Wearing Normal Clothes in a Racing Environment
It always happens. Almost every race or event I attend, something goes wrong. Sometimes it’s minor contact. Sometimes it’s a major crash. Sometimes it’s fire.
A car fire can happen to anyone, anytime. The car doesn’t know if it’s a test day, wheel-to-wheel competition or a timed event. But, we seem to skimp on safety and somehow feel more relaxed when testing as opposed to competition.
The problem with wearing normal clothes in this environment is that they offer little or no protection, and can even add to the danger inherently. Let’s look at two main fabrics that are in most every piece of clothing these days:
Cotton: Highly flammable – Difficult to extinguish – Combustible
Once cotton ignites, it’s really hard to put out. The old “stop, drop and roll” was developed in a time period when most clothing was made from cotton. In short, when you wear cotton on your body in a high performance driving event, you are wearing a torch.
In fact, July of 2013, SCCA’s SportsCar Magazine wrote, “Wearing standard clothes under the race suit carries the risk of internal combustion next to the skin; while the race suit does not burn, you can trap the burning and heat build up against the skin”. This means cotton can catch fire, even under your suit!
The other common fabric used in today’s clothes is:
Polyester: Melts & drips easily – Melts into plastic – Must be surgically removed
It can be very stretchy, comfortable and many times treated for moisture control since it’s used widely in athletic garments. Polyester can be very comfortable but that doesn’t outweigh the dangers associated with it.
SFI Foundation did a special study on non fire retardant garments under the suit in May of 2015. The study demonstrated just how easy it is to melt a polyester shirt, through the suit, without burning a hole in the suit. Pretty shocking! It’s actually a result of heat transfer through the surface of the suit, melting the shirt onto the skin. They went on to say, “When the polyester shirt melts, it becomes hot glue, and will stick to skin. For the same heat exposure, an injury that would otherwise only need ointments for treatment will now require painful scraping or removal of skin to separate the solidified polyester from the body.” Yikes!
If those two fabrics aren’t enough to get you thinking about wearing something fire retardant, there are even worse garments you can wear. These are:
Polyester/Cotton Blends: Melts – Drips – Burns easily – Difficult to extinguish – Must be surgically removed – Combustible AND can Melt under the suit
They are very comfortable garments, perform very well in the heat, but are extremely dangerous. What’s more, they are not easily identifiable without looking on the tags. Many look like regular cotton t-shirts. However, when exposed to heat or flame, Cotton/Poly blends exhibit ALL of the dangerous characteristics of non-fire retardant garments.
So, what’s the answer? TraqGear has SFI Certified Fire Retardant garments that will keep you safe and keep you cooler than the old school nomex. You don’t have to sacrifice comfort any longer in order to be safer in the car. Of course, I’m partial to TraqGear, but even if you don’t choose us for your base layer needs, make the smart choice and always wear Certified, Fire Retardant garments. It could literally save your skin.