Safety first | DTM
2017-07-07 12:45:00

Safety first

Safety first

The safety standards in DTM are unique in the world of touring-car racing. Lap 33 of the race at the Norisring clearly demonstrated why the organisers of the series insisted on raising the safety standards to such a high level. Jamie Green and Gary Paffett approached the first hairpin wheel to wheel at 250kph. They made slight contact and then, Paffett’s Mercedes-AMG jack-knifed on a bump. The 36-year old massively hit the crash barriers and spun back on the track where the Mercedes-AMG badly crashed into the driver’s door of Mike Rockenfeller’s Audi R5 DTM. The fans on site and TV audience of 1.47 million viewers held their breath. But in the end, the drivers got off lightly in what looked spectacular and terrifying.  

“I have got a lot of bruises and a few cuts here and there but all in all I’m okay. The X-ray pictures were okay, I’ve got a bruised rib and no fractures,” Paffett said relieved after his return from the hospital. Nonetheless, the memory of the terrifying crash still is omnipresent. Paffett describes every detail of the moment of shock. “Jamie and I were driving side by side,” he says. “We both had the DRS activated and we were going flat out. We made slight contact and then I lost it due to the bumps. From that point in time I was just a passenger. I massively hit the crash barriers twice and then I crashed into Mike. It was really terrifying and scary. It felt as if this crash was going on and on and would never stop. And when it finally was over I had to keep my seat for a minute to compose myself and check if I was okay. To be honest, these bad crashes could have resulted in something far worse.”

Analysis of the data recorder resulted in impressive values

The analysis of the car’s data recorder, executed by the technicians at the German Motor Sport Association, DMSB, brought to the light – in cooperation with the video footage – truly terrifying data of the crash. The speed Paffett raced at right before the crash amounted to 255kph. And when he hit the crash barriers for the first time he was exposed to lateral forces of six up to eight g. But during the crash with Rockenfeller, the forces were – due to the pointed angle – clearly higher. When the front of the Mercedes-Benz crashed into the drivers’ door of the Audi the g-forces measured amounted to 38 to 40g.

Since the start of ‘New DTM’ in the year 2000, workplace safety definitely represents a top priority. That’s what the makers of the series absolutely committed to.

That’s what the makers of the series absolutely committed to. “Thank you to the engineers who built such a safe car for me,” Paffett said after the crash. The DTM cars are incredibly sturdy. “And the doctors – who also did a great job – really were amazed that I was virtually unharmed after I had told them how fast I was going when I had the crash. The just couldn’t believe it.” Paffett

Rockenfeller praises the safety of his car despite his injury

Mike Rockenfeller, however, didn’t get off quite that lightly. The 2013 DTM Champion who was taken to Nuremberg in the same ambulance as Paffett suffered a fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone of his left foot. “It all slightly hurts but altogether I’m quite alright. It was a rather heavy impact. And I wasn’t prepared for that. Therefore, my foot heavily hit the clutch pedal. And I realised right away that something was wrong,” said the German who afterwards looked at his crash on his mobile phone. “The impact of Gary’s car felt much worse than it looked in the pictures. Due to the mass it was enormous but fortunately the cars are very safe. You could see it. The injury of my foot was just bad luck. The pedal is like a steel plate and we are wearing very thin shoes. My monocoque also was undamaged.” At this point in time it is not yet clear if Rockenfeller will be able to contest the next race meeting at Moscow. It will depend on the speed of the healing process.

No matter if an Audi, BMW or Mercedes-AMG, the DTM vehicles are consequently designed for maximum safety. No other touring-car series world wide features a safety standard on the same level – that was the goal DTM set itself. In cooperative collaboration, all the parties involved regularly provide their experiences as well as research and test results to guarantee the highest possible safety standards. About a third of the costs for a DTM car are spent for the safety features. Following several heavy impacts in the crash barriers and Rockenfeller’s car, the body shell at the front and the back of Paffett’s car was destroyed for the most part. But the monocoque was undamaged and protected the health of the driver in impressive style.

Extensive safety concept works

The most important safety features of the DTM vehicles are the carbon-fibre monocoque and the roll cage made high-strength steel. Furthermore, every car is equipped with so-called crash-absorbers that pride additional driver protections at the sides, front and rear. A safety harness that is fixed on six spots fixes the driver in his seat that can be opened by him in the case of emergency by one movement of his hand. Compared to production cars, the DTM drivers are sitting far back in their vehicles, about where a production car is equipped with the back seats. Due to the strutting of the safety cell, entering the car and getting out of it resembles an acrobatic exercise. Nonetheless, the driver must be able to independently get out of the car via the driver’s door in seven seconds and via the passenger’s door in nine seconds In the case of an accident, in the case of an accident. To offer the extrication teams the possibility to rescue a driver who isn’t able to get out of the car by himself, the DTM vehicles are equipped with a hatch in the roof that can be opened from the outside. The rescuing of drivers is practiced in the extrication practice (link to and is additionally practiced again and again within the framework of every DTM race meeting to make sure that everything will run smoothly in the case of an emergency. To screen the DTM safety concept, DMSB developed a testing programme that is executed and analysed by the independent expert organisation DEKRA.

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