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Mike Quaintance's picture
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Marion Ohio
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May 12, 2014
Tow Points

One thing that always gives we safety workers issues is tow points. There is nothing more frustrating then coming up on what should be a easy hook and then pull the car out of the gravel trap...when the tow point breaks. It is particularly frustrating when it is a major team that spends millions of dollars a year on their race season. It is my opinion that you should be able to grab a tow point and pull on the car from any direction as getting into a straight line with the car is not always possible.

hcisneros's picture
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May 12, 2014

I can understand a tow point becoming weak after a crash. However, it is also my personal belief that having a tow point protruding from a bumper is a mistake. Why not have a stronger and fixed hook behind or under the bumper that is solid and not movable vs today's extendable tow on a swivel? Most teams also try to conceal them for aerodynamic purposes. I know its a design problem with all the different bumpers and low noses but they currently cause damage to cars when rubbing and always injure my knee at the trailer!  [:)]

Mike Quaintance's picture
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May 12, 2014

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. A few years back I was working the Rolex race at Mid Ohio and we had a DP spin out and land in the gravel trap up in our keyhole. There was no way to hook the car and pull it straight out as it would have had our tow strap stretched completely across the track and with the field as spaced out as they were....not a good idea. So we made the hook and started to pull him out at a 45 degree angle, and just as the strap got tight....POP...off comes the tow point. No damage to the car at all...just sitting in the trap. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a car and put a five dollar tow point on it. Seriously...the tow point was a little round loop about the thickness of an exhaust clamp.

Mike Quaintance's picture
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May 12, 2014

I don't like the behind the bumper idea at all...especially when that bumper has become damaged. It needs to be in a very obvious place, well marked and very easy to see. It needs to be very well attached to the chassis and not just to a bit of sheet metal....I have pulled the front bumpers off many a car that didn't have the tow point attached properly.

fastsaleen's picture
fastsaleen
May 13, 2014

I have been in Mike's shoes. Working a World Challenge race at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course, I arrived at a car stuck in the gravel right at the track-out point for a corner. The tow point on the front of this car was a cable hanging out from the bumper. The track was only showing a local yellow so that meant I had to get this car out and me safe in a hurry. I hooked and as soon as the strap was tight the hook and strap went flying past my truck because the cable had snapped. So much for a quick pull. 
On my race car, the tow point is a heavy-duty strap that comes out through the bumper cover, but is attached to the frame. It is still not that expensive yet is strong enough to never break unless it somehow manages to get cut. It is also still accessible should the bumper get damaged - which it has and that tow point was still used to move the car.

hcisneros's picture
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May 13, 2014

Actually, you bring up an extremely important safety issue with towing and that is the strap coming loose under tension! As you have seen, a strap coming loose with a heavy tow hook attached is a weapon and if a marshal or safety worker is standing next to the tow truck like they always do, a shot to the face can be absolutely fatal. An obvious solution can be to always have a tether that ALWAYS attaches to the tow hook at the other end of the car. This way, a snapped hook will be retained by the tether and only fly 6 feet or so.

fastsaleen's picture
racerb
May 19, 2014

As marshals we are trained to move away once the process of tightening the strap has begun just for that reason.

hcisneros's picture
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May 19, 2014

Yes but why not go one step further and change the regulation? In theory it can shoot to the back window of the truck and penetrate. You just never know.

C_EAllen's picture
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May 26, 2014

Tow points are a constant thorn in the side of Scrutineers. We have two problems. One is getting the competitor to install tow points that are wide enough in diameter to fit a hook into (min. by rulebook up here is 2 inches) and getting them to install tow hooks that aren't spears (ie, a solid piece welded to the frame in the front of the car that will puncture or impale another car (anywhere from 2 inches to 6 inches).

I'm a HUGE fan of giving the driver the rope and wrapping it around the roll cage/hoop with the driver holding the end. That way, the driver can release the tow rope if anything goes wrong (I'm thinking of an incident at Cleveland a few years ago in ChampCar when Jimmy Vasser released a tow rope that was stretched across the track so he wouldn't decapitate Ryan Hunter-Raey).

Either way, this is definitely an area that needs work, both in the installation point being solid enough to take the load of winching/pulling and in the type of tow hook that is used (solid vs. jointed, metal vs. fabric strap).

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June 2, 2014

Tow points are a constant problem and the existence of so many different forms of competition vehicles adds to the headaches. Straight rope tow is excellent for formula cars, except when they air-box is closed which requires a tow pin or a "Star Bar" that has to be collected at the completion of the tow. But the rope attached to the roll hoop presents problems when you have a formula car in a gravel trap, since the angles can actually force the front wing to "plow" into the gravel as you pull. For full body cars, attaching a straight rope to a roll bar with the driver holding can present problems for the same reason, and also can cause issues when you need to pull in a direction that is at an angle that would force the rope against the bodywork of the car. It is also not easy to get a rope around a roll cage of some cars depending on the design of the car and the cage. 

As for tow hooks, you again have no "one size fits all" solution. A soft strap still requires a hard hook and damage from contact can slice through a nylon strap. A metal attachment on the car can penetrate things like a fuel cell, which adds to the problems of the responders. Either way, you still have a metal hook attached to a strap that is attached to the pulling vehicle that can become a missile if something breaks. Having a hook on the race car would be a little better since a broken strap would no longer have a piece of metal attached to it... but it will take a long time to change over to that method, and you still have the problem of how they are attached to the vehicle and how to compensate weight for safety.

This barely touches on the problems associated with using a wrecker or roll-back for removing a vehicle from the race course. What works for a towing a rolling vehicle, usually does not work as well for one that us lifted on one end or pulled onto an angled surface.

For the time being, I see this as a problem with no easy answer. There are valid reasons, both pro and con, from the driver's, designer's and safety worker's standpoint that justify each option. It is a good discussion point, and if nothing else, we are creating more awareness of the potential problems with vehicle recovery.

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June 2, 2014

Do you know what brands, what specifications and what models are the most commonly used? Also what is in your opinion the top 3? @metalmedic

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June 3, 2014

Nope.. I never built a race car, so I have no idea what brands are out there. I have seen several in use, and some look like they were engineered as an after thought.

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