You hate to see vehicle fires at the track, but it’s even worse when it’s your vehicle that catches fire. It’s important to know what to do in case of a fire and what safety precautions you can take to minimize the risk of vehicle fires during HPDE events.
Safety Precaution Tips
A car can catch fire without warning with flames that spread rapidly in a matter of a few seconds. No car fire is good, but a fire when you’re driving 100 down the track is especially nerve-racking. Fortunately, there are safety precautions you can take to minimize the risk of a vehicle fire and the damage done if one does occur.
- Safe driving and regular vehicle maintenance are the most effective ways to prevent most fires. Accident damage and poor maintenance are more likely to result in a fire.
- Fuel line malfunctions or split fuel pipes cause most car fires. Signs of a problem can include visible damage, gasoline odor, fuel leaks, misfires, stalling, blown fuses or a burning smell. Have a professional check the fuel system at least once a year.
- Be careful where you park. Avoid driving into or stopping over tall, dry grasses which can easily catch fire due to the heat of components under the vehicle.
- Know your vehicle and its capabilities. Street cars have better fire insulation than race cars, which helps reduce the risk of a fire. However, street cars are less accustomed to being pushed to their limits on a professional track.
- Know your track’s rules and procedures. Each track will have its own rules for driver gear, vehicle safety equipment and track procedures in case of an emergency. Help turn workers by knowing the correct rules and procedures.
- Wear the right protective gear. Make sure your attire meets the requirements for your track and the event. Driving suits, driving gloves and underlayers that are fire-resistant are a smart choice for gear.
- Have the right fire safety equipment. National Auto Sport Association rules (Section 15.1-3) require either a fire extinguisher or fire suppression system. Keeping a quick-release fire extinguisher bolted within reach is good, but you probably won’t be able to operate it while driving. As longtime racer Rob Krider reports, the newer fire suppression systems are affordable and easy to install and operate. The chemical retardant is not harmful to the car or driver which can save your vehicle as well as your life in a fire. NASA rules also require an external fire decal which helps point track workers to the vehicle’s closest fire system access.
Fire Emergency Procedures
The rules and procedures for what to do in case of a fire will vary a bit from track to track, so check specific guidelines before your next HPDE event. But in general, you should plan on the following procedures if possible, during a vehicle fire:
- Stop the car as quickly and safely as possible, whether you smell burning, see smoke or see flames. It is ideal to stop near or behind a turn worker station or track barrier cutaway. Avoid coming to a complete stop on the track.
- Shut off the engine after you have come to a stop. This stops the flow of fuel which can help prevent a small fire from becoming a big fire.
- Get out of the vehicle. It’s generally never safe to exit your car on an active track and a fire is the only situation where leaving your car is acceptable.
- Move at least 150 feet away from a vehicle that is on fire. Since other cars may still be driving at track speed, move away from the track surface, toward a turn worker station if possible and don’t cross any other part of the track.
- Let safety workers handle the fire. If there is only smoke coming from the hood without flames, cracking the hood and using a fire extinguisher may be enough to put out the fire. But never open the hood all the way, as the sudden rush of oxygen could stoke a larger fire. If the fire is coming from the rear of the vehicle, don’t attempt to put it out and move away from the vehicle and call 911.
Track Day Protection
Vehicle fires on track day can be devastating for you and your vehicle, as a small fire can cause expensive damage to your car. Standard auto insurance policies likely do not cover your car when it’s on the track, and even when take proper safety precautions, there’s still a risk of damage to your car.
That’s why we offer HPDE Insurance to protect your car from damage when you’re participating in HPDE, track day or time trial events.