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The impending introduction of new regulations requiring all rally crew members to wear fireproof driving suits in all special stage rallies from January next year is already starting to have an impact on competitors.


RallySport Magazine is aware that a number of competitors are already considering giving rallying away due to the cost of personal safety equipment that will add between $1200 and $2000 to a crew’s budget. Several have already sold their rally cars while others are preparing to do so. The driving suit requirement will have its greatest impact on those who rally purely for fun and who were quite content to compete at a level that didn’t have such stringent apparel regulations.

Previously competitors were able to enter special stage events at state level wearing basic flame-retardant clothing, an approved safety helmet and little else. From January 1 next year not only will driving suits be mandatory, but a balaclava, woollen socks and fire-retardant boots, plus a T-shirt and underwear made from cotton, wool or another material complying with FIA standards.

Flame-resistand gloves are also mandatory for drivers but not for navigators/co-drivers. This would take the level of safety equipment required to the same level of requirement as that for Australian Rally Championship events, except for socks and boots which ARC competitors are compelled to wear and which comply with FIA 1986 or FIA 8856-2000 standard.

The subject of safety apparel is one which has polarized competitors for some time. Those against the new requirements argue that for events such as club rallysprints which qualify as special stage events, the new rules are an overkill and are putting rallying out of reach of competitors.

Proponents, however, say that the added cost is well outweighed by the comfort and safety factors which driving suits provide. They also say that although added safety also comes at a price, the cost of a driving suit and other clothing is just a small percentage of the real costs of competing in rallies and any safety benefits provided, whatever the cost, is money well spent.

As competitors wind down for the 2006 season and prepare for next year,
decisions will have to be made about the level of events they intend to (or can afford to) compete in, and a decrease in the number of people failing to renew their competition licences is inevitable.

The attitude that ‘it will never happen to me’ is one worth evaluating, in light of the number of rally injuries and fatalities that have dogged the sport in the last few years. Commonsense suggests that in the interests of personal safety, competitors in any event, not just a special stage event, would be doing themselves a favour by spending the money they would normally spend on increasing their car’s performance on personal safety items.

As we have all seen recently, accidents can and do happen to anyone at any level of the sport and nobody is immune from injury. Consider the purchase of the right personal safety apparel as an investment in a longer, safer competition career.

SUMMARY OF SAFETY APPAREL REQUIREMENTS FOR
SPECIAL STAGE RALLIES AFTER JANUARY 1, 2007

During all special stages, at minimum crew members are required to wear:

  • A helmet which complies with the provisions of Schedule D, Article 1;
  • One piece driving suits, made from a flame retardant material, or, until 30/12/2008, two (2) piece driving suits homologated to an appropriate SFI standard;
  • a separate balaclava, t-shirt, underwear and socks, all made from a material complying with ISO 15025:2000 or ISO 6940, or alternatively of cotton or wool;
  • Flame retardant gloves (co-drivers are exempted from this requirement), complying with current FIA standards or ISO 6940;
  • boots complying with current FIA standards, ISO 6940 or alternatively boots which incorporate a full leather upper. 
All apparel is to be worn as their manufacturer intended during all competitive stages.
 
The use of flame-retardant apparel which has been homologated by the FIA in compliance with FIA 1986 or FIA 8856-2000 standard is strongly recommended.

 

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