Coming to a track day near you - windows up and no helmet

Discussion in 'Track Days, Car Shows and Gatherings' started by JAJ, Jul 31, 2017.

  1. JAJ

    JAJ TMO Addict

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    So, I was at a car club track day about two weeks ago run by a driver training academy that has, in the fifteen years since I first met them, grown from a handful of super-qualified drivers teaching racers how to race into a North America-wide training organization that runs factory track events for major manufacturers, mostly European.

    The morning driver's meeting was a bit of sombre event because one of the club directors, an avid track day enthusiast and a great friend of all of us, had been seriously injured in a roll-over incident at a local track in the spring. He died seven days later in hospital. This was the first time we were together as a group at a track, and the usual safety briefing went longer than normal.

    At the end, there was startling announcement: from this point forward, at club events, we'd be driving windows up.

    The explanation is that new safety data from OEM-run HPDE (Ferrari, Porsche, BMW, MB, etc) events has caused a re-think of the traditional "helmets on, windows down" approach to on-track safety. This trend started in Europe and the organizers expect that it will be coming to North America.

    Unlike other track day operators, OEM's are in the business of engineering and building cars, and their cars capture huge amounts of data. When there's a track incident, the factory engineers download the data and assess the performance of the vehicle safety systems. We all know about the decades of effort that have dramatically improved road safety and racing safety. Modern cars of either type are very safe.

    However, this new analysis is looking at the safety aspects of the way cars are used at HPDE events, and what's becoming clear is that factory safety systems in road cars aren't being used as effectively as they could be.

    The first revelation is that when you're relying on the factory safety systems, it's just plain safer to drive windows up than windows down. The reason is simple: giving up a few horsepower to run the air conditioning is a good trade-off versus having your head and arms flailing out the driver's window in a roll-over incident.

    The other item that's facing questions is the use of helmets. Apparently, the weight of your helmet changes the way that your head moves in a collision, increasing the risk of injury in an air bag equipped car. The lightest weight carbon fiber helmets may be ok, but for now work is continuing to determine what's safe and what's not.

    So, I'm sure tradition will live on with many organizers, but there will be a trend. And if you're going to an event with "helmets on, windows down" rules, invest in a lightweight CF helmet and a window net.
     
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  2. Surfergeek

    Surfergeek TMO Race

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    And or a HANS device. It's worth your life. Especially if you are running seat belts that are 4,5,6 point.


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  3. VoodooBoss

    VoodooBoss Rick Moderator

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    John thanks for sharing that info. A Hans type device is a good investment. I now have an extra HANS device for passengers and a helmet with the Hans attachment points.
     
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  4. antman450

    antman450 TMO Race

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    Yes, Hans and net solves both items addressed by factory information. And just simply using a Hans device and the window net supersedes with the factory safety people are saying by 1 million times. That's overstating, but you get the idea.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  5. Fabman

    Fabman Project: "Frankenstang"

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    NHRA and IHRA have been windows up no helmets (until you go 11.5) forever.
    Funny how different racing disciplines have dramatically different views on things.
    I recently built a track Miata with a full cage and a window net and the HPDE officials told him NOT to put the net up. Also cage design, what is way safer in nascar type cars is not allowed in scca/nasa racing and considered to be unsafe! Totally different views on things....these guys need to talk to each other and compare notes....I'm getting dizzy going back and forth between various sanctioning bodies.
     
  6. Racerpilotalan

    Racerpilotalan TMO Advanced

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    Wow. Interesting stuff. I will be back on track for the first time in years at TWS for the 2.9 I just bought a new helmet.
     
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  7. Mystic_Cobra

    Mystic_Cobra TMO Intermediate

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    So, I was googling stuff and came across this thread that I hadn't seen before. As someone who has raced with a HANS for ~10 years and has now gone back to track days in a street car, I found this interesting.

    I see that this is 2 years old. Has anyone seen/heard anything to update or change this "practice"?
     
  8. JAJ

    JAJ TMO Addict

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    I actually had this exact discussion last week with a Porsche driver who had asked about it at the drivers meeting. He told me he's heard the same story that I wrote about in my original post - that the automotive OEM's in Europe have all gone to windows up for factory sponsored track events regardless of whether helmets are in use. His particular concern was that there's a story going around that the thin, lightweight rear windows that come in GT3RS's can crack from pressure build-up when the side windows are down at speeds over about 150MPH.
     
  9. Dimo

    Dimo TMO Intermediate

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    All of the track days I participated in over my last 4 years in Europe were helmets on and windows up (except TF days at Nürburgring, but those are a different story). I just got back to the States, and it feels very weird doing windows down track days
     
  10. yotah1

    yotah1 TMO Race

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    It's just absolutely stupid to drive with windows down on a track. The 40 year old excuse saying they need to be able to pull you out through your window and that riding windows down avoids broken glass in your face is just a ridiculous one for me. I can't wait to see a track marshall trying to pull a 300 pound dude out the side window of a Corvette ... and I laugh everytime somebody goes off and has to clean the interior of their car for an hour before going back on track ...

    If i want sand, rocks and dust in my car, I'll just register for King of Hammers ...

    I feel that the trackday scene in Europe is just miles ahead of what happens here in terms of safety, rules, driving conditions and overall on-track behavior. I understand why some rules are different between Europe and US, mostly regarding the point-by passing situation, but that windows down rule is just non-sense. I just hope this will evolve, but would love to just have a paper I can bring to trackdays in order to bring up the "issue" with organizers and just discuss the subject with them to help move things forward.
     
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  11. Duane Black

    Duane Black TMO Advanced

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    I'd like to go windows up and use turn signals for points. I'd think we need to keep helmets. I wear a hans hybrid s now
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2019
  12. JDee

    JDee Ancient Racer

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    I run windows up, haven't had a problem from any organizer yet on that. As for helmets, I wear one, but I read a paper a while back that indicated helmets and air bags are maybe not so good together. The extra weight of the helmet changes the dynamics the air bags are programmed to work with. I wish I could find that paper again, as I recall it was an SAE study triggered by auto makers studying crashes involving their testers and the interaction between helmet/non-helmet heads and air bags. The study seemed to conclude that in stock production cars no helmet was best with closed windows and air bags. Anybody else ever recall seeing that paper?
     
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  13. rwleonard

    rwleonard TMO Intermediate

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    I have run one event using turn signals for point-bys and for the life of me cannot understand why everybody doesn't do it that way. As for the windows and helmets, I would like to do whatever the data says is the best bet.
     
  14. TymeSlayer

    TymeSlayer Tramps like us, Baby we were born to run...

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    I'm not buying it. Show me the data rather than stating studies or OEM statements. I'm not questioning what you've heard or have seen, I just believe there are pros and cons for both. I want something on my pumpkin and think the Han's is the way to go with the window down. Till I see some hard data, I see no reason to change. JMHO.
     
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  15. TMSBOSS

    TMSBOSS TMO Addict

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    Windows up, Eye Pro, gloves, Helmet and HANS would be my vote.
    If a safety crew needs to break glass to pull me out, have at it. I wear a full face helmet and glasses.
     
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  16. The_Dead_Cow

    The_Dead_Cow Mike

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    Windows up without AC sounds like it would get hot in a big hurry (especially where I live).
     
  17. JDee

    JDee Ancient Racer

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    I don't find it bad for a 20 min session. It gets a bit warm, I put it on vent and point the vents at my chest, that air flow alone actually helps even though it's not cold. But then again I live in a part of the world where 80F is a really warm day!
     
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  18. Duane Black

    Duane Black TMO Advanced

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    Ac isn't an option in newer cars. Most of them automatically cut ac when you go WOT. one time I was on my cool down lap and started getting cold. I was running ac on grid and forgot to turn it of . At one time my best vir laps were with ac running.
     
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  19. JDee

    JDee Ancient Racer

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    Hell yeah, there's always pros and cons both ways, it seems nothing is ever cast in stone these days. I'd love to show you that data, I just can't find the damn report I read anywhere now. They probably did another one that refuted the first one and withdrew it!
    The great thing is that most of the time we get to figure out what works for us personally and do that......far rather have it that way than being told how to walk by big brother.
     
  20. Dimo

    Dimo TMO Intermediate

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    I can’t remember where I saw the data, so I don’t have that... but I remember seeing just adding the weight of a helmet changes the position of where your head should be during an incident. But adding a HANS device is the safest way altogether, I would think. As for windows, I just prefer them up. But I don’t think it matters all the way up vs all the way down. Just as long as they’re not halfway
     
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