Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
2/11/21 7:48 a.m.
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Sure, our LS-powered Nissan 350Z could now move under its own power, but that created a whole new set of potential problems: fiery problems.

Time trials competition doesn’t require an onboard fire-suppression system, but one can literally be the difference between a minor setback and a …

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Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
2/11/21 9:36 a.m.

My D-Sports Racer once grenaded the engine at a private test day; the subsequent oil fire was quite exciting.

Our friends Corvette burnt to the ground at a PCA track day; the car went from small fire to fully engulfed in 20 seconds. the car was not equipped with a fire system.

 

 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
2/11/21 9:51 a.m.

Yeah, I've never had a close call myself, but I've seen unexpected fires too many times and I try not to take any chances as a result.

A few years back, I was at Willow Springs to do a story on a car that won't be named built by a flagship aftermarket parts manufacturer that also won't be named. The driver took it out "just to put a few laps on and make sure the gauges look good" before I was to take it out in the next session. After two laps, flames shot out of the hood, but the driver was able to pull over, grab the extinguisher mounted to the passenger seat, and put out the massive oil fire. It was a completely unexpected failure that I would have bet was impossible. The car's day was over at that point thanks to all the powder all over the engine, but if he hadn't had a bottle the car would have almost certainly burned before the firetruck made it to the corner.

If he'd had a Novec system instead of a traditional extinguisher, we probably would have been able to fix the car that morning and gone back out on track.

What really stuck with me? He was only wearing a helmet; I'd told him he didn't need to bother putting a suit on since it wouldn't show in photos and fire gear wasn't required at the test day. Yeah, it would have been pretty stupid to get burned while your fire suit is sitting in the trailer. These days, I try to wear my suit whenever I go on a track. It's free, and it could save my life. And while good fire systems like what I installed in the 350Z are definitely not free, they're cheaper than the cost of a wasted race weekend's fuel/entry fees/food/hotel room, way cheaper than the cost of a new car, and WAAAAAAY cheaper than burn treatment.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
2/11/21 10:06 a.m.

Fire burns just as hot on test days as it does on race days. 

I believe Charles Espenlaub said this. 

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
2/11/21 10:23 a.m.

Our friend in the Vette was wearing an open faced helmet, when he opened the drivers door to leap out he was greeted by a wall of fire and burnt the skin on his nose.

As for the sports racer fire; it was almost 20 years ago and I still have a keen mental image of seeing flames travel through the side pod and pour out the slats in the front fender. Knowing there was a fire system made the situation unnerving rather than terrifying. Keep in mind I road raced motorcycles before switching to cars so my unnerving likely qualifies as frightening.

DennisDoesEverything
DennisDoesEverything New Reader
2/11/21 10:25 a.m.

I used to work in a building that overlooked an interstate off-ramp-up-to-overpass that for some reason people picked for a getting off point if their car was on fire.  It happened three times in the less than two years I worked there.

First time the car went out on its own, and I joined a group of people helping the owner push the car up the off ramp.  Second car made it to the gas station across the street and burned to the ground (the car not the gas station).  I watched it out my office window.

The third time was tragic. Thankfully I didn't see it in person because I was working from home.  The company paid for therapy if they wanted it for those who had been there.

A man driving a minivan with a fire under the hood made it all the way to the blue painted disability parking space by the building.  His wife was disabled/obese/wheelchair bound (one or all of those things) and needed help getting out.  But before he could get her out or anyone in the building could react, the fire flared up and consumed the whole minivan.  She burned to death and he was badly burned.  It was hot enough had to replace windows on the building up to the second story.

People, if you have a car fire do not "look for a place to pull over" or try to get to an off-ramp.  You get to the shoulder at max lane changing and braking velocity and get out.  You don't know how much time you have and should assume it is zero seconds.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
2/11/21 10:31 a.m.

In reply to DennisDoesEverything :

I don't know the specifics, but we had something similar happen at a club race: car caught fire, and the driver drove alllllllll the way back to pit lane. He passed away from injuries. 

Do not pass go. If there's a fire, stop, drop and roll. GTFO. 

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
2/11/21 12:26 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

Do not pass go. If there's a fire, stop, drop and roll. GTFO. 

Continuing on this theme I jumped out of the sports racer while it was still traveling about 1/2 mph, it rolled about 30ft from me. The fire had gone within a second but I wasn't taking any chances on it reigniting. I didn't go back to the car until the crew showed up with a large fire extinguisher in hand.

My view of fire systems is they are their to give me time to exit the car............I don't give a crap about the car.

 

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/11/21 12:56 p.m.
Tom1200 said:

My view of fire systems is they are their to give me time to exit the car............I don't give a crap about the car.

That's my understanding too.  If you catch the fire early while it's small then maybe it'll save the car, but that's definitely not the point.

 

350z247
350z247 New Reader
2/11/21 1:45 p.m.

While I am in no way arguing against fire suppression systems, I just don't see $1,400 worth of parts there. The piece of mind and safety are worth it, BUT more people would use them if they were more reasonably priced. It just seems like a bit of price gouging to take advantage of valid fears of death (to car or driver) by fire.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/11/21 1:59 p.m.
350z247 said:

While I am in no way arguing against fire suppression systems, I just don't see $1,400 worth of parts there. The piece of mind and safety are worth it, BUT more people would use them if they were more reasonably priced. It just seems like a bit of price gouging to take advantage of valid fears of death (to car or driver) by fire.

The NOVEC suppression agent is quite a bit more expensive than AFFF

 

ross2004
ross2004 Reader
2/11/21 2:20 p.m.
350z247 said:

, BUT more people would use them if they were more reasonably priced. 

$400 is fairly cheap insurance, for what could potentially save your life. 

http://www.lifeline-fire.com/lifelinezero200040ltrfiremarshalsteelfiresuppressionsystem.aspx

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
2/11/21 2:33 p.m.

Yeah, the Novec is quite a bit more expensive than AFFF. You can get a solid system for $400, but the difference between the two systems is what I discussed in the article.

wae
wae UberDork
2/11/21 2:41 p.m.

I don't think I could ever cost-justify putting a $1,400 system in my rallycross car (even considering my history), but that $249 system seems like something I could talk myself in to pretty easily.

350z247
350z247 Reader
2/11/21 3:30 p.m.

In reply to ross2004 :

Like I said, $400 to save my life makes total sense, but there just aren't $400 worth of parts there. Their profit margins have got to be substantial.

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
2/11/21 4:06 p.m.

Both my cars have the lower priced systems in it. The aforementioned sports racer had a lower priced system in it.

Fires do happen; in the last 30 years of racing I've seen 4 cars catch on fire as well as it having happen to me.  In addition to that my cousin had to bail out of his P2 car at the Runoffs several years ago. So that's 6 club racers I personally know that had this happen. Three of these cars were prepped to extremely high standards & the other three were solidly maintained.

I will share my incident in case anyone doesn't think a system is worth it: 

At Spring Mountain Motorsports I was coming into the fast sweeper at the end of the back stretch (it's now the pit in), braking from 130 down to 100 mph the motor grenades and a split second I saw fire light up the inside of the side pod and roar out of the front fender. All of this is going on while I'm trying to keep the car from spinning, still traveling at over 100 mph. I turned off the ignition and pulled the fire bottle handle in the middle of sawing at the wheel.

This car pulled 3Gs on the brakes and as such the stopping distance was shorter than any production car , even with that I'm sure it took 4-5 seconds to get the car under control and  bring it to a stop. A production based car would likely have taken another 2-3 seconds, so we're are taking as much as 8 seconds before you could bail out. 

Further, how much composure do you think you'll have trying to bringing a burning car to a stop if you have no way to suppress the fire?

$400 for a basic system is worth it and wouldn't question $1,400 for a second.

 

 

 

matthewmcl (Forum Supporter)
matthewmcl (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
2/12/21 8:03 a.m.
350z247 said:

In reply to ross2004 :

Like I said, $400 to save my life makes total sense, but there just aren't $400 worth of parts there. Their profit margins have got to be substantial.

Isn't something like 90% of the cost of making a high school football helmet the liability insurance payment?  Lots of things do not have total price reflected in their parts.  I do not know how much goes into their rainy day fund, but making safety equipment is a risky business in our litigious society.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/12/21 10:08 a.m.
matthewmcl (Forum Supporter) said:
350z247 said:

In reply to ross2004 :

Like I said, $400 to save my life makes total sense, but there just aren't $400 worth of parts there. Their profit margins have got to be substantial.

Isn't something like 90% of the cost of making a high school football helmet the liability insurance payment?  Lots of things do not have total price reflected in their parts.  I do not know how much goes into their rainy day fund, but making safety equipment is a risky business in our litigious society.

Certifications are also not cheap.

 

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