A racecar on fire strikes fear into the hearts of even the most seasoned driver. In motorsport’s early days, drivers piled into cars clad in cotton t-shirts and denim jeans. Driver apparel has progressed from open-face helmets and leather jackets to today's multi-layer custom-fitted suits that offer drivers as much as 40 seconds of protection in a fire.
These days, nearly every potential fire hazard has been considered. Drivers are required to wear fire-resistant racing suits, underwear, socks and gloves when they get behind the wheel. Pit crews, rescue teams, and track officials who work in the presence of potential fires are also required to wear protective clothing. These safety measures help play a pivotal role in providing the valuable seconds racing professionals need to escape fires that result from both on-track collisions and pit accidents.
Fire marshals are race officials who are positioned around the track to provide fire-fighting coverage against vehicular fires in the circuit, and are responsible for the extrication of competitors from their vehicles if required. Some fire marshals are allocated to pit lane, while others are part of fire units, strategically placed to respond around the circuit.
The National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 610: Guide for Emergency and Safety Operations at Motorsports Venues provides race track owners, operators, promoters, first responders, insurers and sanctioning agencies with comprehensive guidelines for implementing safety and emergency response strategies. These guidelines ensure that emergency workers are properly trained and equipped, and that venue personnel are ready and able to deploy resources to optimize fire suppression, rescue and medical care for competitors in post-crash situations, while also providing for the safety of first responders.