V8 Supercars driver Rick Kelly is pretty good at going fast. But as he explains in this week’s exclusive column, safety is never far from his mind.
The differences between my Jack Daniel’s Racing Nissan Altima racecar and your everyday passenger car are fairly substantial, that’s why it’s baffling to see people misuse their cars on the road.
Once you start getting over 110km/h, you start entering into that 'racecar zone' as far as speed is concerned. And I would consider that the safety equipment in my racecar is tenfold on what you would typically experience in a road car.
The driver’s seat is a safety capsule. It’s made from carbon fibre and wraps right around you, almost like a crash structure for the human body.
We’ve also got a very good roll cage around us, which stops the car from crumpling in during an accident, and there is impact absorbing material built into the doors.
The key thing that stops you from moving in the event of an accident is the seat belt. In my V8 Supercar I have a five-point harness holding me in place, and then the seat itself is moved into the centre of the car, so if there are any impacts around the driver’s door you are well away from it.
Under the seat belts we have a HANS (head and neck support) device, which stops your head from moving around in the event of an accident, and of course we have a state of the art carbon fibre crash helmet, and a triple-layer fire proof suit.
In a road car, you have only have a three-point belt and the airbags to save you from serious damage.
In addition to the safety devices, we as professional race drivers drive quickly for a living.
Before we go out onto the race track and hit speeds between 100 and 300km/h, we look at data and video for days to prepare us. We look at every single corner, and how to best attack them.
When we are on the track, it’s a very controlled environment with flag marshals on every corner and sand traps to slow you down when you go off; there are no dogs, people or wildlife crossing the road unexpectedly, cars coming from other directions, or bends with exposed trees or power poles.
If something does go seriously wrong on the race track, we’ve always got medical help no more than 30 seconds away.
All of this is very important to take into consideration, because you can’t control what goes on around you on the open road. There are all of these variables that are jumping around in front of you unexpectedly.
That’s why it’s frustrating when you see people who are inexperienced treating a car wrong, because at the end of the day, the car is a weapon.
The consequences for misusing vehicles are very serious. You’ve got to respect the car that you’ve got, and be aware of what is going on around you.
The NZ Experience
Pukekohe this year on the Jack Daniel’s side of the garage is a weekend we would probably rather forget.
While we had some strong points in some sessions, overall some bad luck and less than ideal qualifying results worked against us.
The first qualifying session on Saturday on the hard tyres was hampered by cars spearing off at turn two, while in the second soft tyre session we just didn’t have the car speed.
Fortunately we were able to claw back some positions in the race.
On Sunday I got swamped in the first corner shenanigans, and then was involved in that incident with Nick Percat that brought out the Safety Car.
After double stacking behind Todd, we managed to claw back a few positions in the last stint after running dead last.
Not ideal, but we’ll regroup and come out fighting at Phillip Island next weekend.