Uni hopes tests have impact on protection of drivers
AN ONLINE retailer has teamed up with Staffordshire University to carry out cutting-edge research into safety restraints for racing car drivers.
Black Cat Helmets owner Roger Grimshaw, pictured below, is the exclusive UK distributor of the NecksGen, a lightweight head restraint unit.
The safety equipment has been designed to provide maximum head and neck protection for racing drivers by incorporating lateral tethers, that stop the exertion of force from side on or diagonal impacts.
But the FIA, the governing body of motorsport, has not certified NecksGen, which is made in the U.S., for use in all top end motorsports such as Formula 1.
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Now Roger, of Cotes Heath, is working with students on the motorsport degree course at Staffordshire University to test the specific properties of the equipment against the HANS device, which is compulsory in many motor racing sports.
Roger said: “Race cars have got safer and helmets have got safer.
“The problem is the weak bit is the neck. If the driver has an accident and hits the barriers, his head moves - everything else is strapped in.
“As long as the race car is not destroyed, he will be reasonably safe. However the head is quite heavy and moves around.
“The HANS and the NecksGen are both about stopping the head from continuing to move when the driver has an accident.
“However, first generation HANS devices only deal with a head-on impact.
“If there is a side-on impact the side of the seat or the car can offer some restraint but there can be damage if the neck moves diagonally.
“The NecksGen has got side tethers that can be lengthened to suit the driver which offer alternative load paths in side-on impact for superior protection.
“There are about 30,000 motorsport licence holders and no more than 500 that are required to use the HANS certified equipment.
“That leaves the rest of the market open as they can choose which equipment to use as they don’t have to have HANS.”
As part of their final year project, the students are testing the properties of both the HANS and NecksGen as well as other safety equipment.
Alex Heaton, motorsport and automotive award leader at the university, said: “The HANS is used the most at the moment but there are other pieces of equipment out there, although they are not licensed for use in all motorsports, which look to be a better product.
“Roger is importing the NecksGen into the country and we are helping to test the equipment to see if it is fit for purpose, if it’s compatible and whether there is a case for get a licence for its use in this country.”
This week, the university is exhibiting at the Autosport International show, running at the NEC in Birmingham from tomorrow until Sunday.
They are taking the shell of a Formula Renault car with them and will build it up in front of visitors over the four days until it could be driven out of the building.
Roger also lectures at the university.
He raced in the early 1990s before going on to launch the website www.blackcat helmets.com after previously working in the mobile phone industry.
He linked up with the university after discovering it had its own race team while he studied law there in 2007.