Ed. Note: Originally, I hadn’t planned for this to be a three-part series, but the more I got into it, the more I felt this was too important of a subject to just name the products I bought/received and call it a day. I wanted our readers (especially those new to high-performance driving like myself) to be able to follow along on my thought process as to why I made the decisions I made and chose the products I did.
While I did receive some products for free, I am being completely honest with the information I am presenting in this series. Although I could have gone to any manufacturer and asked them for products, I chose the equipment I did because these are the ones I planned to purchase anyway. I wanted to show you don’t need a ton of money to race safely. I hope you not only appreciate me sharing this information, but I hope you are able to gain some insight for yourself as well.
In The Beginning
I had a plan for Project CrossTime that included doing things in a logical order. Well, I ran into a few speed bumps here and there that forced me to adjust the schedule. My first step was supposed to be safety, but as things often go, the timeline and the way the world works often don’t go hand-in-hand. I had fallen into the same trap a lot of people do: do I go racing right away, buy this performance part, or buy safety equipment?
Quit f#$%ing around and get some safety equipment in that thing! — My Dad
I chose wrongly and just went racing. I hate to say it, but my dad said it best (children divert your eyes): “Quit f#$%ing around and get some safety equipment in that thing!” My dad has a way with words, but he was right. I’d been tempting fate and I knew I needed to focus on getting the right safety equipment in the car. After three road-course events and many autocrosses without much more than a rollbar and a helmet, it was time to make something happen.
Getting My Head In The Game
My car was “legal” for all the events I have entered — in other words, it passes tech. But, passing tech and truly being safe are two different things. Getting proper and adequate safety gear should ALWAYS be the first step, regardless of whether your car passes tech or not.
In 2014, prompted by the death of sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr., The Charlotte Observer published an article by Gary Schwab, Ames Alexander, and David Scott that said more than 520 people had died in auto racing during the previous 25 years. But, it also said the numbers aren’t required to be reported and no one actually tracks those statistics, so the number is undoubtedly higher. The Observer also didn’t break down all the types of racing covered by the study, or whether they were fans or racers, but it did appear the majority of deaths occurred at smaller tracks or grassroots events, where rules are often less-stringent.
Let’s face it, cost is a true consideration and even a barrier to entry, when it comes to safety. If you can barely afford to buy a $1,000 car like CrossTime, can you really afford to spend another $4000 on safety equipment, which you may never need? After all, safety equipment is (for all intents and purposes) an insurance policy — you buy it and hope you never need it — but you’re glad you have it if you do!
Taking Responsibility For My Own Safety
Many beginning competitors think if the sanctioning body doesn’t require certain safety equipment, they don’t need it. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone needs as much safety equipment as a crash requires. The problem is, you don’t know what the crash requires until you are in it — so get as much as you can get — regardless of what the rulebook says. While tech inspection checks off the boxes for the minimums, it’s not necessarily to make sure you (personally) are fully protected. You have to put your own safety into your own hands.
I was guilty of putting safety second, but my excuse wasn’t monetary, it was just getting the pieces together and everything had to occur almost at the same time. It is the typical domino effect of building any car — if you do this, then you have to do that!
I needed a rollcage (not just a bar), but if I installed a cage, I couldn’t use the original seat. If I had a race seat, I’d need a five-point harness. If I had a harness, I’d need a head and neck restraint. If I had all that, I’d need to remove the airbag. If I ditched the airbag, I’d need a different steering wheel. With the new seat and rollcage, I’d need a quick-release on the new steering wheel so I could get out of the car. With all of that installed, I’d need fire protection because my egress would be slowed by all of that equipment.
With my ass now in gear thanks to my father’s blunt advice, I made three immediate moves: I called the experts at RaceQuip, I hit the Summit Racing Equipment website, and I called Steve Gurley with Racefab Performance in Covington, Tennessee. In part two of this series, I will talk about the driver protection measures — all the safety gear I now wear. In part three, I will write about the ancillary stuff that protects me within the car itself (rollcage, racing seat, harnesses, etc.). Follow along as we make Project CrossTime into a true race car with all the necessary (not necessarily required) safety gear.
To see the CrossTime Build Diary and previous articles, go HERE!