The Dangers Of Roll Cages And Racing Harnesses

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The Dangers Of Roll Cages And Racing Harnesses

Not everything designed with the racetrack in mind can be equally applied to road going cars - and two such examples are roll cages and racing harnesses.


It's hard to imagine that the very devices designed to keep you safe could actually increase your chances of injury or death - and yet, that's something that many Malaysians don't seem to understand. This is actually similar to the nature in which racing slick tyres operate, as is racecar suspension - neither of which are really designed to work with road cars in a more frequent use context.

What we're going to talk about today are two specific items you would find in a race car, that just don't work in the majority of cases for your average fast road or fun project car. Let's start with roll cages, or safety cages as they're known. In road cars like the Porsche 911 GT3RS, you sometimes find half-cage setups that occupy just the rear half of the cabin.

In full on race cars, however, there is a requirement for a roll cage that fills the entire cabin, sometimes even with anti-intrusion bars at the door area. The strength requirements and materials as well as construction techniques get ever more expensive to execute as you go higher up the tiers of motorsport, but in reality even a basic roll cage that would pass the minimum FiA requirements for racing is not a cheap endeavour.

According to JPJ's rules, road cars aren't allowed to have roll cages in them, though the reasoning isn't immediately obvious. For a time, road cars that were also going to enter competition such as rally were afforded a roll cage that they could legalize, but the car was only allowed to be driven to and from, or between competition events. This loophole was closed out sometime in the mid 2000s, so the short answer is roll cages are illegal.

As to why they pose a danger, the answer is twofold. The first is that Malaysians at notorious for cheaping out when it comes to modifying cars - hence the market being rife with fake products. With a roll cage, cheaping out on one means bad construction and thin materials, and that turns your roll cage into something that could snap and impale you in the event of a crash.

The secondary concern is that if you are involved in a fairly hefty crash, even the strongest roll cage will deform with the chassis. Sometimes that deformation bends the cage inwards to the point where the cage may come in contact with your head - and that is why you should ideally be wearing a helmet when driving or riding passenger in a car with a functioning roll cage.

Another point of concern is installing and using racing harnesses in a road car - and we're not just talking about fake harnesses which can outright break and kill you in the event of an accident. We're talking about the dangers of impact without a head restraint system, or HANS device, which is something you see required at almost every level of motorsport.

The danger with a racing harness is that when properly installed and worn, your body is held firmly to the seat, with almost no movement allowed against the belts. Your legs, your arms, and most importantly your head and neck are still free to turn and extend, and therein lies the problem. In the event of an impact, your head will snap forward as a result of the momentum it still carries, and this can damage or break your neck.

Some harnesses are designed to work without a HANS device as they are designed to stretch and deform slightly to absorb some of the impact, a little like a three-point seatbelt in a regular car. The other benefit of the three-point seatbelt is that the body can move forward or around the shoulder belt, helping to mitigate some of the impact force.

If you're thinking of installing a racing harness anyway and wearing a helmet and HANS device everywhere you go, you better think twice. As the HANS device restricts movement of the head, it can be very difficult to check your mirrors and your blind spots when you're on the move, which is something you really should be doing when you're out on the road.



Aswan

Aswan

Writer

Places more value in how fun a car is to drive than outright performance or luxury. He laments the direction that automotive development is headed in, but grudgingly accepts the logic behind it. Can be commonly found trying to fix yet another problem on his rusty project car.


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