The Evolution of Safety in MotorSports


(Image via the FIA Foundation)

Nathan Beck, Writer

Since before the invention of the internal combustion engine, people have been trying to race anything they could. Whether they were on their feet, on a horse, or even boats there would be a race, and as you could imagine it was no different with cars. Things where a lot more hardcore back then and people didn’t care about safety, but as time went on they started going faster and at some point, people are no longer okay with just dying. 

In 1876 the engine was invented, when they were put into production they were intended for faster travel and transport of goods, but some people had something else in mind. In 1895 was the world’s first official race in vehicles. The race took place in France, was a total of almost 732 miles, and the winner of the race maintained an average speed of 15 miles an hour. Although 15 miles an hour seems slow the speed was not what made the event exciting, it was the start of something new.

Up until the early 1960s, nobody cared about safety, but it all changed when people got tired of catching on fire. One of the first safety features implemented was fire extinguishers and fire-resistant clothes. To prevent gas from getting anywhere it wasn’t supposed to be they also started putting fiberglass cages over their gas tanks. At first, the drivers were annoyed by this because they only saw it as an extra weight that would slow them down.

In 1961 roll bars were introduced as a way to protect the driver when his car flipped. These roll bars were metal cages built around the driver that would stiffen the chassis and make the car more resistant to crumbling on top of the driver when it flipped over. There are many different types of roll bars but they all serve the same purpose.

In almost all dangerous sports, helmets are required and there’s a good reason for that. Back when racing was more hardcore nobody wanted to wear a helmet, they limit vision and are big and hot, but they are necessary. Helmets have been around forever in many different variations but the helmets we know today didn’t come about until the 80s. Helmets today are developed with science and are far more advanced than they used to be. They are designed to protect and stiffen your neck and reduce the amount of impact taken to the head in the event of a crash.

There are hundreds of tiny things that go into keeping the driver safe when racing and improvements are always being made. From the type of material, the track is made of, to the shape and thickness of the tires, even the shape of the cars. When going at a constant speed of over 100 mph everything counts. As time goes on technology advances and sports get more exciting. In February 2020 the world’s first-ever VR race was held, could Iracing be the future of motorsports?