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5/8/2013 - LBGP Safety Panel: Better To Wear Itchy Undies Than To Be Toast Later

Long Beach, CA - When a rock's coming toward your helmet or fire through the cockpit, racers need to be both prepared and aware. That's the message from motorsports safety experts who attended the second Racing Goes Safer! Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix Motorsport Safety Conference at the April races, where everything from itchy fireproof underwear to a seven-point harness was up for discussion.

Reps from the IZOD IndyCar series, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, SCORE, Porsche, VARA and SEMA, plus track managers, racing school operators, drivers and crew managers took advantage of the wealth of knowledge presented by medical, technical and scientific researchers, as well as first-hand testimony from drivers who've "been there."

The audience saw video of Danny Ebberts' refueling-stop fire during last November's Baja 1000 off-road race that left him with 2nd- and 3rd-degree burns on his hands and face, and crew member Dan Caufiel with burns over 28% of his body. As part of Dr. Terry Trammell's presentation on maximizing fire protection and heat stress control, Ebberts stressed the necessity of wearing the most fire-resistant and breathable clothing available: "When you hear racers saying the suits are too hot, send them to me. I will explain to them how a fire is hot. When you hear them saying protective underwear is itchy...I will tell them how itchy it is when your burns start healing."

Trammell warned of the dangers of heat exhaustion on drivers and how proper racing undergarments can reduce that stress on the body. He noted that a recent U.S. Army study showed "soldiers equipped with proper heat-reducing undergarments under their uniforms were able to continue their activities far longer and with more concentration than those who just wore their uniforms."

In his "What is a safe helmet?" segment, Trammell introduced Formula DRIFT expert Kevin Wells, who shared his experience with damage from rocks flicked from another car during an off-road race tryout. One broke Wells' visor, and as he attempted to hold his visor together, another rock broke his arm.

Biomechanical engineer Dr. John Melvin, former GM Racing Safety Program research manager and now an advisor to major sanctioning bodies on racing crash protection, spoke on how to minimize body injury via the latest improvements in harness, head and neck restraints and cockpit safety nets. He said of head/neck devices, "These...are the only way to reduce neck and head injuries in the event of an accident. He also demonstrated how improved driver seats have dramatically enhanced safety.

Mental skills expert Dr. Jacques Dallaire stressed the importance of mental conditioning and appropriate concentration for drivers of all levels: "A driver must remain focused on the task at hand," he noted. "By maintaining his concentration, he alleviates anxieties that would corrupt his correct focus, altering his performance and potentially risking an accident." The next safety conference will take place during the PRI Show this December in Indianapolis. For excerpts and videos from the Racing Goes Safer! conference, go to racinggoessafer.com

Photo: Danny Ebberts displaying his crispy, burned driver's suit (photo: Stand 21 Safety Foundation)

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