Motoring News Motorsport — 04 September 2013
How does motorsport make us safer?

Motorsport is often regarded as being one of the most dangerous sports in the world, but the reality is that owing to the modern stringent safety rules this is now far from the truth. In fact, motorsport is responsible for many of the biggest leaps forward in production car safety. This is the result of technology that was invented for racing being evolved into use in our road cars. Below is a list of 5 parts of your car that have come out of motorsport:

5. Suspension

To get the best stability and traction you want all your wheels in contact with the road at the same time. Your suspension helps make this happen.

In race cars the suspension needs to keep the car stable through faster turns than your road car ever could ever handle, as well needing to deal with extreme acceleration and braking. Suspension technology created for the race environment often then makes the transition to road cars, although road car manufacturers understand the need to balance performance with comfort to ensure that perfect ride.

4. Tyres

Tyres connect the car to the road and play a vital part in helping the driver keep control of their vehicle. In motorsport the importance of tyres is understood, and tyre manufacturers are always innovating tyre technology for the various forms of racing. From super soft rubber tyres using on dry race days in Formula 1, to the deep grooves and chunky tyres used in off-road racing.

This technology then gets re-appropriated to create better tyres for production cars. The number, size and depth of the grooves in tyres, along with the type of material they are made from, are all the result of extensive testing that started in a racing environment.

3. Brakes

Racing engineers design brake systems that work under extreme circumstances and conditions. Their requirement is to stop a race car, often going over 200mph, time and time again during a race without failing, and to do so in the optimum and most consistent manner.

Technology such as disc brakes started on race cars in the 1950s. They proved more powerful and easier to maintain and easier to keep cool (braking friction creates heat and that heats makes brakes less efficient) than the drum brake designs previously in use. Most production cars now have disc brakes on at least the front wheels and usually on all four wheels.

Brakes are one area to keep a watch on, as new lighter and more durable materials are currently being used in race cars (for instance Ceramic or Carbon) and as the cost of these systems comes down you’ll see them starting to be used in production cars.

2. Safety Cage

Probably the most important piece of safety technology to come from race cars is one which most road car owners don’t think twice about. In racing protecting the driver is one of the first and foremost concerns. Race car bodies are often built using strong carbon fibre and with either safety cage or a roll cage (a network of steel tubes that absorbs impacts for open top cars) to protect the driver in case of collision or rolling.

The same principles go into production car safety cages, though in their case the structures are so well-hidden under carpets and behind trim that you’d never know they were there.

1. Rear-view mirrors

Okay, maybe not something you’d expect to have come from racing, but race car drivers discovered that they could use mirrors to spot opponents coming up behind them. Indeed the earliest known rear-view mirror mounted on any motor car apparently appeared in Ray Harroun’s Marmon race car at the inaugural Indianapolis 500 race in 1911.

Since then rear-view mirrors have been seen as a vital part of any car, and whilst it might be a little low tech, it might well have helped drivers avoid more accidents than any of the other pieces of race car inspired technology listed above.

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