Fire prevention and protection in DTM – meticulous safety controls
For many years, fire has been THE bogey in every motor-racing event. Today, however, burning racing cars fortunately represent the absolute exception. Factors with a significant responsibility for this change were hard wearing, flexible tanks and fuel pipes that can cope with enormous pressures and feature connections that close automatically should they have been torn apart. Nonetheless, it still isn’t possible to absolutely eliminate the fire peril and so, FIA and DMSB devised extremely detailed and strict fire-protection and fire-fighting regulations. To make sure that these regulations are complied with, DEKRA controls both the drivers’ gear and the fire-extinguishing systems in the car prior to every DTM event. Without the okay of the scrutineers, no DTM car may leave the pit lane.
The condition of the fire extinguishers in particular is subjected to extremely detailed controls. A time consuming endeavour that requires maximum diligence. After all, even a manometer displaying enough pressure and sufficient extinguishing agent doesn’t say a lot about the real condition of the system. Have all the extinguishing-agent pipes been placed without kinks and to the compulsory positions? Do the temperature sensors that automatically activate the extinguishing system in the case of emergency work as required? Is something wrong with the manometer? Is the entire system still in maintainable condition or has it exceeded its maximum life span? Does the manual fire-extinguisher release that can be activated from the outside work? Is the appropriate trigger clearly visible and distinguished as stipulated. Many questions and they all have to be answered with yea by the scrutineers, following the meticulous control.
The red extinguishing and blowing-agent cartridges are mounted at the same position in every DTM vehicle: below the legs of the drivers, in the so-called knee bridge of the monocoque. In the Japanese GTA series that is contested with an identically constructed monocoque, however, the performance weights are placed in this position while the extinguishers sit behind the drivers’ seat and consequently are anything but easily accessible. Nonetheless, both series have to reconsider their approach, for the future, as the FIA has issued new fire-extinguisher regulation saying that every car must me equipped with two extinguishing-agent bins that are filled with a new fire-extinguishing agent.
Similarly strict are the regulations regarding the driver gear. No matter if shoes, socks, long underwear, balaclava, gloves or overall… Every piece of clothing that gets can get in touch with a driver’s skin has to be made of fire resistant materials and FIA approved. This of course also applies to the helmet and its lining. Drivers who don’t comply with the gear stipulations are not only careless but also will have to cope with severe fines. When it comes to safety, FIA and DMSB won’t take a joke. A fact that could be witnessed in the 2015 DTM season finale when the new champion Pascal Wehrlein covered – after having delighted the crowds with some donuts of joy – just a few metres on the track with open safety harness – and received a €1000 fine for having done so.