From talking to various drivers this past weekend, I got the strong sense that the implications of the new "Rolling Annual Tech" rule are still not clearly understood. Hopefully a few drivers will read this and perhaps even pass the information along.
Annual Inspections are now good for a full 365/366 days from the date of inspection. Anybody who got an annual inspection at the NARRCOffs this past weekend will not need an Annual again for a full year; that is, they won't need to suffer in spring tech lines next year.
However, Harnesses still expire in December, so if you have to install a new harness, you'll need to make a quick pass through the line in the spring to get those signed off. I will post an additional note on harnesses later today.
Additionally, helmet stickers are still tied to the calendar year, so you'll continue to have to drag all your gear to tech in the spring to get the new sticker.
My pictures from the NARRCOffs this past weekend are now up on Flickr. The coverage isn't all that extensive, I was chief of tech and so my opportunities to take pictures are a bit limited; sometimes things get a bit busy, especially on race day.
(Updated below in Bold Face).
Yes, I am reusing some of the SRF pics from earlier for this discussion.
Here is the shoulder harness and the fiberglass seat from the earlier blog entry. It happens to be an SRF, but it could be one of any number of types of formula car or sports racer; I've seen similar problematic harness mounts in a number of different types of cars.
Now what is the issue here? It's the spacing of the shoulder harness mount points behind the seat. The standard mount points in an SRF are 8" center-to-center; in some Formula Cars and Sports Racers it's even larger (I've measured 10" in some.) The General Competition Rules have for many years called for 4" to 6" center-to-center (see figure 1, page 80, 2007 GCR).
On top of this, for drivers using a HANS device, the HANS Owners Manual
explicitly calls for no more than 3" inside-to-inside. There is a small amount of math that's good to do here; if we are using 3" wide belts (the conventional type) with a HANS then 3"+1.5"+1.5" yields 6" center-to-center which matches exactly the widest spacing permitted by the GCR. If we're using 2" wide belts (permitted only with a HANS), then we get 3"+1"+1", so we have 5" max center-to-center when using 2" wide belts with a HANS.
If we go back up to the picture and look at it, we see that the car is equipped with the 2" HANS only belts, but is using the 8" mount points the SRF came with. This leads to 6" spacing inside-to-inside, 3" more than the HANS owners manual calls for. The driver may have problems with the belts slipping off in this set up; it is not in conformance with the GCR or with the HANS owners manual, although it is in conformance with the car shipped by SCCA Enterprises.
This installation represents one that will work well with a HANS. The belts are an appropriate distance apart, laying flat as they come forward through the seat, they will not bunch up and will drop naturally over the HANS "horse collar". This particular SRF has had the new kit installed that allows better spaced mounting of the shoulder harnesses.
This seat/harness setup is an intermediate step; this car is still using the 8" spaced mount points, but the Butler seat is pulling the straps closer together. This driver will probably not have problems with his shoulder harness and a HANS, although the bunching of the webbing at the outside ends of the slots is slightly troubling (See the discussion of this installation in the earlier SRF Seats posting.)
Drivers are trying various other things with the HANS. Some are using harnesses with the extra sternum latch up near the top of the chest; unfortunately, these are not actually legal harnesses in the SCCA (2007 GCR 9.3.18.D page 78 requires a SINGLE common release point for the lap and shoulder harnesses.) At the NARRCOffs one driver showed me a friction material applied to the top side of the HANS "horse collar" to assist in keeping the shoulder belt from sliding off. I am uncertain how well this will actually work.
This is a shot of the right side mount of the original fiberglass seat which is still commonly seen in SRFs. The metal strap under the three bolt heads is a critical piece of the mount; it was added after failures occurred in crashes. It is sometimes left out during assembly; not all SRF owners understand its purpose.
This spring I saw a couple of SRFs with damage to the fiberglass at the rear end of the valley on driver's right between the seat and the mount; this is something that an SRF owner with one of these seats needs to keep an eye on.
This is a shot of the top of the seat back, where the shoulder harnesses exit the bodywork. This car has the original shoulder harness mount points, which are 8" center to center. The GCR specifies that this dimension should be 4"-6". A kit is available from SCCA Enterprises that allows for more appropriate (and more GCR compliant) mounting. I understand from Shawn Morrison of Motion Dynamics (the NEDiv CSR) that it's a bit of work to install properly; it can be bolted in but is apparently best if welded.
One important point about this type of seat -- we impounded SRFs at the NARRCOffs on Friday afternoon, and two of the cars we inspected had noticeable fraying problems with shoulder harness webbing where the harness came in contact with the rough edge of the fiberglass. It's something an SRF owner needs to keep an eye on.
This is one of the newer style Butler seats. Drivers who have switched definitely like these better. One key point here, though, is that with unmodified shoulder harness mount points, the belts are pulled inwards and the harness tends to bunch up where it passes through the seat. We would very much prefer to see harnesses laying relatively flat where they pass through the seat. In fact, the 2007 GCR 9.3.18.D (page 78) says this:
The seat itself, or anything added only to the seat shall not be considered a suitable guide. Guides must be a part of the roll cage or a part of the car structure.
Here is a Butler seat in a car with the new style shoulder harness mount. Note how the belts now lie flat and run straight from their mount over the shoulders. This is really what's best all around.
Well, not much of a rant, but I do tend to get somewhat peeved at SCCA Enterprises over SRF tech issues.
Ever since the SRF came out (originally the "Sports Renault", later the "Spec Racer", now with Ford power, the "Spec Racer Ford"), Enterprises has tended to ship things that were in violation of various specifications in the GCR.
The original chassis had a main hoop that was too low by any reasonable standard. The fix was to add the "tall man" kit to raise the hoop and add bracing. This is still the configuration of new SRFs today, a kit to raise the main hoop which is not permitted under any circumstances in any other class.
Then there is the soft headrest pad. They've finally stopped doing that, but for an extended period of time they shipped it even though it violated the requirement in the GCR for a non-resilient foam.
Of course, one year they started shipping new cars with FM100 fire bottles. For the record, FM100 was never an approved substance in fire systems for the SCCA. That year, as Halon started getting pricey, FM100 started showing up. We gave everyone a year to get it out of their cars, but since Enterprises had sold cars with FM100 despite the GCR violation, we ended up giving SRFs an additional year of FM100 use.
Then there was the year that we started requiring dated SFI rated harnesses. Enterprises shipped undated belts for new cars well into that year.
So I hear good things about Erik Skirmants, who just took over. I'm sure he's a good guy and means well. But still, Enterprises has been pulling stuff as long as they've been around, and I have to be considered a skeptic until I see some improvement. Keep this in mind over the next day or two as I am preparing some tech blogging based on the NARRCOffs at Lime Rock this past weekend; at least one of the entries will be about SRFs/seats/harnesses/HANs devices, and my technical opinion on these matters isn't one of joy, love and happiness.
This coming Thursday night, Friday, and Saturday I may be found in the tech shed at Lime Rock Park for the NARRC Runoffs, the final race of the season for most of us. So if any readers of this blog are there, look me up.
Traffic on this web site is cyclical. I've know this for years; visitors peak in mid to late summer. Autumn is a time of gradual decline, and things will only gradually start picking up around February.
So my traffic from NYC readers is up in September. Not up by a little. From September 1st to September 22nd, it's up by 880%.
So did someone put something in the water?
I've started tinkering with making the web site more mobile friendly, mostly so the Track Pages might be useful for someone on the road with something like an iPhone or Blackberry. If there are any mobile users out there reading this, I'm interested in hearing what tweaks would help. I have altered a few of the state indexes (California, Texas and Florida to name three) to eliminate a lot of image downloads and am looking at more tweaking.
The answer is up at http://www.na-motorsports.com/Gallery/Mystery/. I have some more stuff in the pipeline for the Mystery Gallery, but am on the road right now and not well position to post any of it. I'll probably get a new Mystery track up on Monday.
I have new information relating to the photo that currently serves as the Motorsports Mystery, and have added it in bold to the page. I plan to post the correct answer on Saturday. Note that there is enough information available online to find out at a minimum the first initials and last names of the drivers if you can figure out where to look.
Way back when I was first learning the tech inspection business in the SCCA, I had a chat one morning with a driver who had recently been inducted into the SIT ("Stewards In Training") program. We were sitting in the classroom in the old tower at Lime Rock Park babysitting a batch of highly questionable computers that tech had pulled out of a bunch of Showroom Stock cars at a National Race ("highly questionable" in this case meaning obvious signs of hand soldering, etc., on what were supposed to be unmodified circuit boards).He commented about the fact that when he'd been driving, he'd never really known everything that went on at a race track, but when he became a SIT, he was required to go work with all of the worker specialties and that experience had really opened his eyes about the nature of the club.
Every so often I sit back myself and consider, with some amazement, the fact that we as an organization can pull this off, not just once, but hundreds of times a year. And we do it for the most part with volunteer workers who simply show up already knowing their jobs, who report to their stations and get to work with remarkably little supervision.