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Rolling Out Safety Measures

July 1, 2010

The FIA Institute working alongside ProDrive to develop and improve specifications, guidelines and the construction of Roll Over Protection Systems (ROPS) for rally and circuit cars.

The FIA Institute’s new ROPS project aims to improve driver safety by improving current materials and technologies, and establishing best practices. It is intended that this project will deliver specifications that exceed the requirements of current

FIA regulations in order to provide drivers with improved protection during accidents whilst ensuring consistent fabrication methods. World Rally driver Chris Atkinson’s crash at the Rally of Great Britain in 2008 has acted as a point of reference for ROPS engineers. This accident, where Atkinson was turned upside down in his roll cage, raised concerns among engineers and encouraged them to examine and explore possible new designs and to improve roll cage safety.

The new ROPS project will not change roll cage geometrics. It will however, examine current regulations as regards testing roll cages and will conduct tests on energy absorption as opposed to focusing more on roll cage strength. The project will initially assess three important aspects: steel grades (including 15CDV6, T45, Clubman500 and CFS360); weld type (TIG and MIG); and joint design (plain and gusset configurations).

Having completed the initial analysis by quasis-static and dynamic tests on subcomponents (pictured), a number of Subaru Imprezas will be prepared for full scale dynamic impact testing to determine the ultimate performance levels of the leading ROPS designs.

It is hoped that this testing will lead to devising measures to stop roll cage tubes and joints breaking and to improve energy absorption capacities. Andrew Mellor, Director of Research for the FIA institute said: “It’s exciting for the FIA Institute to continue the ROPS safety programme as ultimately this may allow best practice to be adopted across the whole of motorsport from International Championships to club racing.”

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