FROM THE ARCHIVES
78 SEPTEMBER 2020 scca.comFROM THE EDITOR
• In the Who Will Win the SoloNationals feature, SportsCarpicked Bob Tunnell to win DS.Some 25 years later, he’s stillour pick, but this time in DM.
• The Board of Directors tabledthe notion of eliminating theRocky Mountain Division.
• Pro racer Randy Pobstpenned his monthly PobstPosition column on the topicof how to be a good spinneron the racetrack. He insistedgood drivers never spin,and then discussed his ownfailures behind the wheel.
• SCCA’s Board of Governorstasked the CompetitionBoard with revising its rollbar and roll cage rules tomatch those of the FIA,thanks, in part, to 10 injuriessuffered during the 1969
SCCA road racing season.
An adventure of mine documented in this issue of SportsCar involved my acquiring a fancy new racing suit. Although I was not going to use it while racing – I volunteered for EmergencyServices duties during a Regional road race – the RaceQuip suit I utilized for protection features anSFI 3.2A/5 flame-resistant rating. I know that not all suits are created equal, but this rating allowedme to shop with confidence knowing that what I was about to wear passed a standardized test specificto the racing world. Yet, while many of us take that for granted, it has not always been the case.
In the column to the right you’ll find highlights from the September 1970 issue of
SportsCar. Within the pages of that issue resides a letter from an SCCA member bemoaningthe Club’s newfound inclusion of alternate materials to Nomex for racing suits.
“I was recently in J.B. Hinchman’s Indianapolis factory and asked Mr. Lou Hinchman, the company’s
president, to comment on the SCCA decision,” wrote SCCA member Tom Butters. A paragraph later reads:
“Mr. Hinchman did show me the results of the United States Navy test...that indicated time from flame to
pain and flame to blister was considerably longer with single-layer Nomex than with single layer brand X.”
The member’s letter concludes: “I believe that flame-retardant suit wearers should be aware
they could be dressed in an imaginary safety factor, something like the Emperor’s New Clothes.”
Several safety gear advertisements appear in that 50-year-old issue of SportsCar with wording
unlike any you’ll see in racing suit sales today. “We believe the Nomex
material that should be used in driving uniforms should be 100%
Nomex, should be very closely spun or woven, and should be ofadequate thickness to keep liquid, fire, and heat penetration to aminimum,” reads a 1970 ad from King Motoring Specialties.
“Believe” and “should” are not confidence-inspiring verbs,especially in the context of protecting my derriere in a racingenvironment. In a flash, I was immensely thankful for the existenceof racing suit testing standards from organizations like SFI and FIA.
Today, SCCA heavily relies on those SFI and FIA standardswhen it comes to mandating racing protective gear – andfor good reason – because before these safetytesting standards existed, guesswork was anunfortunate part of motorsports safety.
When I donned my newly acquired safety gearfor my weekend working Emergency Services (thatadventure starts on pg. 44), I did so knowing thesuit met the SFI 3.2A/5 standard, which translatesto a Thermal Protective Performance (TPP)
Value of 19, offering the wearer 10 secondsof protection before receiving second-degreeburns. There’s no “believe” or “should” aboutit, and there’s absolutely no reliance on testingthat measures to a subjective pain threshold.
Mr. Butters was certainly on the markwith his letter and, coincidentally, theindustry must have been thinking alongthose same lines because racing suit safetystandards were adopted soon thereafter.
Yes, racing safety equipment has comea long way in the last 50 years, and myderriere is exceedingly grateful.
EDITOR, SPORTSCAR MAGAZINE
50 YEARS AGO...
25 YEARS AGO...
10 YEARS AGO...
Mike Lawler photo