Unfortunately, this is a real thing. I’m just starting my own research into the issue, but I just hope to help make fellow racers aware of this in case they hadn’t heard about it. How do we avoid buying counterfeit safety gear? First off, buy from known, trustworthy dealers that have the sport’s best interests in mind. You know, the ones that charge a few extra bucks that you should be giving your business to anyways, instead of from the cheapest internet search result that drop ships from a no-name seller. And second, educate yourself on what the correct safety labels should look like. Sure, really good copies are hard to spot, but at least you’ll learn to spot the cheap copies.
One of the series I race in, TABS 2.5 West, has a great sponsor in ANPlumbing.com. Not only do they race with us, they supply the parts I need in a fairly priced and quickly shipped manner. Lots of good race car plumbing advice is just a call or an email away. I got a deal on a new set of AN wrenches from them, nice product at a great price.
For the 2017 season, all clubs have ended their temporary extension that allowed SA2005 helmets due to the lack of supply of SA2015 helmets. So now SA2010 or SA2015 helmets are required for competition. I’ve been shopping, and started out at my local retail shop, Wine Country Motorsports at Sonoma Raceway. They’re a great source for safety gear, i.e. helmets, seats, fire suits, gloves, as well as lots of other race merchandise, and a knowledgeable staff. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a helmet that fit my oval shaped head very well. I tried on everything from budget to high-end helmets – Racequip, Zamp, OMP, Sparco, Bell, Arai, even Stilo. The Arai and Stilo were the closest fit but still not quite right. So I contacted my favorite online retailer, Racer Parts Wholesale, and they recommended the Simpson and Impact helmet lines for an oval fit. I ordered a Simpson Speedway Shark and an Impact Vapor, both about $800. They both are geared towards open-wheel racing with a duckbill chin spoiler, lift-reducing ripples over the top, a narrow eye port, and various small air vents. They both fit very comfortably, no hot spots on my forehead and a supportive fit from my ears to my jawline. Visors were of excellent quality on both, with the Simpson having a better seal with the visor closed. The Simpson also had a slightly higher quality soft foam and liner material in it. The Impact definitely used a smaller and narrower shell for their Large helmet, it made it seem like the Simpson just used an XL shell and used more inner material to make it fit. The Impact came with a simple cloth drawstring bag while the Simpson came with a heavy-duty denier travel bag. And for the win, both the Impact and Simpson helmets are made in the USA.
The Impact Vapor fit me just a bit better, and I preferred the narrower shell for better ease of use within the driver compartment, so I ended up keeping the Impact. I’ll update after I have a chance to try it on the track. (Ed. update – great helmet.)
Older, wiser, less invincible, slower to heal… whatever the reason, I’ve been spending more attention (and money) on my safety equipment as my amateur racing career carries on. This season I’ve been working on making my cockpit a safer place to be in case of an impact. I added a halo style seat, and since I’m so long-waisted, I had it custom made with a two-inch longer back so the shoulder harness holes were positioned properly. To keep the angle of the harness properly aligned with the use of my HANS device, I had to add a higher harness bar to my roll cage as well. I installed a new window net that uses both wide webbing and mesh to help keep my body parts in the car and to keep unwelcome parts out. And even though my race club does not require them, I added a right side net for a little more protection.
As we vintage racers get older, stiffer, and larger, it gets more difficult getting in and out of our caged cars. I’ve seen many racers getting by with a minimum driver’s side door bar to help ease car entry and exit, often just a simple ‘X’ without the top horizontal bar. My car has quite a high top door bar, same height as the window sill, so it’s been getting tougher to slide in and out gracefully. I discovered a helpful modification that kept the safety and added some ease, a hinged bar kit made by Chassisworks. With some help from my racing buddies John Teaby and Mike Malone, my racing just got safer, and easier.
Here’s a good video of what a side impact with a halo seat looks like. Video
My 1980 Crossle 40f did not come with an air dam behind the radiator when I bought it. During my first race in the heat last season, my feet got so hot I ended up making one out of cardboard to get through the weekend. Since then I’ve seen several different versions made out of aluminum, fiberglass, and even carbon fiber. I ended up using a fiberglass piece available through Porter Racing. The first two pics are of the one I just installed, following them are examples of others I’ve seen at the track.
2014 was a great season for me, and I’m hoping for as much fun in 2015. This season my emphasis will be with the San Francisco Region SCCA in the Crossle, with a little bit of Vintage racing in the Datsun thrown in for good measure. I’ve rented some shop space from a local gearhead for the short term in order to have the room to get both cars prepped. The Datsun is getting the motor refreshed, and the Crossle is getting a thorough going over. First race will be in March, so I better get busy…
Another racing buddy of mine has come up with a great idea for a racing related business (geez, I gotta come up with an idea…). He is a professional artist who is making custom racing posters featuring your own race car. Sounds like the perfect Christmas gift for that racer who already has everything. Again, I’m not affiliated with this business, just passing along another great idea.
Admittedly an aluminum driveshaft isn’t at the top of the list of budget performance upgrades. The biggest bang-for-the-buck improvement is just more track time, period. Then there’s the basics of good tires, good set-up, and good maintenance. Once the basics are covered you can start working on upgraded suspension, brakes, gearbox and engine, and of course weight loss (both car and driver). But once all the low-hanging fruit is gone, you should start doing your cost vs performance calculations wisely when picking the next upgrade. Basic physics shows the greatest advantage in weight reduction comes from unsprung mass and from rotating mass, ie wheels and tires, brake components, crankshafts, and yes, driveshafts.
After a recent gearbox swap in the 710, I was needing a new driveshaft, so I figured it was an appropriate time to do an aluminum driveshaft upgrade. At the same time I increased the diameter of the driveshaft from 2.5″ to 3″. I found some engineering tables that show the dramatic strength increase realized by just small increases in a tube’s diameter, therefore helping reduce driveshaft whip at high speeds. And even with the increase in tube diameter, I dropped the weight substantially by switching from steel to aluminum, from 15 lbs to 11 lbs. Yes, it cost more at $450, but since I was needing to have one built anyways, I think it’s an upgrade worth the money. If you’ve really got some extra bucks to throw into the project, a carbon fiber driveshaft will increase strength and reduce weight even further. The guys at South Bay Driveline in San Jose, CA did a great job as usual, and they don’t make me feel stupid with all my dumb questions 😉