used in our NASCAR Modifieds ... for about 2 minutes. But I’m planning to run Silver State at 150+mph each year & a lot of 150+mph road course events. With how hard & how often I plan to track the car … I’m clear that little M12649 bearing will bite me at some point. And they never bite you when you’re in a safe place. They fail when you’re hard under braking & cornering load in the most unsafe situations.

    I could just imagine having my Daughter in the car with me. That is why I developed a PT hub that uses the Timken #2687 outer bearing rated at 1800# for my PT car. As long as I have confidence in the car … I’ll drive the heck out of it. These are not NASCAR Grand National hubs as some have asked, as those are too wide, push the wheel out & increase the scrub radius. I designed my hubs custom for PT road course track cars to have less scrub radius than the NASCAR Grand National hubs (zero with the correct offset wheel) but they do use the same proven bearings.

    Other strong option … if you don’t mind the large increase in scrub radius …
    • Stock Car & Road racing 5x5 hubs with 368A outer bearings - rated at 2540#
    • NASCAR Grand National hubs Timken #2687 outer bearing - rated at 1800#

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    There are performance gains … along with increased safety & piece of mind … to be had with stronger spindles, hubs & bearings. When you step up to a bigger spindle (the actual pin) you get less spindle pin & wheel deflection under cornering loads. The common GM & Ford Pinto/Granda/M2 spindles are deflecting about .035”-.040” which is a bit over .5° of camber loss when cornering. Obviously a bigger spindle pin provides a much higher degree of track safety.

    When running the larger bearings, they are not “on edge” as the small ones are, so you have more room for error without failure looming. Plus, you can run bearing spacers to control the bearing preload and reduce rolling friction.

    Hubs:


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    The hub itself needs to be strong too. I see some of these little aluminum hubs … and shake my head. Not on my car. There is nothing wrong with aluminum … it’s the “little” that scares the bejesus out of me. Again … 3000# or more … slicks … 1.5g+ … 120-150 mph. Hmmmm.

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    I want the body of hub to handle some of the heat generated by the brakes without transferring it all to the bearings. I want the flange thick enough to support the wheel & the wheel studs with some meat … so the flange stays true under hard cornering loads.

    Wheel Studs:

    Again, with the cornering loads put on the wheels on 3000# or heavier cars on slicks pulling 1.5g+ … lap after lap … as primarily a road course track car … the wheel studs are a BIG concern. In my experience …
    • 7/16” is just silly, asking for trouble.
    • ½” is marginal and should be inspected often & replaced annually.
    • 9/16” or 14mm is much better, stronger & safer.
    • 5/8” and you have no worries with running spacers.

    Centric Hub:
    This is the part of the hub that sticks out … the inner part of the wheel goes over. If you are running a serious track car, the wheel centric hole & the hub centric need to fit together with a small clearance to SUPPORT the wheel … or all you’re riding on are the wheel studs.

    That clearance (so the wheel can come off & on easily) needs to be around .030”-.050”. So if the hub centric is 3.040”, the wheel centric hole should be 3.070” to 3.090”. Anymore and the hub is not really supporting the wheel.

    Conclusion: Those of you on small bearing stuff … with high speed road course tracking plans … need to step up your spindles, hubs & bearings. That’s my story & I’m sticking to it.

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    Rear Axles, Hubs & C-Clip Eliminators

    In road race cars, the rear hubs see less load then the front hubs, but not by much. What are the key areas for safety?

    In stock c-clip axles … there are three major weak areas & safety concerns.
    1. The axles
    2. The bearings
    3. The C-clips

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    First, that open roller bearing wasn’t meant for the type of loads we see in road racing … and neither were stock axles. I have seen the flanges literally snap off … and the rear wheel, tire & flange come out from under the car. Higher quality forged racing axles are one part of the solution. The other is installing a c-clip eliminator that changes the outer axle bearings to Timken tapered roller bearings. These reduce the up & down slop of the axle in the end, reduce deflection and handle thrust loads (side loads) much better. And it eliminates the risk of the axle breaking and simply coming out of the housing as they are prone to do.

    In stock ball bearing axle rear ends (held in with an outer flange), one problem is solved but the other two are still there. Stock axles tend to break at the flanges with repeated high thrust loads. And the roller bearings were not designed to handle as much thrust load as a tapered roller bearing.

    The ultimate set-up on the rear housing is floater housing ends.
    This is a hub … steel or aluminum … that rides on double Timken style tapered roller bearings … one bearing on the inside & one on the outside of the hub. The bearings ride on a snout end welded on the end of the axle tubes. (see photo) These hubs utilize a splined drive plate on the outside … that allows a straight (non-flanged) axle shaft to connect the outer hub and ring gear carrier.


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    Eliminating the axle flange is huge safety improvement.
    And having a hub ride on two large tapered roller bearings is the ultimate in precision and safety. I prefer the Speedway Engineering Mod-Lite hubs for PT Track Car applications. They utilize a Timken 18690 bearing for inners & outers, both rated at 1800# thrust loads. Some brands of rear hubs use a Timken 18690 outer bearing & Timken 18790 inner bearing rated at 2050#. And other brands use Timken 368A (rated at 2540#) inner & outer. This is overkill for our application and the Speedway Engineering Mod-Lite hubs with dual 1800# bearings are more than adequate.

    With floater hubs
    … if an axle does break … the wheel doesn’t come off. It stays attached to the hub … and you keep on rolling … there is just no power to that side. You can “usually” limp the 1-legger back to the pits.

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    With stock flanged axles … and probably with forged racing axles too … you should inspect the axles & bearings often. If you’re tracking your baby hard on slicks, that is a lot of load for one tapered bearing. Pull the axles and look for cracks & excessive twist. Inspect the flange, especially right at the edge of the bearing mount.

    With a floater rear end, you just re-grease the hub bearing occasionally & inspect the axles for excessive twist.

    Twist?

    All axles twist with race loading. When your axles are new … paint a stripe from one end of the axle to the other on both axles. For road racing you can usually run them until the stripe shows the axle has rotated 180°. That’s the limit. Frankly, I change them before they get that far, usually in the 90°-120° range. I just hate DNFs.

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    Driveshaft & U-joints

    Obviously we don’t want to have driveshaft failure, so get with driveshaft experts & design the strength of your driveshaft to match the power & abuse you plan for it to see. The factors that determine driveshaft strength are:
    1. Material
    2. Diameter
    3. Wall thickness
    4. Length

    Often overlooked, but the shorter it is, the stronger it is. If you’ve moved the engine back a long way & running a longer transmission, you may end up with a much shorter driveshaft … and may be able to build a lighter driveshaft than you otherwise could.

    But be very careful with light driveshafts. A lot of guys buy lighter driveshafts to help acceleration … but if the driveshaft is not strong enough … and it flexes even a little too much … you will cause a power loss … along with a dangerous situation. This has been proven by many top race teams and experts on chassis dynos.

    I always go one step stronger than I think I need. I know a lot of people run aluminum driveshafts. I do not. I always utilize 4130 Chromoly, because it allows me to build the strongest & lightest driveshaft without going to carbon fiber. For reference, you can usually run about 30-40% thinner with Chromoly than DOM mild steel. So if a 3” x .090” wall DOM mild steel driveshaft works well … a 3” x .065” wall Chromoly driveshaft will work better.

    U-joints:
    This is another one of those areas that make me nervous … having seen a zillion driveshafts come out of cars on track … because the u-joints failed. We put a lot of shock load into the drivetrain from shifting. The u-joints are a weak link that need to be stepped up in size & strength. U-joints are kind of simple … bigger is stronger. Larger diameter caps & longer cross sections with more material in the center section all equate to more strength.

    Years ago, Dana Spicer offered 3 sizes of u-joints common used in cars & were labeled 1310 (small) 1330 (medium) & 1350 (large). In the 60’s & 70’s both Ford & GM used the 1310’s on smaller cars. The 1330’s were used on larger & performance cars. 1350’s came only on trucks. I wish I had my load rating sheet, but could not find it.

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    Here are my general guidelines …
    • Under 300hp = 1310
    • 300-450hp = 1330
    • 450-600hp = 1350
    • Over 600hp = 1350 XD Chromoly (from Dana Spicer)

    Whatever size you run … run the same size on both ends of the driveshaft. If you want to build in a planned failure point, put the smaller u-joint at the pinion.

    For Pete’s sake … do NOT put a smaller u-joint at the transmission yoke than at the pinion yoke. There is not much scarier or more dangerous than a front u-joint failure … causing the driveshaft to bounce around in the driveshaft loop & tunnel … right where you’re sitting. Even with a loop, I’ve seen the front of driveshafts catch the asphalt … dig in … and pole vault the car up in the air.

    When the rear u-joint breaks at speed, you can let the engine idle down & push in the clutch & it stops turning. When the front breaks, the rear end is going to keep turning that driveshaft until you get the car stopped.

    Driveshaft loops:
    Don’t mess around. You need two. One near the front of the driveshaft about half a foot behind the slip yoke and another as far rearward as you can get it without interfering with the rear suspension travel.

    Inspect your driveshaft & u-joints on a regular basis.
    Get a feel for the acceptable movement of the slip yoke in the transmission so you can tell when you start to have u-joint slop. Then replace the u-joint. For my race teams, this was another thing we replaced in the off season, regardless of how it looked or felt. Cheap insurance.

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    Wheels & Tires

    Wheels are another area where weight & strength are enemies. You want light wheels, because they accelerate quicker, allow the suspension to handle better & stop quicker. But they also need to handle the loads of a 3000# car braking hard and cornering at 1.6G. My best “general advice” is buy quality wheel brands that build wheels for racing.

    A more specific piece of advice has to do with rim thickness on 3-piece wheels. I feel up to 3200# you can run wheels with .185”+ thick outer rim shells. If your car is up in the 3500#-4000# range, you would be better off with .225”+ outer rim shells.

    Tires:
    Selecting tires is whole science in & of itself. Just talking safety here, my simple tips are:
    • Don’t exceed the speed ratings of your tires with any consistency.
    • If you cut or damage a tire, throw it away & buy a new one.

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    Fabricated Parts

    I find a lot of parts break on race & track cars because whomever built the part didn’t know metallurgy. We can’t turn this into a full blown metallurgy class, but if you’re building parts, make sure you know the characteristics of the metals you’re working with.

    Top 3 mistakes I see:
    1. Mounting brackets bent & formed out of 6061 T-6 aluminum … which should not be bent in T-6 hardness state. To bend 6061 it needs to be fully annealed … bent … and then hardened. Otherwise race track vibration will lead it to break.
    2. Welds on thin materials not normalized afterward … see a lot of heat & become brittle during welding. Race track vibration leads them to break.
    3. Welding 2024 or 7075 aluminum ... which were not meant to be welded. It simply won’t hold and will break.

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    Preventing Problems

    Running Wires, Hoses & Fuel Lines


    I’m stating the obvious here, but hey … someone needs to do it.
    • Don’t allow wires to pass through any panel without a rubber or silicone grommet to prevent chaffing. I saw a car catch fire one time from sparks caused by a wire grounding out on the carbon fiber firewall the wire passed through.
    • Don’t allow any fluid hoses … water, oil, power steering, etc … to pass through any panel without a rubber or silicone grommet to prevent chaffing. Fluid leaks cause wrecks. Prevent the leaks … prevent the crash.
    • Obviously don’t allow any fuel line to pass through any panel without a rubber or silicone grommet to prevent chaffing. But taking this to a higher level due to the fire danger … route fuel lines so they are fully protected … and the driver is protected from the fuel line.

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    In NASCAR, they require running the fuel line from the rear tank to the engine inside of round steel tubing. In my PT Track car, the fuel lines run under the floor and above the full bottom belly pan. It is protected from objects thrown up off the road … and I am protected from it.

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    Radiator Overflow:
    Can’t say this enough. Got to keep fluids off the tires. Plumb your radiator overflow so it exits behind your tires. I mount the overflow bottle on the frame a little behind the right rear tire and run the small overflow hose to it.

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    Exhaust Fumes:

    Carbon Monoxide coming into the cockpit is really dangerous and must be prevented. I feel this issue is overlooked by most grassroots racers. But it is a real concern. Worst case scenario is brain damage. At best … you get sick & nauseous on track.

    Here are my tips:
    • Make sure your exhaust system has zero leaks.
    • Run the exhaust system well past the cockpit.
    • Run the exhaust out into the airstream … on the side or rear.
    • Seal the cockpit completely from the underneath & from the engine bay.
    • Do not allow holes in the floor or firewall. Seal them with grommets, seals or boots.
    • Bring fresh air into the cockpit one way or another (open window, vents, ducting.)
    • Bring fresh air to the driver (parker pumper and/or carbon monoxide filter plumbed to helmet)

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    Brakes Overheating

    Staying on track when your brakes are fading is dangerous. If you run a road course for the first time & figure out you have loss of braking after 2-3 laps … change your strategy that day to just running 2-3 laps at a time. Then after the day is over, you need to decide if you’re going to upgrade your brakes or not run road courses.

    Obviously brakes generate heat. 10-12 turn road courses are the ultimate test of brake systems. There are several key areas of “failure” that will cause your brake system to lose braking capability and they all have to do with heat.
    • Excessive heat boiled the brake fluid.
    • Excessive heat glazed the pads, rotors or both.
    • You are operating outside the heat range of your brake pad compound.

    The cause can be …

    • Your brake fluid has too low of a boiling point.
    • Your brake rotor & caliper can’t handle all the heat generated.
    • You’re not cooling your brakes adequately.
    • You’re using the brakes too much, meaning too long.
    • You’re dragging the brakes.

    Tips:
    • First, make sure you (the driver) is not the problem. Make sure you’re not riding the brake pedal. Make sure you’re braking as long as you need to be … and not longer. Poor handling or pushing race cars make this harder.
    • You need to know what kind of temps you’re dealing with. Utilize an infrared temp gun & check all four rotor temps as soon as possible on your return to the pits & log them in a book.
    • My guideline is this: if you’re seeing 800°+ temps in the pits, that’s too much and you need to work on strategies to cool your brakes down. If you’re seeing temps 700° or cooler, the temps are probably fine, but your brake system is not handling it well.
    • P.S. High Travel/Low Roll Suspension Set-ups require less braking & run cooler … while Low Travel/High Roll Suspension Set-ups require more braking & run hotter.

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    Solutions if the brakes are running too hot:
    • First, if you’re keeping the pads and/or rotors, you need to deglaze them. Flat sanding works on the pads. A trip to the lathe or blachard grinder works on the rotors. Not much is needed … just break the glaze.
    • Install or add ducting and/or fans to cool the rotors.
    • Do you have curved vane rotors? If not, get them, as this will help cool the rotors.
    • If you do have curved vane rotors, are the curves going the correct direction?
    • If that is not enough, your rotors probably don’t have enough mass to absorb and handle the amount of heat generated. In other words, you need bigger rotors. Either wider or larger diameter.

    • I favor going wider for two key reasons: #1, it keeps the rotating weight in a smaller circle. A 12# 12” rotor has the same or better heat handling ability as a 12# 13” rotor … but less inertia effect. And reason #2 is the gaps in the curved vanes get wider and pull significantly more air through the rotors.
    • If that’s not enough, go larger diameter.

    • The same can be said for calipers. Small calipers have a hard time dealing with the heat and larger caliper mass helps it handle heat better. But you’re trying to keep the unsprung weight light too. Always a balancing act.

    Solutions if the brakes are NOT running too hot:
    • First, make sure you have enough braking force for your purpose.
    • For brake fluid issues, change to a higher grade of racing brake fluid with a higher boiling point.
    • Purge & replace the brake fluid every so often, as the moisture it attracts lowers its boiling point significantly. (In our race cars, we do this after every race weekend.)
    • Make sure your brake pad compound is suited for the temperature range you are subjecting it too. Most street pads flat out cannot handle race track level braking temperatures.
    • Maybe you need a set of street brake pads & race track pads.

    Final safety tip:

    If your brakes are marginal … a poor handling car will require more braking and may put you over the threshold of the brake’s capabilities. Focus on fixing the handling problems so you can get off the brakes and not use them so much.

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    Radio Communication


    Like many of my suggestions, this may be above what you’re willing to do or want to do. But having radio communication on track with a friend “spotting” for you adds a level of safety.

    When you get plenty of advance warning of …
    • A faster car is about to pass you
    • There is a crash on track
    • A car laid down oil or fluids on the track ahead of you
    • Someone drug dirt & rocks onto the upcoming corner
    … you can make better decisions that protect you and your car.

    If you chose to go this route, a few tips are:
    • Ear buds for the driver is definitely an area you get what you pay for. Don’t scrimp here. If it is for you, buy the custom molded versions & expect to spend $150.
    • There are a lot of quality radios available new & used. Don’t spend a fortune.
    • Avoid 2-channel radios. Buy 10-16 channel radios … so you can avoid overlap with other users.
    • A quality headset for the spotter is another area you get what you pay for. Expect to spend $250+
    • Develop a short set of terms as spotter/driver language.

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    Inspection
    It amazes me … and scares me … at how many grassroots racers and occasional track guys just drive their cars without doing regular inspections and maintenance. The harmonics, forces and abuse put on track cars cause things to come loose, crack, break, etc. To not inspect the car and check everything is asking for trouble.

    I suggest you have a routine after each track day … with a visual & touch inspection … along with a proper nut & bolt strategy. I suggest doing this after each track day, so when you find damage, you have time to get it fixed right. If you wait until close to the next track day, then you have less time to fix it right, things get rushed, costs go up, poor decisions are made, etc.

    For my race teams, we always used a check list. Your car … so your call. Jack the car up on stands & take the wheels off. What you want to visually inspect for are impact & stress cracks … excessive wear … along with touching things to check for looseness or slop.

    Here is my suggested list:
    • Frame, braces & body mounts
    • All suspension mounts
    • Control arms, spindles, links/bars
    • Ball joints & rod ends
    • Hubs, brakes & rotors
    • Driveshaft, u-joints & slip yoke
    • Oil or fluid leaks
    • Hoses & belts
    • All fuel & fluid plumbing

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    What is “nut & bolt”?
    The goal is to be sure critical nuts & bolts on your race car stayed tight. Most will have. Some will have loosened up. Need to catch them now. If you have ongoing problem fasteners, you may want to explore lock nuts, Loctite or safety wire.

    When checking bolts … do NOT tighten them more. Just check to see if they are tight. If you tighten a nut & bolt another ¼ turn to “be sure” … after four times of doing this you will have turned the nut one full turn. If the nut & bolt was already torqued correctly, then you are exceeding the needed torque and if you continue to do this, you will exceed the bolts elasticity limits and harm the bolt. Basically over tightening bolts causes them to fail too.

    For your nut & bolt strategy, put wrenches on these items …

    • All suspension bolts … all. I can’t stress this enough … all. Not the easy ones … all.
    • All steering components & hoses.
    • All brake components & lines.
    • Engine & trans mounts, bellhousing, trans bolts, U-joint straps.
    • Header, muffler & exhaust bolts.
    • All plumbing that uses aircraft fittings, hose clamps or screw in fittings.

    I had a friend ask me one time which nuts & bolts were important to check?
    I replied, “Just the ones you don’t want to fall out.”


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    Safety Wire, Locking Nuts & Loctite


    There are nuts & bolts on the car you need to take out often, or occasionally … and there are bolts you don’t need to take out very often. If you have nuts & bolts you want to be sure they stay put for long periods of time, you may want to consider safety wiring them, using lock nuts or using Loctite.

    I know this is pretty basic, but I’ll share my tips:
    • If it is a nut & bolt assembly … and not in a high temp zone … I prefer to use nyloc locking nuts. They are easy to work with & good for a few uses. Once threads are cut into the nylon and they go on easily, replace them, as they’re not really “locking” anymore.

    • If it is a nut & bolt assembly … and in a high temp zone … you can not use nyloc locking nuts, because the nylon hardens and/or melts. Two common options here are utilizing safety wire or metal locking nuts. Which route I choose depends on risk versus effort. If it is a high risk area … like brake rotor attachment bolts … I’m investing the time & expense to buy drilled bolts & castle nuts … and safety wiring the assembly. If it is less critical, like on exhaust flanges … I’ll use metal locking nuts.

    • If it is a bolt into a blind hole … and not in a high temp zone … I prefer to use blue Loctite.
    • If it is a bolt into a blind hole … and in a moderate temp zone … I prefer to use red high temp Loctite.
    • If it is a bolt into a blind hole … and in a high temp zone … I prefer to drill the bolt head & safety wire it.
    • If it is a nut going onto a stud … and not in a high temp zone … I prefer to use nyloc locking nuts.
    • If it is a nut going onto a stud … and in a high temp zone … I use the risk versus effort route to decide between safety wire or metal locking nuts.
    • P.S. Blue Loctite melts at 300° & high temp Red Loctite melts at 450°

    If I am planning to be taking the nut & bolt off often or occasionally … especially at the track … I don’t use Loctite or safety wire. I simply make sure the nut & bolt are torqued properly and check it during my nut & bolt process … and of course when I’m reinstalling it from taking it off.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Now …
    • If you have questions or topics you want to expand on … post it up.
    • If you have tips or experiences you want to share … post them up too.



    As the Watch Commander used to say on Hill Street Blues, "Be safe out there."

    Last edited by Ron Sutton; 12-05-2013 at 04:49 PM.
    Feel free to chime in or ask technical questions. I am here to help where I can.

    Ron Sutton

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    Darn it! I ran out of time. Thanks Ron. As usual, another home run article.
    Chris

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    I ran out of time too! ahahaha Will finish reading tonight. Excellent Ron!

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    Great stuff Ron. How about a link to those front hubs? I'm going to machine a spindle/flange to replace the front unit bearings, and a shallow hub sounds like the ticket. What spindle pin is your hub designed from?

    As far as insulation, the spray ceramic I found is non flammable, but heavy when applied with enough thickness to dampen sound or act as a thermal barrier (40 lbs!) I'm leaning toward the 3M Thinsulate. The OEM's use it, it's light and dampens sound and is a radiant heat barrier.
    Craig Scholl
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    Quote Originally Posted by sccacuda View Post
    Great stuff Ron. How about a link to those front hubs? I'm going to machine a spindle/flange to replace the front unit bearings, and a shallow hub sounds like the ticket. What spindle pin is your hub designed from?

    As far as insulation, the spray ceramic I found is non flammable, but heavy when applied with enough thickness to dampen sound or act as a thermal barrier (40 lbs!) I'm leaning toward the 3M Thinsulate. The OEM's use it, it's light and dampens sound and is a radiant heat barrier.
    Hi Craig,

    My hub & spindle are truly a new design. My monster spindle pin is not available on the market, as I designed it. It does use the same bearings as a GN spindle pin, but it's shorter ... for more strength/less pin deflection ... and so the hub can be shorter for less scrub radius.

    I can custom make you a set of my spindles with whatever KPI & heights you want ... with my "monster spindle pin" ... that uses my new super strong aluminum hubs & big bearings. I'll work out a cost & PM you.
    Feel free to chime in or ask technical questions. I am here to help where I can.

    Ron Sutton

    Ron Sutton Race Technology
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    Great Article/Thread Ron!

    The Only thing I would add is encouraging Driver's to get as Much Training as they can. This adds to the Safety Equation & reduces Driver Error.

    As Professional Instructor, I see too many people that have Watched Hundreds of Races on TV or Played Gran Turismo on their X-Box & they think they are Ready to be World-Champion! These are usually my Worst Students. The Best, Listen & ask questions on how to be better. Then they practice and come back & ask more Questions.

    T.C.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BMR Sales View Post
    Great Article/Thread Ron!

    The Only thing I would add is encouraging Driver's to get as Much Training as they can. This adds to the Safety Equation & reduces Driver Error.

    As Professional Instructor, I see too many people that have Watched Hundreds of Races on TV or Played Gran Turismo on their X-Box & they think they are Ready to be World-Champion! These are usually my Worst Students. The Best, Listen & ask questions on how to be better. Then they practice and come back & ask more Questions.

    T.C.
    That is a great valid point. Learn ... then go fast. Learn more ... go faster.

    .
    Feel free to chime in or ask technical questions. I am here to help where I can.

    Ron Sutton

    Ron Sutton Race Technology
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    Quote Originally Posted by sccacuda View Post
    As far as insulation, the spray ceramic I found is non flammable, but heavy when applied with enough thickness to dampen sound or act as a thermal barrier (40 lbs!) I'm leaning toward the 3M Thinsulate. The OEM's use it, it's light and dampens sound and is a radiant heat barrier.
    Craig, in January I plan to do some controlled fire tests of various lightweight insulation and see they perform. I'll post how they do.

    Feel free to chime in or ask technical questions. I am here to help where I can.

    Ron Sutton

    Ron Sutton Race Technology
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    Excellent post Ron.

    I would add that people should practice getting out of their car with helmet etc. as they would be on track, then practice with eyes closed, then without opening door, then without eyes open or opening door. Practice can save seconds that may save a life.

    Aqueous foam fire systems Vs. Halon etc. your thoughts?

    Your thoughts on the Schroth 4 point harnesses with ASM & DOT for guys just doing Auto-X to hold them in their seat better? http://www.schrothracing.com/tuning/rallye/rallye-4 I used them before I got a cage & 6 points.

    A reminder to all that Nylock nuts are considered single use fasteners by many. Having experienced a Nylock nut back off on a shock once on track (after being reused) I replace Nylocks every time I remove one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NOT A TA View Post
    Aqueous foam fire systems Vs. Halon etc. your thoughts?
    Halon is some nasty stuff, and is being phased out. The foam systems are much more friendly, and work as good.
    -James

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    Quote Originally Posted by NOT A TA View Post
    Excellent post Ron.

    I would add that people should practice getting out of their car with helmet etc. as they would be on track, then practice with eyes closed, then without opening door, then without eyes open or opening door. Practice can save seconds that may save a life.
    I never understood why this wasn't part of tech. This is a requirement for SCTA. Your timed and gotta be out of the car or your not running.
    Craig Scholl
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    "I own a Mopar, I already know it won't be in stock, won't ship tomorrow, and won't fit without modification."

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    Quote Originally Posted by NOT A TA View Post
    Excellent post Ron.
    Thanks John. it took way longer than I initially thought.

    I would add that people should practice getting out of their car with helmet etc. as they would be on track, then practice with eyes closed, then without opening door, then without eyes open or opening door. Practice can save seconds that may save a life.
    I agree 100%. This is not a "tip." This should be considered mandatory training. We did this with all of our race drivers & I just didn't think to mention it here. Some guys might think of this as boring or unnecessary, but the life you save may be yours.

    Aqueous foam fire systems Vs. Halon etc. your thoughts?
    Well, I don't run Halon anymore. Not since DuPont FE36 proved itself. Halon takes away oxygen, which is good for putting out the fire, but hard on the driver. FE36 is not as efficient as Halon, but still gets the job done, with less harm to the car & driver.

    The AFFF systems have some pros & cons, like all systems do. The chemical is 3M Novec 1230 and has similar benefits as DuPont FE36 ... and some differences. The 3M Novec 1230 foams up ... and the foam cleans up easily, but is corrosive, so you have to get it all off pretty soon. The safety engineers I work with expressed that the foam doesn't spray as far ... tends to be more localized to the nozzle ... and therefore has a smaller coverage of the fire area. On the other hand, I know people that swear by AFFF.

    Another con is it's slippery, so track safety crews hate to clean it off the track. Of course, some of those same track safety guys like to use AFFF. From everything I see, 3M Novec 1230 and DuPont FE36 have similar fire suppression effectiveness, which is less than Halon, but not as harmful.

    My personal conclusion
    , is I prefer the spray systems with DuPont FE36, because they provide a larger fire coverage area, isn't corrosive, nor slippery. Neither are effective as Halon, but both do the job & are less harmful to the driver.

    P.S. I have a road racing friend that wanted the ultimate fire protection, so he decided instead of getting a 10# FE36 system, he installed two 5# systems ... one Halon, plumbed to the fuel cell area & engine compartment ... and the other a FE36 system, plumbed to the cockpit. That's an awesome system.


    Your thoughts on the Schroth 4 point harnesses with ASM & DOT for guys just doing Auto-X to hold them in their seat better? http://www.schrothracing.com/tuning/rallye/rallye-4 I used them before I got a cage & 6 points.
    I had never seen that before. I like it ... especially for street cars and AutoX. I think that may be the best "Pro Touring Harness" available.

    A reminder to all that Nylock nuts are considered single use fasteners by many. Having experienced a Nylock nut back off on a shock once on track (after being reused) I replace Nylocks every time I remove one.

    I don't replace nylocs every use, but often. Of course they are cheap, so where does 50¢ play out in the big scheme of saving your life. Makes sense to be safe.

    Feel free to chime in or ask technical questions. I am here to help where I can.

    Ron Sutton

    Ron Sutton Race Technology
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    Quote Originally Posted by sccacuda View Post
    I never understood why this wasn't part of tech. This is a requirement for SCTA. Your timed and gotta be out of the car or your not running.
    Now that's smart. Love it.

    Feel free to chime in or ask technical questions. I am here to help where I can.

    Ron Sutton

    Ron Sutton Race Technology
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    Quote Originally Posted by SLO_Z28 View Post
    Halon is some nasty stuff, and is being phased out. The foam systems are much more friendly, and work as good.

    While I agree with your general position, two parts are not accurate. Halon is still available as recycled, and is still a popular seller in automotive racing fire systems. It is not being manufactured anymore, but there is a ton out there to be recycled for years to come. It is some nasty stuff. It is hard to clean up & takes the oxygen away ... which is great for fire suppression but a little hard on the driver's breathing.

    Another point is, if you raced in a sanctioning body that requires SFI certification ... which we don't in our track days ... it can't be Halon, because SFI no longer certifies Halon.

    The Halon replacements, DuPont FE36 (spray) & 3M Novec 1230 (AFFF foam) are not as efficient as Halon. Technically, if you needed all 5# of Halon to get the fire out, you would need 8# of either DuPount FE36 or 3M Novec 1230. Depending on the fire, 5# of any chemical may not be enough to completely put the fire out, but will certainly suppress long enough to get stopped.

    I utilize DuPont FE36 over Halon because it's easier on the driver's breathing. I utilize DuPont FE36 over AFFF because I feel the coverage is better. But I think both AFFF & FE36 systems are great. Chose one & rock-n-roll.

    I am considering the dual system, like my buddy did, that uses two 5# systems ... one Halon, plumbed to the fuel cell area & engine compartment ... and the other a FE36 system, plumbed to the cockpit.

    Regardless of whether you guys chose Halon 1211, DuPount FE36 or 3M Novec 1230 ... I believe PT guys running track days in their PT cars will be much better protected with an onboard, easy-to-activate, fire suppression system. It can literally save your life.

    Last edited by Ron Sutton; 12-06-2013 at 08:35 AM.
    Feel free to chime in or ask technical questions. I am here to help where I can.

    Ron Sutton

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    I also run 2 fire systems. A 10# with two nozzles under the hood and one on the electric fuel pump & filter by the tank and a 6.5 system with two nozzles at the base of the A pillars directed inward and toward the firewall under the dash and footwells. They are Firefox foam systems.

    I Had the cage builder incorporate the mounts over the trans tunnel in the rear seat area thinking that the tanks would be well protected there and the tubing for the nozzles would be most protected and although more complicated to fabricate mounts the systems would be simpler and much more likely to survive a crash. I'd considered the trunk area on top of the rear end hump but that would raise the weight higher in the car and farther rearward.





    I decided to mount the actuating knobs by the shifter thinking if I was hurt badly in a wreck I could still activate the system if my right hand and wrist worked. I chose pull type activation knobs thinking the push type would make is easier to activate accidently if they got bumped. I keep the safety pins in the knobs on the street and only prepare the systems for use at events.

    I have since learned that my choice of mounting by the shifter was NOT a good idea. Tech officials have told me they prefer the knobs to be located by the drivers A pillar. After being told about their preferance I realized that it's unlikely track safety personnel could reach in and activate the systems if I were still in the car. Also there's a sticker to be placed on the car indicating where the actuation mechanism is so safety people can find it quick. Where would I put mine? And, if the car was full of smoke they probably wouldn't see the knobs. Eventually I will change the location.


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    John ... Wow ... that is a nice fire system. You are my new hero.

    About the location of the push buttons ... I understand the guy's request that made it to you ... but I've never seen track personnel activate a driver's fire system. They all come in with fire extinguishers. It would not be a bad thing for it to be mounted where they had access, but you having easy access is priority #1 in my opinion.
    Last edited by Ron Sutton; 12-06-2013 at 12:27 PM.
    Feel free to chime in or ask technical questions. I am here to help where I can.

    Ron Sutton

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    Check out our 400 Page Car Building Catalog HERE

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