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Fire Safety Rules For Rally Events And Those Who Drive At Them

Rally Fire Safety Tips Image - Toyota Corolla Rally Car

Whether you’re just a keen spectator or love rally racing at one of the UK’s many excellent events, this motorsport activity is potentially one of the most dangerous around, making rally fire safety crucial, and the fire safety rules for rally drivers incredibly (and understandably) stringent. It’s never possible to eliminate the risks entirely but with the right fire safety equipment and following fire safety protocols, they can be minimised.

Fire Extinguishers For Rallying – New Rules

Rally fire suppression systems need to protect the car but, more importantly, the driver if they become trapped after an incident. The vital extra seconds provided by the right rally fire extinguishers could make all the difference to being able to escape from the car in time.

Rally driving is exhilarating and adrenaline-fuelled. It pushes both the driver and vehicle to their limits, so it’s no wonder so many people love it. However, it also carries a potentially extremely high fire risk, despite the numerous advances which have been made in rally fire safety during recent decades. And, unsurprisingly, the risk of a blaze remains the biggest concern for event organisers and drivers alike.

So, since 2019, it has been a requirement to have an FIA homologated plumbed-in fire extinguisher on all new vehicles – from January 2022, that rule extends to all racing cars, rally models included, the latter of which are also required to have a handheld extinguisher on-board too.

There has been much confusion over the minimum sizes and volume of suppressant required for plumbed-in systems.

For rally events, there is no minimum size or volume required for foam-based systems, as long as it is FIA-homologated to Technical List 16. The FIA-homologation will ensure it meets all size requirements.

The minimum size of gas-based fire extinguishers for rallying is 3kg. For more information on the minimum sizes of fire extinguishers for rallying, please see point #4 in our rally fire safety checklist below.

Governing body Motorsport UK (MSUK) has brought in these regulations to bring them in line with Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) standards, as we have reported previously.

We understand that many drivers are wondering what they need to do to comply with these latest guidelines, so here we take a look in a little more detail at what is currently required in regards to rally fire extinguishers and how best to stay safe in the event of a fire at a rally event.

Main Fire Risks at Rally Events

There are a number of reasons why the risk of a blaze is heightened with rallying events, making rally fire safety especially important. The possible hazards are down to a combination of the following:

  • High speeds of up to 100mph
  • Hot vehicle parts
  • Heat can build up in the engine bay
  • The speed with which a vehicle can take hold and spread through a rally racing model
  • A lot of highly flammable fuel is carried on board
  • The complex electrical systems in rally cars can lead to fires – indeed, these are some of the likeliest places for a fire to start in a rally car.

Rally Fire Safety Checklist

Obviously, it’s hugely important that you make sure that you and your vehicle comply with all relevant rally fire safety rules at all events. Not only does this keep you and your vehicle safe, but it avoids the possibility of any issues with scruitneers, which could prevent you from taking part in a rally race.

At FEV, we’re often asked about rally fire safety rules for events, and how these differ from circuit races or track days, so we’ve put together this handy checklist of the MSUK/FIA fire safety requirements for rally events.

#1 Ensure your rally car is equipped with both a handheld and plumbed-in fire extinguisher

Within the rallying world, given the very real risks, drivers need to have both a plumbed-in fire suppression system, plus a handheld extinguisher to be able to race. This gives optimum protection for both driver and car and maximises the chance of making safe exit from the vehicle in the event of a blaze.

#2 Ensure your plumbed-in fire extinguisher Is FIA-approved to Technical List 16

Plumbed-in fire extinguishers for rally cars all need to be homologated to the FIA Technical List 16.

#3 Ensure your plumbed-in fire extinguisher has been serviced recently

We’ve written previously about the importance of making sure you service your racing car fire suppression systems at regular intervals. Rally fire suppression systems must be serviced every couple of years, in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines. This should be done by an official servicing agent for your system’s manufacturer, such as one approved by FEV if you have one of our models. By doing this, you do yourself a favour on two fronts. Not only do you ensure your fire suppression system is in optimal working order but, equally, you won’t be stopped from taking part on race day.

#4 Ensure rally fire extinguishers contain the right volume of suppressant

You also need to be aware of the minimum required volume of suppressant for both handheld and plumbed-in fire extinguishers for race cars taking part in rally events.

Minimum Volume Handheld Extinguishers: For a gas-based handheld model, the minimum volume of suppressant is 2kg, for a foam extinguisher, the minimum is 2.4L.

Minimum Volume Plumbed-in Extinguishers: For gas-based plumbed-in models the minimum size is 3kg however there is no minimum for foam systems.

Despite some recent confusion amongst rally drivers, if your plumbed-in system is foam-filled, there are no limits, it just must be an FIA-homologated system. At FEV, for example, we have 3.5-litre models as part of our rallying packages, and these are ideal.

Additionally, it should be possible to take extinguisher systems apart as necessary to check the weight of the extinguishant and the cylinder’s integrity. This also facilitates the servicing of the operating system without discharging its contents. You should also mark the unit’s tare weight on the cylinder.

#5 Make sure you know what to do in the event of a fire

This could differ according to different tracks and events, but have an escape plan in mind before you get behind the wheel. Know how you will communicate with marshals and safety officials, and what support will be available. Understand thoroughly how to operate your rally fire safety equipment and how to get out of your vehicle as quickly and as safely as possible if necessary. Clearly, it’s also vital to remain calm at all times. But don’t wait until you need this information in an emergency – arm yourself with it in advance.

Shop with FEV for FIA-approved Rally Fire Extinguishers

At FEV, we’re experts in motorsport fire safety, and have a range of FIA-approved gas and foam rally fire suppression systems plus handheld rally fire extinguishers. What’s more, we’ve put together a number of specialist rally fire extinguisher packages, with everything you need to race safely and in compliance with all regulations, whatever your budget.

At the same time, we’re always pleased to advise existing and prospective customers by answering any questions they may have on FIA fire extinguishers or motorsport fire suppression systems. So if you’re a driver or part of a rally team and wanting to enjoy the excitement of participating in rally events, and you’re on the lookout for handheld and plumbed-in fire extinguishers for race cars, make us your first and only port of call. Get in touch today for an informal, no-obligation chat about our motorsport fire extinguishers.