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Properish Fuel Etiquette (and How To Not Set Yourself On Fire At A Racetrack)

A general instructional guidey thingy based on my knowledge of Motorsport, fire safety, and seeing and hearing about the kinda stupid stuff some people do at racetracks. A lot is common sense, but I see a lot of it ignored every weekend. Let's begin.

1. Fuel Handling Etiquitte

Fuel, as a liquid, is pretty stable. You can throw it around, bang the container against things, and even put a match out in it. (Don't try.) Fuel only turns into the nasty dangerous boom juice that we all know and love when it is a vapor. When fuel is a vapor in an open air environment, it is essentially in the best mixture to burn. Which means it will quite happily ignite on just about anything that is kinda hot, including that cigarette your buddy is smoking. If your buddy happens to be smoking while you are putting fuel in your brown rotary MX-5 wagon racecar, then your buddy needs to either put the cigarette out somewhere away from the car and the fuel, or he needs to kindly bugger off. Other things to note that your buddy/ies shouldn't be doing while your are filling up your car with an APPROVED FUEL CONTAINER are things like: welding, grinding, playing with matches, showing off to a pretty girl that he can breathe fire, try to light a campfire in the middle of the garage, etc. Any of those things have no place in a pit garage or open pit area with fuel, and some of those things shouldn't even be attempted at the racetrack at all. (Guess.)


2. Correct Clothing

Once again, mainly common sense. At a racetrack, the lay of the land is basically written as: No jandals, no sandals, no open toe footwear. (Including Crocs.) A good addendum to this is also to have long pants instead of shorts, and if you can, bring a solid toe or leather boot as well. Here's why. You may think it is perfectly fine to wear your nice, comfy sports shoes while you haven't got your race boots on and you are just milling around your pit. But, imagine what would happen if some fuel was to be spilt on those sports shoes? The perforated fabric will soak up the fuel, essentially giving it the fire protection of a fuel soaked rag. That becomes a huge problem if you are refuelling a hot car, since your shoe could catch fire, and flaming shoes are really hard to get off. Long pants are useful because they protect your legs and more importantly leg hairs, and so you don't look silly wearing boots and shorts.

Of course, as a best solution, a firesuit or flameproof overalls is always your safest option. Perhaps fuel your car in your racing overalls for example, however be very careful about spilling fuel on your overalls, since if your car catches fire on the track, and you have fuel on your overalls, you are going to catch fire with it. A fuel apron is a good idea for keeping spillage off of your firesuit. (thanks to tromoly for that one)

3. Safety Equipment

This is one of the worst and most common things we see in pit lane. The rules and regs in NZ say that you should have at least one extinguisher per garage in an easily accessible spot. We check this. And you know what half the teams and drivers say? "it's okay, there's one in the car". THE TINY 1KG EXTINGUISHER IN YOUR CAR IS USELESS WHEN YOUR CAR IS ON FIRE. Please, If you do nothing else, have a spare 4.5kg extinguisher in the front corner of the garage. Don't rely on anyone else to bring one. Factor the extra $100 into your budget.


4. How To Deal With Common Engine Fires

The last point in my write up. Pretty short, just a couple of things. First, as always, kill the ignition. Second, (if you haven't modified the bonnet) pop the bonnet release or take the bonnet pins out. Don't open the bonnet though. Opening the bonnet causes a huge rush of fresh air into the engine bay, just fueling the fire even more. Instead, point the squirty end of your extinguisher into the small opening you just created and let rip. Then, when you think that is is a little bit better doused, open the bonnet slowly, or better yet, get a friend to open it slowly while you stand ready with the extinguisher.


This has been Properish Fuel Etiquitte, with TA4K30. If you have any suggestions etc, please do comment. This was not intended as a be all and end all of fire safety, and make sure you check the refueling regs of your local race series and your country. These were based solely off of my knowledge of the Motorsport New Zealand Refueling Regs and my own personal experiences at the racetrack.

Live long and Oppo.

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