One of the reasons we race Mustangs is the incredible crash integrity Ford built into the tub of the car. However, it was never designed to take a hit at this kind of speed. So over the years we have carefully sought to improve the crash integrity along with the performance, building our parts strong enough to perform, yet light and soft enough to deform in a crash to reduce the potential for cockpit penetration or crush.
If you carefully look at the pictures, the cage and frame kit are not the least bit distorted, the engine and drive train was contained, and drivers compartment penetration was near zero, as was distortion to cockpit structure. The K member had been on this car for nearly 7 years, 5 of which as a daily driver and open track car before conversion to a race car. Although lightweight, it contained the engine, suspension and steering components. The quality American made tubing deformed and the ductile welds held. The part of the front control arm designed to break under collision to absorb shock did break. This design feature is to allow the tire to move backward against the foot-well bulkhead absorbing impact energy. However the tire and rim separated at the spokes, departing the vehicle allowing greater impact shock into the chassis. Still, we are very happy to say that the driver, wearing a Hans-device, walked away with a minor cut to the left ankle, a minor concussion and chest and rib bruising.
We learn each day, and we learned a few things with this one that will appear in our cars of the future.
- We highly recommend head and neck restraints be used in all competitive events. We doubt the driver would be back at work this day had he not been wearing one.
- We at Griggs Racing pride ourselves on safety and professionalism, yet the fire bottle broke loose from its mountings. The failure was on our end as we had mounted it with nutserts in the sheet metal of the tub. Fortunately, it was safely contained in the rear of the car and the lines and operating cable remained connected. It did remain functional had it been needed.
The video camera broke its case but was retained by the SCCA required safety strap. Check the mountings of all objects in the cockpit. Had this or the battery or the cool-suit unit, or the Accusump, or any other object come loose in the cockpit and hit the driver it could have been a substantially worse incident.
- We package all our electrical and plumbing within the cage on a race car to protect it all in advent of impact. However the crash removed large sections of body forward of the strut towers, and the dislodging of the left front apron yanked hard on the 00 gauge cable running from the safety switch to the solenoid mounted on the left front apron. The switch was mounted as it should be, just inside the drivers door mirror, within the cage and in reach of the driver.
The safety switch pulled apart under the load, the housing separated from its mounts baring the terminals and allowing the hot battery cable bare terminal to bounce around loose inside the cockpit around the pedal box. No short occurred, but it could have been a big problem. Consideration should be given to the location and routing of cables from the switch, and perhaps a beak-away cable system should be employed that would allow the cable running to the starter from the safety switch to pull free without damaging the switch. A Fusible link mounted at the battery end of the main feed cable would also be of benefit.
- The cause of the cut on the drivers leg was impacting the dead pedal we had installed with the pedal cluster. This will be re-shaped and padded in our future cockpit designs.
- The Master cylinder reservoirs separated from their mounts. Had the direction of impact been from the rear this could have resulted in the driver being sprayed with a pint of brake fluid, which can be flammable, as well as a serious eye irritant. We will be using one-piece reservoirs of metal design in the future.
Besides the obvious body damage, three wheels, two brake rotors, the transmission, bell housing and clutch, the engine and everything attached to it were destroyed. However, the car could be repaired to race again.
Such catastrophic accidents are rare in road racing, and of course we dont ever want them to happen. But the reality is that it can happen to anybody, at any time, in any car. At Griggs Racing our years of experience are made available for many to bet their lives on, as we believe in safety as much as winning. Whether you do you own work, or take it to a professional, your safety is ultimately up to the decisions you make in preparing your car.
So always remember that you get what you pay for.