Welcome to Part 2 of the Beginners Guide to the E36 Race Series. If you missed Part 1, click here. In this post I'll walk you through the safety requirements to get you on track for the E36 Race Series.
Before I begin, I want to stress that with all the information I have provided below, check with AASA/Motorsport Australia to ensure your equipment complies with their regulations.
You can spend as much or as little as you want on your helmet but it must meet the minimum requirements for racing.
Must be HANS compatible
Must meet Australian Standards AS1698 (there are other international standards that may apply, the vendor will be able to give up to date advice)
Motorcycles helmets are not a recommended option as they are typically not fire resistant and can't be used with HANS devices.
Other considerations before you purchase can also include whether you prefer open or closed faced, the more expensive helmets are generally lighter, stronger and provide more venting options.
The HANS device is a must have piece of safety gear. The purpose of the HANS device is to prevent whipping in a crash, it allows the wearer's head to move normally, but prevents or restricts head movements during a crash that would exceed the normal articulation range of the musculoskeletal system and cause severe injury.
While awkward to wear at times, once you're in the car and strapped in, you won't notice it and hopefully you'll never need to use it. Often vendors will have specials in store to buy the helmet and the HANS device as a package.
Your race suit is the next bit of kit and there are plenty of options here for colours, style, fabric type and structure. Your suit must be be FIA approved, again the vendor can provide up to date advice. The key role of the suit is protection from fire. You can opt for a single layer suit but you'll need fireproof underwear or go down the path of a multi-layer suit to remove the underwear option.
I have a 3 layered suit which helps on those cold Goulburn mornings but the reason I chose this option was because multi-layer suits add 20 seconds of safety buffer per layer. I still wear my fire proof underwear, I'm very risk averse when it comes to fire. If I'm really struggling with the heat, I'll remove the underwear because it gets incredibly hot in the suit which leads to dehydration, fatigue and ultimatley mistakes on track.
Like the race suits, they come in a range of colours, styles and fit. This is additional protection from fire. The boots also provide for the ability to operate the pedals with good feel. Ever tried to heel and toe in runners? It can be done but the thick foam/insert between your foot and the pedal removes any connection you have with the car.
Purchasing the fire proof underwear which consists of a balaclava, long sleeve top, long john pants and socks depends on your suit option. I can highly recommend them for cold mornings although as I mentioned above, you'll warm up quickly with a 3 layered suit.
The last piece of safety equipment for the driver are gloves. Budget options will be sufficient but like everything else, you spend more and you get more features, lighter, more tactile feeling through the fingers and comfort.
So that's the driver side of things. If you've made it this far, thanks for sticking around. Let's bring this post home and discuss the safety requirements for your race car.
The racing harness is a critical piece of kit. It must be at least 5 points and also be HANS compatible. They come in a range of colours and brands but as with everything I've discussed, your vendor will be able to advise you on all the features. If you plan to compete in any endurance racing, you may opt for the quick release adjustment features, when your pit crew is counting you down to exit pit lane, you don't want to be stuffing around with the belts. It's happened to me in the Cheap Car Challenge at Pheasant Wood, not a nice feeling.
Window nets keep your limbs in the car and generally mount on the roll cage using the side intrusion bar. I run the RPM brand and it's a square design but I've seen other designs that vary, some are tapered at the top that better align with the A pillar.
The single biggest safety feature and an absolute must for circuit racing competition is that your car must be fitted with a roll cage. The roll cage must meet AASA or Motorsport Australia regulations. We recommend AGI Sport in Sydney who supply a bolt-in cage for the E36 coupe and sedan in various configurations. The full cage 6 point bolt-in is the minimum you should invest in. Wait times are long, 3 months at least so place your order early. Club members receive a discount on AGI Sport cages to be used in our series. With weld-in cages, check with AASA/MA to ensure you're building to the latest specifications.
Battery Isolation Switch
The last piece of equipment which is mandatory is a battery isolation switch. Its role is to isolate the battery from the vehicle in the event of a crash and/or fire. The isolation switch must have a pull wire from the driver's side of the car in order for track safety personnel to operate the switch from outside the car.
Interesting point to note, in our last event the scrutineers tested all race cars to ensure all battery isolation setups were working, some failed and this meant they could not race until the issues were addressed.
So that's safety covered to compete in the E36 Race Series. Please note that my comments are general in nature and I would encourage you speak with the vendor and/or AASA or Motorsport Australia if you have any detailed questions. You can also review our Series Regulations as well to ensure your car meets our criteria to compete in the series.
Links to sanctioning bodies and a sample of race gear suppliers in Australia and overseas.
AASA - https://aasa.com.au
Motorsport Australia - https://motorsport.org.au