USEFUL MOTORSPORT FIRE SAFETY INFORMATION
Choosing the right fire extinguisher for a race car can depend on the type of vehicle that you own and what you are using it for. There is a huge variety of motorsport fire extinguishers and fire suppression systems available, and a wide variety of motorsports and uses with different regulations about which sort of system is acceptable, for example, rally events have different requirements to circuit events.
Choosing the wrong system for a race or event could result in serious issues. That means you need to read up on the options available, take expert advice, and make the right choice for your vehicle. In this guide, we provide information on the regulations in place, as well as the various types of extinguishers available on the market.
- FIA and Motorsport UK Regulations
- Types Of Fire Extinguisher
- Handheld Fire Extinguishers
- Plumbed In Fire Extinguishers
- Foam or Gas Extinguishers?
- Foam Fire Extinguishers
- Gas Fire Extinguishers
FIA AND MOTORSPORT UK REGULATIONS
Motorsport UK (MSUK) is the UK’s governing body for motorsport. All events that happen in the UK must adhere to the rules and regulations set down by MSUK. These regulations are updated each year and MSUK publish these in their year book commonly known as the blue book. This book is essentially the “bible” of UK motorsport. It not only sets out all the regulations for safety but also the rules of racing from flags to over taking.
The FIA or the Federation Internationale d’Automobile is the global motorsport authority. Every single official race, time trial and motorsport event in the world is governed by the rules laid down by the FIA. So, if you are considering running a racing car across multiple countries you must consider the FIA rules as well as the MSUK regulations for the UK.
HANDHELD FIRE EXTINGUISHERS
Handheld fire extinguishers are those that are picked up and operated manually. This makes them very flexible in terms of where they are pointed and also fairly light. This lightness means they are easy to mount in the car and do not add a great deal of weight. They can contain both gas or foam which means they are perfect for a wide range of uses.
However, a handheld fire extinguisher might not be suitable for full MSUK motor racing, typically a full plumbed-in system is required for racing. As of Jan 2022, all competition cars competing in the UK are required to have an FIA-approved plumbed-in fire extinguisher installed that at minimum complies with Technical List 16, though some race classes require a system that complies with Technical List 52 8865-2015, so always check your race class and its specific requirements.
Handheld extinguishers can be ideal for historic and classic cars. Although there is no legal requirement to have a fire extinguisher, they provide fire protection for vehicles with older components and safety features that do not match modern standards. Handheld extinguishers can also be perfect for supercars and other high-end models. They can be easily mounted in a discreet but accessible location in the car to provide complete peace of mind in the event of an accident occurring.
There are some types of motorsport where a handheld extinguisher may be acceptable, or in the case of rallying events, is required as well as an FIA-approved system. Typically, time trials and hill climbs allow for vehicles to only have a handheld extinguisher – although you should always check the rules of the specific event. They can also be useful for 4×4 motoring and green laning.
PLUMBED IN FIRE EXTINGUISHERS
For full racing the MSUK and FIA dictate that a fully plumbed in system is needed. Quite simply this is a system with a container mounted in the car that has a number of hoses coming off it. These hoses go into the engine bay and other points around the car where a fire could occur. The system can be discharged manually via a switch or a pull cable in the cockpit.
Plumbed in extinguishers are available in either gas or foam options – this will come down to your budget as well as your preferences. There are fantastic advantages to plumbed in systems including the fact that the system offers faster and superior fire suppression that is discharged directly into the engine bay instantly. Plumbed in systems save time just at the moment when time is most valuable. However, it should also be noted that this sort of system is typically heavier and more expensive. Additionally, the installation of the system needs to be carried out by experienced professionals.
A plumbed in system is needed to race in many MSUK and FIA regulated events and championships but it is also the perfect choice for regular track day cars whereas the handheld is perfect for occasional track use. Where budget allows a plumbed in system is generally considered a better choice but is sometimes not needed where the likelyhood of a serious issue is low.
FOAM OR GAS EXTINGUISHERS?
You also need to make a choice between the type of fire suppressant used in your extinguisher system. This generally comes down to gas or foam – each have different properties that may be suitable for your needs.
FOAM FIRE EXTINGUISHERS
Foam is considered to be an ideal suppressant for a sudden fire. The extinguisher works by covering the flames and starving the fire of oxygen so that it can no longer burn. The evaporating foam also cools the fire and reduces the damage that it can cause. Foam can also be used to extinguish liquid fires as the foam acts as a carpet over the flames and puts it out. These extinguishers are highly reliable and offer fantastic value.
GAS FIRE EXTINGUISHERS
Gas car fire extinguishers are more commonly used in the more involved forms of motor racing. At one time the gas used was halon which was not only toxic but proved to be very harmful to the environment too. We use either FX G-TEC gas or Novec.
Our systems are fully MSUK and FIA homologated and legal to use in racing worldwide. Gas fire extinguishers are used in Formula 1, World Rally, Touring Cars and Sport Car racing among others. They represent the ultimate in fire suppression for motorsport and work by replacing oxygen around the fire with inert gas and literally starving the fire of oxygen instantly. Gas is also useful with electrical fires as it is non-conductive and can be used on hybrids.
To speak to our team about our range of extinguishers please get in touch for details.