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Author Topic: lessons Learned from a Tragic Fire
Gatoratty Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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Danny is right...you need to practice so it becomes second nature no matter how much stress you are under. You can also use a sleeping mask to cover your eyes when you practice.

I still see people in videos with their visor up or cracked...we had a flash fire in a car at Daytona in May with the driver receiving 1st and 2nd degree burns to the face and neck.

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Paul McLester

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I see far worse, open face helmets are still prevalent.

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All this has happened before, and will happen again

Dave Lewis
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quote:
Originally posted by Jason Holland:
Baker,
I will never buy one of your products and I will counsel anyone who will listen not to either. Mostly because of posts like this.

I'm warning you now as an administrator of this site, If I see another post from you this repulsive or even a hint of you trying to capitalize on this terrible situation, I will ban you permanently.

+1 on your first sentence Jason, and as for the second, dont wait, get rid of the obnoxiuos SOB now.

Keith in WA Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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WRT the dash, I totally agree. Same with the hard top headliner. It's further from where a fire is likely to be unless you're upside down but heat rises. Plastic overhead is not such a good idea. In my biz, in order to assure a clear emergency egress path, there are especially stringent flam requirements for anything overhead. It can't burn, melt, or sag and cause a very hot obstruction.

Frequently the insulation on wires contains PVC which creates very toxic smoke too.

You definately want to avoid breating the smoke from just about anything that can burn in a car. It's absolutely loaded with really bad stuff.

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Keith Novak
(Will work for tires)

cam Verified Driver
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My e-mail to the crb@scca.com

Respectfully request a change to the Spec Miata rule set to allow the removal of burnable and melting materials from the drivers compartment. In light of the tragedy of Alan Burgess suffering severe burns and dying from their complications, I think it would be prudent to allow the removal of burnable/melting materials from the interior of the car. Specifically the plastic dash and plastic liner on the hard top.

I think this is only a safety precaution and will neither improve performance of the cars nor upset the competitive balance between the different year cars in Spec Miata.

Thanks in advance for your consideration
Charles A. Mathes
SCCA member 249240

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"The problem with Socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."
~Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have."
~Thomas Jefferson

Gatoratty Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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That should include the door panels if they haven't been removed for Nascar bars.

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Paul McLester

Keith in WA Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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One thing that hasn't been mentioned, it is legal to drive topless. It has other obvious safety drawbacks and it creates a lot of drag so most people wouldn't even consider it but if someones A#1 concern is smoke and heat, an open cockpit does let a lot of that stuff out.

On a side note, now that a lot of people are probably adding fire bottles and upgrading handhelds, make sure those things are securely fastened. Sean from Miatacage warned me that he saw one that was attached with the band-clamp style quick release buckles that went through either a roof or a window (can't remember which but it holed the car). I went out for a qual session and inadvertantly unfastened mine and it's unnerviing to have a potential missile that big loose in the car. You can get some much sturdier brackets for handhelds.

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Keith Novak
(Will work for tires)

Kent Carter Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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My letter to the CRB:

quote:
Dear Members of the CRB:

Thank you for your continued service to the SCCA.

In light of the recent tragedy involving Alan Burgess, I respectfully request that the CRB consider updating the rules for SpecMiata to allow the removal of flammable materials from the interior of the car. The plastic dash panel, the headliner of the hardtop, insulation on the floors and firewall and the door panels are made of materials that elaborate toxic chemicals when burning and can be difficult to extinguish. The toxins produced often include cyanide and can render a driver rapidly insensible or unconscious.

Removal of the plastic dash while retaining the factory dash support bar does not create a significant burden on the racing community as the factory instrument cluster is very light and can be easily mounted to the factory dash support or to the cross-bar for the roll cage with minimal fabrication. The factory dash bar also serves as the mounting point for the steering column.

The factory heater core and blower motor mount to the firewall and should be required to be retained. The controls for the ventilation system can easily be mounted to the center support for the factory dash bar. The fabrication of ductwork for a defogger/defroster/ventilation should be permitted. All mounting tabs or sharp edges that could snag a driver's suit should be removed or covered for safety, but no requirement to fabricate a dash panel or cover should be made.

Retention of the dash may reflect that SM grew out of the Showroom Stock philosophy, however more latitude in car preparation is already permitted in SM. Removal of the dash will alter the appearance, but will have little or no change in performance while making the car safer at little or no cost to the racer. A bonus for certain larger drivers will be the removal of a significant amount of weight, perhaps helping larger drivers be competitive in the older, less costly cars.

Lastly, please consider whether it would be valuable to either suggest or require a fire-resistant shift boot in addition to the factory rubber insulator. It would seem that the shifter is an obvious and sizable penetration from where fire would most likely begin into the driver's space. Many other sanctioning bodies now require fire-resistant shift boots and the costs for the boot appear to be below $60. Mounting such a boot in a Miata would not seem difficult. I'm not certain such a boot is permitted under current rules.

Thanks again for your service and your constant consideration of our safety.

Kent L. Carter


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Do I turn my 99 Hard S into a killerfast SM or seek a donor?

spdmonkey Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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Excellent letter Kent. My feelings are the CRB won't move much as they have historically been reluctant to react to situations such as this. I think they don't want it to appear knee-jerk. Maybe even the fact that an attorney might seize upon this as a chance to prove SCCA was negligent. I will write them as well, but expect a standard "Thank you for your input" reply.

db

Gatoratty Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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You can't introduce evidence of subsequent remedial actions to prove negligence. Otherwise no one would ever try to make things safer. I think this would need the backing of the SMAC before the CRB would make a recommendation to the BOD.

Excellent letters and how we need to work to make things safer in our class.

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Paul McLester

Kent Carter Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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Whether removing the dash is the right direction to go is worthy of debate, I think. I've been pondering it for a while and I think it is, but I may be overlooking something. I look forward to this discussion.

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Do I turn my 99 Hard S into a killerfast SM or seek a donor?

Keith in WA Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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I was giving more thought to removal or replacement of interior trim items.

The shift boot to me is a no brainer. It's a big rubber gasket covering a big hole between the driver and one of the most likely locations to be on fire. The ground below the car. I think a fireproof boot should be allowed if not recommended or mandated. We're required to seal up holes for fire proofing, but we have to seal up the biggest hole in the floor with a thick rubber condom?

The dash and headliner, I could see people shying away from a rules change. Negligible performance benefit and people do get wound up about some of those things.

Looking at it with my clinical engineer hat on I could never argue about allowing people to remove trim items that would be dangerous if not lethal in a crash and/or fire and that are not required for the function of the vehicle. In a normal car their function is to look nice and sell cars. My car stopped looking showroom stock right about when the whole interior came out for the cage.

Considering a number of things like proximity to fuel sources, length of time they would have to be how hot, etc. I think they're a bigger danger to safety crew than the driver. They could definitely be a huge danger to the driver due to the proximity but the likelihood that it would be a survivable fire due to the heat is low. In a very bad fire it could very well be the deciding factor whether the driver survived or not.

If the car is still in flames for a while after the driver is out, the safety crew and anyone in the vicinity is going to be exposed to toxic smoke. There will be a lot of nasty stuff from other parts of the car already, but the plastics in the dash and headliner are plentiful, burn readily, and create very thick, very toxic smoke which may create many secondary injuries sending numerous people to the hospital.

Removing the headliner also provides more safety in any large vertical impact if it provides more head clearance, especially a roll over.

I would categorize incidents where any of them became a factor is Likelihood = Low but Result = Catastrophic.

I'd vote to allow it. I'd remove my headliner and change the shift boot for sure. I'd have to add more weight back in so it wouldn't benefit me much on performance.

Just my [twocents]

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Keith Novak
(Will work for tires)

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I very much like the replacement of the shift boot idea. Is a fire resistant product available now for a Miata?

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Blue Velour Racing

Randy Thieme
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Is everyone referring to the headliner around the windshield frame or part of the removable top? I believe the top is fiberglass so it's going to burn or melt anyways.

WRT corner workers, since I also volunteer as one I'm far more concerned about toxic smoke as a driver than as a worker. As a driver I'm in a relatively enclosed space. As a worker I could always take a few steps away into some fresh air.

One of the biggest dangers to a worker is simply being hit while responding to an incident as a result of being near the racing surface while other cars are still driving under yellow. At PIR they don't let newbie corner workers go out on course to a wreck because the risk of being hit is so high. This was the tough part about the Corvette Bar-B-Que a few months ago. Out of four of us at Turn 11 two of us were newbies and could not go out to help fight the fire. The third had to stay on radio to talk to race control. That left one guy to fight the fire. Fortunately a very experienced corner worker who got some help from a photographer nearby who happened to be an experienced corner-worker themselves but was taking pictures that day.

cam Verified Driver
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Received the following response today:
quote:
Hi Charles,

We received your letter, and forwarded it to the Club Racing Board and
the appropriate advisory committee for their consideration.

Your input will be placed on the next available Club Racing Board
agenda. The CRB generally meets once a month, however some issues
require additional consideration that may include a request for more
information from you, the advisory committee, a manufacturer, and/or the
membership at large. An official response to your inquiry will be
published in FasTrack News, which is posted to the SCCA website
(www.scca.com) on the 20th of every month.

As a member-driven organization, we appreciate your interest and
involvement.

Sincerely,

John Bauer
Technical Manager
SCCA Club Racing
PO Box 19400
Topeka KS 66619
(800) 770-2055
jbauer@scca.com

And on the question about shifter boots, it is just a generic fire resistant shifter boot, common with the circle track guys. Look at one of Kent's earlier posts in this thread and I agree that it would be a good idea to include.

--------------------
"The problem with Socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."
~Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have."
~Thomas Jefferson

Keith in WA Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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Randy,
I'm referring to the plastic liner on the hardtop itself.

Fiberglass actually does suprisingly well in fires. It's one of the few composites that does. It's used extensively in aerospace and train interiors for that reason. (It takes a while to stop either one so that people can get out.) I don't think the stuff we use in planes is a special resin either. I studied replacing fiberglass with better materails for a few years and it's hard to beat.

The hard top paint on the other hand will burn nicely.

Be careful around the smoke if you're working around any more fires. Anyone who's ever sat around a camp fire knows what happens when the wind shifts. [yep] You definately don't want a lung full of the stuff.

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Keith Novak
(Will work for tires)

Dusty Bottoms Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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You guys should e-mail a separate letter for each item you want addressed. Send one for the shift boot, one for headliner, one for dashboard. It's easier on the SMAC/CRB if they are separated.

Some cars didn't come with a liner I think. Mine didn't seem to have anything as a headliner.

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"Your victory is tainted! Asterisk! Asterisk!!!"--Lisa Simpson

Kent Carter Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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OK... three more letters then.

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Do I turn my 99 Hard S into a killerfast SM or seek a donor?

Keith in WA Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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I'm still massaging the wording on my letter(s). I thought there might be more debate on this pointing out the arguments against any rule changes.

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Keith Novak
(Will work for tires)

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Having removed the dash in a Miata recently, it wasn't exactly a cake walk. I would have a huge problem removing mine now given my cage configuration.

At minimum, if adopted, this potential change needs to be an "allowed" modification for existing cars. It should absolutely not be mandated except for new construction.
Rick

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Fortune Cookie Racing SM 60
Directions for use: Race, Rumple, Repair ... Repeat!

wheel Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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It should not be mandated for any cars. It should be an option. Personally, I would take mine out, as I did in the ASedan, but removal shouldn't be required. The solution to your huge problem is called Sawzall.
wheel

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quote:
Originally posted by Qik Nip:
Having removed the dash in a Miata recently, it wasn't exactly a cake walk. I would have a huge problem removing mine now given my cage configuration.

At minimum, if adopted, this potential change needs to be an "allowed" modification for existing cars. It should absolutely not be mandated except for new construction.
Rick

Nah... Sawzall and shaped charges.
 -

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Do I turn my 99 Hard S into a killerfast SM or seek a donor?

Rob Burgoon Verified Driver
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I like this. Ditch the dash! I'll write a few letters this weekend.

No more cracked gauge shrouds, much easier center net install, less chance of center net getting chewed up, cars easier to build and work on. Trimming my dash to fit the bars was a royal pain.

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It really makes my week when nobody crashes into me.

Keith in WA Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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I wouldn't suggest any of the removals be mandatory but I think the shift boot should be recommended. People who like driving their car on the street wouldn't be so thrilled with mandatory dash removals for sure.

--------------------
Keith Novak
(Will work for tires)

fishguyaz
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quote:
Originally posted by Keith in WA:
I wouldn't suggest any of the removals be mandatory but I think the shift boot should be recommended.

how could the shift boot NOT be allowed to be used right now?
does it give ANY performance advantage?

does it IMPROVE safety?

would anyone really get protested for using it if its not in the rules (yet)?
I want to get one when my car arrives next month.

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Josh Pitt
AZ Region

Kent Carter Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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quote:
Originally posted by fishguyaz:
quote:
Originally posted by Keith in WA:
I wouldn't suggest any of the removals be mandatory but I think the shift boot should be recommended.

how could the shift boot NOT be allowed to be used right now?
does it give ANY performance advantage?

does it IMPROVE safety?

would anyone really get protested for using it if its not in the rules (yet)?
I want to get one when my car arrives next month.

No one will hassle you for having the boot, but technically, it's probably not legal. If the rules don't say you CAN do it, you CANNOT.

It would be a weenie protest from hell, but... let's change the rules if only so noobs will think about spending the $50 bucks.

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Do I turn my 99 Hard S into a killerfast SM or seek a donor?

Randy Thieme
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quote:
Originally posted by Keith in WA:
I wouldn't suggest any of the removals be mandatory but I think the shift boot should be recommended. People who like driving their car on the street wouldn't be so thrilled with mandatory dash removals for sure.

Keith makes an important point. I'm not sure a dash is mandatory to be street legal as long as the necessary controls and a speedometer are still present. Nevertheless, for those of us on shoestring budgets who still drive our cars to the track having the option to keep a dash is important if that keeps us street legal.

Todd Greene Made Donation to Website
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Some other safety-related allowances could occur by simply adding the phrase "safety items which serve no other purpose and provide no competetive advantage..." to SMCS 9.1.8.C Authorized Modifications.

This catch-all phrase could allow Nomex-Shifter Boots, Interior Heat Shields, Nomex Sleeves for Lines and Hoses, Throttle Return Springs and other safety-related items.

SMCS 9.1.8.C. Authorized Modifications currently reads: "The following items represent the only modifications and safety items permitted and/or required on Spec Miata automobiles other than safety items as required in Section 9... (Emphasis added)

A lawerly read of this...please bare with me while I play the devil's advocate...

The allowed (or recommended) items in Section 9 of the GCR precede this section, so therefore they are not allowed unless they are required???

A literal reading of this means that these items may not be legal:
Center Safety Net- Not required,but recommended.
Cool Suit- Allowed, but not required.
Interior Fans- Ductwork is allowed.
Driver Water Jugs- Not required.

Of course, all of these things are great safety items and should be allowed and encouraged. My point is that there are flaws in the GCR which could easily corrected by the adding the earlier catch all safety phrase.

While fire is always concern, I am in my mid-40s and my conditioning level is not that of an olympic-athlete. I'm sure that I'm the only person here who fits this description [Wink] . I am also concerned about heat stress and heart related problems as well. I think that any device that prevents fires, protects driver from fire, extinguishes fire, keeps the driver cool and hydrated should be allowed under the GCR as long as it serves no other purpose.

Todd

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I thought about that myself and in theory I think it's a good idea. I think it's too vauge and would have the potential for slippery slope abuse.

What would people try to pull and justify it as strictly a safety feature? What simple things that really are just about safety would some weenie some where say constitutes a "competitive advantage"?

To me, removing my headliner would be all about reducing my chance of a compressive head or neck injury and fire safety. I'd have to add more ballast but it does lower my CG (negligibly).

Of the drivers and officials I've met, 99% of them are great people. There's always that one [butthead] though who decides to be the soup nazi.

--------------------
Keith Novak
(Will work for tires)

Rob Burgoon Verified Driver
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Email sent to CRB!

I hate the dash.

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It really makes my week when nobody crashes into me.

Casey Z Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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quote:
Originally posted by Keith in WA:
I thought about that myself and in theory I think it's a good idea. I think it's too vauge and would have the potential for slippery slope abuse.

What would people try to pull and justify it as strictly a safety feature? What simple things that really are just about safety would some weenie some where say constitutes a "competitive advantage"?

To me, removing my headliner would be all about reducing my chance of a compressive head or neck injury and fire safety. I'd have to add more ballast but it does lower my CG (negligibly).

Of the drivers and officials I've met, 99% of them are great people. There's always that one [butthead] though who decides to be the soup nazi.

One thing to think about after peculating on this for a couple of days is whether we like it or not, rules don't really have intent. One can say what you think was intended, but the reality is the only thing that matters is what the rule says. Now it is true that rules can be and are interpreted, but that is different from assuming any intent.

That said it would best to specify what is or is not allowed, not what you intend to be allowed. May seem like a minor point, but it is an important one.

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Z Brothers Racing / East Street Auto

Casey Z - 1.6 Kettle
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Apex to Apex
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Edit: Edited out of respect for Alan and those in his region.

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"Driving is a serious business" - John Milner, 'American Graffiti'

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Apex...PM sent!

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Paul McLester

Gatoratty Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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[ 09-07-2009, 07:07 PM: Message edited by: Gatoratty ]

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Paul McLester

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This sky is falling mentality has to stop.If you feel unsafe in your car then quit.

Keith in WA Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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I don't look at it like the sky is falling at all. The fact of the matter is that fires are quite rare but they tend to be spectacular and have the potential to be quite grim. At the same time they are very often survivable. More so if people take the proper precautions.

I don't advocate imposing any new requirements on anyone. I for one hate it when people try to legislate my personal safety and although I might be a professional in occupant safety, I'm not the model of personal safety myself. On the other hand I don't have a problem allowing people to make reasonable safety improvements to their car.

People do get freaked out when something like this occurs. People who have some involvement in it typically go through a state of shock. I see a little bit of that in this thread but I really don't think that's what it's about. I think it's raised people's awareness and one or two people have practiced their GTFO drill as a result which is a good thing if it's the only good thing.

This is an inherently dangerous sport. Understand the dangers and you're better prepared to deal with them.

--------------------
Keith Novak
(Will work for tires)

Kyle Keenan Verified Driver
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Region: OR, NWR
Car #: 44
SMIM: AIM: KKRProducts
Posts: 344
Status: Offline
Icon 1 posted  Profile for Kyle Keenan   Author's Homepage     Edit/Delete Post  Report this post to a Moderator

quote:
Originally posted by TKraft:
If you feel unsafe in your car then quit.

Quoted for the absolute truth. While this is an unfortunate circumstance, I will be ashamed if SCCA feels the need to implement more safety restrictions. I, for one, am a firm believer in safety, and that's why I spare no expense when it comes to my safety equipment. You cannot put a price on life.

I think something most people overlook is exiting procedures. Seriously, I practice getting out of my car several times a year. Drivers door open, drivers door closed, and worst case, passenger window. I'd rather know how to do it and not need it, then need to do it and have not a clue as to what to do. For instance, I drove a ITE NSX last week and the first thing I did was experiment my exit options should something go wrong.

You can have all the safety equipment in the world, but if you cannot safely exit the car, the equipment does no good.

I see options in here such as mandating dash removal, and all that. If SCCA does that, forget it. My car will be for sale. I love racing very much, but if I wanted to look like a cheap racing operation, i'd go race Street Stocks at the local dirt track. Let's not re-invent the rules just because of one incident.

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Driver, #44 Spec Miata
ColdTrackDays.com

Kent Carter Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
Future Never Has Been

Region: Houston
Car #: 91
Year : 1991
Posts: 2171
Status: Offline
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I don't think anyone has suggested we mandate removal of the dash. Wasn't in my letter, wasn't in CAM's letter.

When we built our LeMons Miata, we left the dash out and I grew accustomed to the look and kinda liked it. To each their own...

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Do I turn my 99 Hard S into a killerfast SM or seek a donor?

DarylD
Junior Member

Posts: 6
Status: Offline
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quote:
Originally posted by Randy Thieme:
For those of us with our kill switches mounted away from the cockpit area...

I'd like to suggest two kill switches wired in series. One very near the driver and one easily accessible to workers and/or crew. Tripping either one kills the car.

Jason Livingood Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
Member

Region: Philly
Car #: SSM #77
Year : 1992
Posts: 123
Status: Offline
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quote:
Originally posted by Black Sweeper:
I know your life is more important than your finishing position. With the 1.6 weight at 2285 my self and many others can't get the car to min weight (legally). Given that a fire bottle is heavy the min weight should be increased and the fire bottle made mandatory. Other wise many competitors will not add the bottle due to the weight. Safety should be first but this is the reality. Made it mandatory.

I happen to think this is a good point and a few other racers I spoke to at my last race last week held the same view.

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SSM #77

disquek Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
Veteran Member

Region: New England
Car #: 92
Posts: 1993
Status: Offline
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quote:
Originally posted by DarylD:
I'd like to suggest two kill switches wired in series. One very near the driver and one easily accessible to workers and/or crew. Tripping either one kills the car.

Use a bicycle shift cable and a pull loop to create another location where you can kill the car. PM me if this isn't clear.

-Kyle

cam Verified Driver
Cheap member

Region: southwest
Car #: 14
Year : 90
Posts: 739
Status: Offline
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quote:
Originally posted by Gatoratty:
CAM

Do you know if it is user refillable like the E.S.S.?

Just got around to checking this, yes it is refillable but have to send the bottle to SPA representative to refill. I do not have an exact cost but was told it is cheaper to refill than replace.

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"The problem with Socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."
~Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have."
~Thomas Jefferson

omg
Member

Region: washington
Year : 1990 sm 1990 ssm 2007 MX5 Cup
Posts: 62
Status: Offline
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This post is from a rookie driver, who just experienced a roll over at turn 10 Summit Point. Although the roll over was not rough, hanging upside down waiting for EMS was a little surreal. My kill switch was located at the back of the right window so it was impossible for be to reach it while still strapped in. First lesson, put additional kill switch where I can reach it especially if I am upside down. It took a while to settle myself since I was hanging upside down, facing backward. Practicing this exit would be difficult to do. If you are upside down and a fire would start getting out would be rough. Even with EMS help bracing the legs against the dash and being supported when I released my harness, then releasing the Hans, helmet stayed on per EMS, then contorting myself to get out the side window was a challenge. Thankfully I am only 5.8 and 170lbs. I am also going to put a fire switch where I can reach it if I am upside down again. I saw this on a post titled the best damn spec miata built.He has a cut off and fire activating toggle switch on the left corner of the dash.

If you are planning for a worst case situation think upside down, can you reach cut off and fire activation switch.

TillerTech
Member

Region: SoPac
Car #: na
Year : 89
Posts: 441
Status: Offline
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Not sure if this requirment has changed, but, the main kill switch is not for the driver, it used to be required outside the car for a Emergency worker to get to. Worst case, the driver is unconsious and the car is running.

And, the fire handle should be within reach of the driver while belted, best if can reach with either hand. Another tid-bit, nozzle placement, driver should have nozzle near the hands, once burnt they are useless.

John

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Miata Race glass and CF from Legacy Molds. 4 1/2# CF Hood
http://www.jnent.net

 
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