THE MOST DANGEROUS AND MOST feared motor racing accident is still the one in which the car catches fire. Ever since the horrific accident in which Lorenzo Bandini was killed at Monaco, much work has been put in to improve fire precautions. But cars still catch fire with monotonous regularity and often with tragic results. To try to find out what causes and what is being done to try to reduce, or hopefully eliminate, the fire hazard, CAR set up a roundtable conference with a panel of experts who were able to put forward their views in a long, tape-recorded session. On the panel were John Surtees, fresh from his victory in the Oulton Park Gold Cup in his own Surtees TS7; Keith Ballisat, international motor racing manager for Shell Petroleum, who was accompanied by Alastair Wadsworth, the company's expert on racing fuel and coincidentally an RACscrutineer; lain Mills, chief designer, racing tyres, for Dunlop; George Ebdon-Hussey, sales manager of FPT Industries Ltd, who are manufacturers of rubberised fabric fuel cells; and Colin Andrews of Graviner (Colnbrook) Ltd, the fire extinguisher manufacturers. Mike Twite put the questions and acted as referee. Representatives were invited from Joseph Lucas Ltd and Motor Circuit Developments but were unable to attend. .

CAR We understand tha the FIA is holding a meeting shortly to discuss the fire hazard in racing. Does anyone have an idea if this meeting will produce anything new?

Ebdon-Hussey I don't think. the meeting is concerned with anything other than establishing standards for equipment which is already in use. As far as my companies' bag tanks are concerned, I understand the meeting will purely be concerned with establishing a specification. There will of course be side issues such as the use of reticulated foam inside the tanks, as requested by the GPDA, and I expect the question of other types of tanks, such as the light alloy or other metal tanks in cars which for commercial or technical reasons cannot be onverted to bag tanks, will be brought up.

Quite how far this will be pursued we don't know. Can I ask at this stage if we are discussing Formula One cars in particular or all forms of racing car?

CAR Formula One in particular, as this is the most publici sed sector of the sport, and in time the developments on F1 cars percolate down to the lower strata.

Surtees Yes, if something is proved safe on a Formula One car it will be used on other types of racing car given time. But you have many other factors coming into this question of safety, the main one being finance. Many safety ideas. are put forward by people who have no idea of what is going to be achieved or what it is going to cost. I know you cannot put a price on safety, but whatever safety measures are introduced they must be within reach if you are going to achieve the desired effect and also allow motor racing to remain an economic proposition.

Ballisat Going back a little, can anyone say how bag tanks came to be used? Was it on the suggestion of the tank manufacturers?

Ebdon-Hussey There were a number of factors, really. The monocoque chassis started it off. There was an influx of people from the aircraft industry who began designing racing cars, and they naturally introduced many aircraft techniques, one of which was the use of bag tanks. Cars got smaller, thus limiting the amount of space available for fuel, and the bag tank gave the best method of getting the maximum amount of fuel into the small space available. Bag tanks in racing cars go back some 12 or 13 years - I think BRM were the first people to fit them in a single seater, although before that there had been some experimental work on flameproofed metal tanks in an MG which Stirling Moss was using for record attempts at Daytona. I think one of the first people to bring bag tanks to the attention of designers was John Surtees in his Ferrari days.

Surtees Ferrari did not make a true monocoque in those days-in fact they still don't as they use a stressed skin over tubular steel. I do remember having long discussions with Ferrari people over bag tanks. But infact I was involved much earlier when I was driving a Formula One Lola in 1962. At that time we were looking for a sealant to coat the inside of the monocoque itself, a task which Matra achieved successfully in 1969.

Ballisat In those days it appears the only consideration was to get as much fuel as possible in a small space. There was no consideration of the safety angle.

Ebdon-Hussey Oh, no. The safety angle just wasn't appreciated. There is a case to be made for the sealed tanks John Surtees mentioned, but in the aircraft industry the tendency is to go away from these and use bag tanks. On such aircraft as the 707 and 747 Jumbo Jet, the outer wing tanks are integral, which is the aircraft industry's word for these sealed tanks, but the central section which bears the brunt of a heavy landing is fitted with bag tanks.

CAR Are they to the same specification as car tanks?

Ebdon-Hussey In the main, yes. But we are moving out of this immediate discussion field because you have a difference in approach between what we call the American philosophy and the European philosophy on bag tanks. The Americans go for a rubberised fabric which within certain limits is stronger in terms of tear resistance. The British tendency is towards a rubber bag with a very light fabric on the outside which on impact gives you elasticity and elongation of the rubber.

CAR. But they are still not puncture proof, are they?

Ebdon-Hussey By no means. If you get a sharp piece of metal it is going to go straight through the rubber bag in almost the same way as it will go through a metal tank. These bags are crash-resistant rather than crash proof. By the same token they are fire-resistant rather than fire proof.

CAR There is a material available which is self-sealing, isn't there?

Ebdon-Hussey Yes, but a bag tank by itself is costly enough, and if you start putting a self-sealing cover on it and some really good bullet proof cover on the outside of that, then there are a lot of technical as well as financial problems involved, By putting that cover on you are going to make the tank almost as rigid as a metal tank, the cost is going to go up sky high and you are going to lose capacity, which is all important. That is taking it to an extreme.

Surtees It would call for a complete redesign on all cars.

Ebdon-Hussey Most certainly it would. Cars are now designed for a pannier-type tank which follows the basic shape of the chassis, and that is a metal structure. Through a tiny aperture you stuff in this bag, which is only after all a fuel barrier-the strength is in the structure itself. If you start talking about making a semi-rigid structure you are going to have to design a car from which the side panels can be removed.

We make no apologies for publishing the pictures above for they show the almost unbelievably instantaneous explosion of a I petrol fire. In the sman inset picture on the left Ickx and Oliver have barely come to rest after their collision during the Spanish Grand Prix but already the flames are billowing as Oliver begins to step out. In the maiD picture Ickx's Ferrari is now engulfed while Oliver jumps through the flames to safety. In the centre inset picture Ickx falls to the ground after jumping from his car. He was saved from serious burns by the fire extinguisher system which kept the flames away from the cockpit area long enough to enable him to jump out, but Oliver couldn't operate his fire extinguisher because the instrument panel was damaged. The inset photo on the right shows the white hot burnmg magnesium of the V8 air-cooled Honda in which Joe Schlesser died. One or two members of our panel felt that magnesium should be restricted in its application on cars

Ballisat So you feel it is better to think in terms of building your container from a puncture proof material and then put the bag tank inside rather than make alterations to your bag tank itself?

Ebdon-Hussey I suppose this is fair comment, yes. You can strengthen up your outer structure to make it crash resistant, but you'll never make it crash proof. It is our considered belief that if these reports about fires which are tending to disparage bag tanks were traced back to their source they would probably turn out not to be the fault of the bag tanks as such. I'm sure that the use of plastic lines is one danger area, and you are bound to get cases where your pipelines get clobbered in impacts.

Wadsworth I think that there would be a very good case for proposing that instead of rigid lines we use aircraft-type flexible lines offering some degree of flexibility so that in the event of a crash and the vehicle deforming, the lines are hot necessarily ripped straight out.

Ebdon-Hussey There is also a casefor putting in non-return valves or automatic breakaway couplings into your pipe system. I feel sorry for some of these drivers. I've seen one or two car installations where they have pannier tanks along the side, a seat tank behind them, and often a tank which sits above the driver's knees.

The bags are beautifully designed, the installation is first class, but then they just hang a bit of pipe on the end of one and couple it up with the end of the other. In the event of an impact I am sure that you wouldp't.haveany trouble with the bags at all; but I am equally sure that the driver would find himself with a iap full of fuel, and this is what worries me. I'm sure that nine times out of 10 these problems with fires which involve fuel or the fuel system could be traced back to a lack of flexible piping between tanks, and also to the question of having shut-off valves in the system somewhere where you deliberately put in a weak link that parts first.

CAR Let's,bring in the fuel company. Petrol is very volatile compared with the alcohol fuel which was abandoned during the 2.5litre formula. Would you resist imy attempt to change fuel regulations?

Ballisat From a championship racing point of view we are naturally very anxious for a commercially available fuel to be used. Also, back in the days of alcohol, we had many different blends because each manufacturer had his own ideas, and the physical operation was quite tremendous. I'm sure we would not consider going back to those days. I'm afraid if it did come to that our company would seriously consider dropping out altogether. Any type of fuel is dangerous from a power point of view, but I think it is wrong to say that an alcohol fuel would be safer.                                             '

Wadsworth You cannot provide a nonburning fuel you've got to burn. it! What you have to look for is a way in which you can enable it to burn in the engine when you want it to and not outside. This subject has been gone through in the aviation field. The classic case was with the gas turbine, when it was suggested that by using kerosene in a turbine instead of gasoline in a piston engine you were on a much safer fuel. In fact you have three types of aircraft fuel-gasoline, the turbine fuel Avtur, and Avtag which is a wide range distillate which includes part of the gasoline end of the range and part of the kerosene end. There is an argument that goes on ad infinitum on safety, but most people seem to accept now that the two safest fuels in aircraft are either aviation gasoline or kerosene. The spontaneous ignition temperature of kerosene is quite low, a lot lower than gasoline. But what is most important is the vapour over the fuel. In gasoline it is very volatile and in an enclosed space, in the tanks for instance, you've got a very rich mixture which is too rich to burn while it's enclosed, On the other hand you have kerosene which is a very non-volatile, heavy material and is too weak to burn. Somewhere in between comes this wide range distillate which most military forces and a few airlines are using. It falls somewhere in the middle and probably gives the worst conditions because you have a flammable gas. So it is not really clear cut. It is probable that kerosene would be a slightly slower burning, slightly safer, less volatile fuel, but it has a lower spontaneous ignition temperature, so if you really want to dump it into a source of fire it will go up more rapidly than gasoline and go up at a lower temperature. These are matters of fairly small degree. Whether you've got kerosene or gasoline in your car you've got a very inflammable material there, and if you expose it to a considerable degree of heat it is going to go up whatever you do. I think the answer here is not to play around with fuel specifications. I have the impression that bag tanks have done a very good job in relatively minor incidents. Where the frame has been distorted, the tank has deforined perfectly satisfactorily. Where bags can't do their job is in a major accident where the tanks are virtually ripped open. Then you have the problem of large amounts of fuel coming out, and even the sort of puncture proof and bullet proof construction mentioned earlier would probably not stop it.

Ebdon-Hussey From the fairly extensive evidence that we have, and I am talking now either of bag tanks or self-sealing tanks, what you probably get with a bag tank is a rather less rapid egress of fuel than from a metal tank which shatters and spurts fuel all over the place. With a bag tank the tendency is to split and over a period of time all your fuel will come out, but it won't come out all in one rush and you won't get instant conflagration. You still have a fire, but you have a longer time to get out. Let's face it, when we talk about safety we are only worried about getting the hell out of the machine before it goes up in flames.

Wadsworth There seem to be one or two possibilities here. I have thought of this question of flexible-aircraft-type lines which would give you some degree of flexibility. We've also been thinking about the aircraft type a very selfsealing couplings which you definitely engineer as a weak link so that in the event of very considerable damage they will rupture and seal so that you don't empty your tank from that point. Earlier, I was talking about rich gasoline mixtures in the tank. If you cut the tank open you have excess air there right away and so it will burn. You can also, in the case of a vehicle upending, or an impact which squashes the tank, eject fuel out of the breathers and you will have a weak mixture condition there which could ignite.

Surtees Normally you try to take your breathers from a point which, when you have full tank conditions, doesn't lead to too much loss of fuel. The same thing applies to one-way valves. Most cars use a one-way valve but they try not to make it too efficient; because if you go somewhere like South Africa or Mexico in very high temperatures, the tanks need to breathe to a greater extent because of the fuel requirements. This happened to us on the Honda once; because of the deeper breathing required we closed off the one-way valve, which in turn blew out the tanks because it pressurised them. It didn't split the tanks, but the car held a gallon more fuel!

Wadsworth If you cut all breathers out entirely and put the fuel under nitrogen this is an alternative.

Ebdoti-Hussey Then you are going in for pressurised systems and you could run into trouble because you may find the structure is not stressed sufficiently to take pressurising.

Surtees The most dangerous situation surely is when the car tanks are about half full, isn't it?                                         I

Ebdon-Hussey Yes, you have a fairly high fuel and air vapour mixture.

Surtees I think you have to be very practical and only bring in regulations which can be enforced. And you have to keep them to the very minimum, because there are far too many regulations already. It seems rather stupid, too, for a Formula One constructor to be forced to submit to numerous regulations while in GT racing, when you are probably carrying more fuel, these rules are often disregarded altogether. For instance, take the case of Hans Laine's accident at the 'Ring, which was rather a dreadful one because of the time factor involved. The chap couldn't get out and I believe his Porsche didn't have bag tanks-apparently it was still fitted with aluminium ones. Several other cars in the race were also running that way, I believe. The consumption of a GT car is much higher and therefore you have to carry a much greater quantity of fuel, which means a bigger car. Everyone quotes Indianapolis as an example because of alcohol. fuel, but Indianapolis is fairly easy to control from the fire point of view because its area is relatively small and you have rapid access to all parts of the track. One thing at Indy highlights the good sense of some GPDA actions. Because of the structure of the circuit you often find that accidents result in knocking a corner off a car, whereas there is seldom a straight-on incident where the whole car gets rolled and demolished. It is normally a question of driving into a wall or a guard rail a~d taking off wheels or something like that, and this I think is the one line which justifies certain actions on the question of circuit safety. On certain circuits it is obvious that if the track had been more suitable there would have been no question of a fire starting. On the other hand, knowing the distance in which Piers Courage's car stopped from the speed it was doing, it's equally obvious that it must have been virtually destroyed on impact. There is no reflection on the car or the driver; it was the nature of the circuit at that point.

Mills Extending John Surtees's point, the adhesion we are now getting is capable right now of generating cornering forces up to 1.6g. Now, we are all in the business of competition and we are not planning to decrease this! It is difficult to see whether any regulations could restrict cornering speeds from becoming even greater in the future.

Ballisat Well, surely this is one of the problems that we have been up against during the last few years. Due to the development of tyres, adhesion has improved enormously and cornering speeds are now very much higher. Consequently we are facing less practicable accident situations and a greater / risk of fire in inaccessible places.

Surtees Competition has become closer, too, and the margin for error has been very much reduced. A few years ago drivers were,racing at seven-tenths. Now people are more often at nine-tenths or perhaps even ten.

Mills And at much higher speeds.

Ballisat Could this be a reason, bearing in mind the fire hazard which we are here to talk about, why one ought to restrict the amount of tyre on the road?

Mills Should you restrict tyre widths, all we in. the rubber business would do is find another way of increasing grip by chemistry. Once we got down to the basic chemistry we could quite possibly get up to present levels of adhesion with a smaller tyre. Physical limitation, such as a rim width limitation, as Indy shows, has no effect on tyre performance we could still improve tyre performance despite restrictions. All it would do is cost a hell of a lot more.

Surtees Don't forget tyres and cars are developed together. Take a car of five years ago and put today's tyres on it. It won't work that much better. Roadholding is where the greatest development has been; and the cars are going very much quicker. Look at the way lap times are coming down.

Ballisat Isn't that the very problem? Because lap times are coming down, even though top speeds are not much higher, if something does go wrong, say a slow puncture, there is no margin for error and you are going to have a much more serious accident than you would a few years ago, with a consequently much higher risk of fire. Which raises the question, are tyres more prone to punctures than in earlier days? Mills If you divide it into two aspects, one being puncture proneness and the other being what happens after you get a puncture, yes. Tyres today are probably more prone to puncture because we are now using much softer rubbers and much thinner tyres. In getting unsprung weights down and getting adhesion limits higher we have refined the physical specification of the tyre so that it is more liable to damage by rocks. However, it would be difficult to prove statistically that there have been a lot more punctures.

Surtees I would like to point out one thing here. How many race tracks do we go to where people are knocking up signboards above the pits and so on? They are still building the facilities or carrying out the repairs that were needed a year before. All your wheels are in the pits imd you can easily pick up I). two-inch nail or something like that.

Mills We looked into this at Clermont-Ferrand and also at Zandvoort. Zandvoort was probably a very bad race for this. After the first Rodriguez incident, which wasn't primarily any tyre problem, I went round that back corner and filled a little bag with glass. At Kyalami the pit road was full of glass and it was with great difficulty that we got this moved. In paddock areas like the one at Clermont you have to wheel your car up a slope on stones and they are quite capable of damaging a tyre. We ran all our cars up to the pits with spare tyres fitted because we didn't want to puncture our good tyres. So we now include in our service for customers a very detailed prerace check on tyres. We make a point of checking the pressures right up until two minutes before the start because that way we can detect a pressure drop. And meanwhile we inspect the tyre visually as carefully as we can to make sure it hasn't picked up anything.

CAR Getting back to the actual fires, it appears that in certain accidents the cars inbuilt fire extinguishers either haven't worked at all or have had little effect on the subsequent fire.

Andrews The existing system is designed to protect the cockpit and the engine compartment with separate spray lines, under the assumption that the car is in one piece, or near enough, after the crash. The driver presses a button to activate the extinguisher system. My company does not feel that the regulations are adequate at the present time in that the system required is not completely self-contained. You still have to rely on the driver pressing the button. There is no reason why a warning lamp should not be fitted so that if a fire occurs without the car crashing, the lamp lights up and the driver can stop and press the button. We are also working on a system for automatic operation of the extinguisher system in Formula One cars in a crash, and we are well on the way to making a reliable inertia switch: A major problem is the lack of experience of fire marshals at so many of the circuits. During the big fire at the Spanish Grand Prix, I believe the marshals were spraying the cars with water, which only spreads petrol fires.

Ballisat But your inbuilt extinguishing system is not intended to put a fire out, is it?

Andrews it is not designed to put a fire out outside the car's perimeter, because the spray pipes are embedded inside i:he cockpit and in the engine compartment. If you have a split fuel tank and a spreading puddle of fuel it can do nothing. _

Ballisat But it will hold a fire in check for say 20 or 30sec, depending on the discharge time which can be controlled by the number and size of holes in the pipes?                                                                          

Andrews It will give the driver protection until the fire marshals arrive to get him out of the car. You usually get about a 10 or 12sec discharge time.

Surtees It really is a safeguard against fire risks on the car. It may-be something like Ii petrol pipe coming loose and squirting fuel and catching aiight round the induction, or an electrical fire or something like that. It provides a safety factor in allowing you to get out of the car should it be involved in a big shunt. There seems to be no way of putting out really big petrol fires. They used all the wagon's suppliestryirig to put out those recent fires.

Ebdon-Hussey You have to establish the main fire source, surely? Is it electrical, or is it sparks thrown up by the car scraping along the ground, or what?

Surtees There is so much more electrical equipment on cars than there used to be. But then regulations say that you must have starter motors, etc.

Ballisat Would it be sensible to think again on these regulations?

Surtees The less electrics you have on an F1 car in close proximity to fuel, the better. People will say it is a retrograde step to go back to magnetos but I don't think so.

CAR Isn't the problem that the FIA and the electrical companies want the cars to be nearer the sort of car the man in the street uses? No car is sold today with a magneto, so there is no commercial gain to be made from building racing magnetos. 

Ebdon-Hussey No, but I shouldn't think anyone is ever going to invent a big new market for starter motors either. I don't think the commercial aspect is very important.

Bailisat In that direction I was wondering about using mechanical fuel pumps instead of electrical ones.

Surtees Hardly any cars use electrical pumps for anything but starting up and perhaps the first lap of a race. Once the engine gets above a certain rev limit the mechanical pump takes over and you often see a sign hung out from a pit saying pump off to remind the driver to switch off his electrical pump.

Wadsworth Perhaps I could bring up another point concering fuel. I started work on this particular project after the Bandini crash at Monaco. At about the same time American helicopter losses in Vietnam were high because they often burned out after making a crash landing, and we investigated methods of making a jellied or emulsion fuel. Under the jell method you inject a chemical into your fuel tanks which causes the fuel to become a semi-solid, so that in the case of a crash in which the tanks are damaged, the fuel doesn't run out. You either control this by an inertia switch mechanism or by a button which you push to inject the chemical. We had a look at this but it wasn't too satisfactory. With all the known materials we looked at, you could either form a very sloppy weak jell very quickly in a fraction of a second or you could form a very effective jell which wouldn't come out of a bag in something like 30sec. There was no satisfactory in-between. In fact the Americans scrapped the idea. The alternative method was an emulsion, and here your fuel is put into the tank as an emulsion. You can't put it through an ordinary fuel pump--you have to dispense it. You have to pack this nearly solid material into your fuel tanks which means that you've got to develop an entirely different method of feeding from your fuel tank to the engine. Everything has to be completely redesigned. This solid fuel is virtually ordinary gasoline or ordinary petrol turned into an emulsion, and in the case of a rupture of the tank it won't run out, or at least it won't run out very freely. However, one rather disappointing feature is that the flame speed is just the same as for gasoline. We have carried out flame speed tests on this. We then wondered if we were achieving very much more than by using reticulated polyurethane foams inside the bags. When we had a look at this, it seemed to be almost as good. Perhaps there was not quite so much hold-up, but we had the feeling at the end of our work that the foams were quite an interesting proposition, and that although you would get some loss from the tank, they would certainly help quite a lot to reduce the amount of fuel flooding out.

Surtees This foam question brings up other problems. It comes back on the manufacturer, for someone is going to have to come along and lay down dimensions. If you are to build cars to a minimum weight you are going to try to make your car as compact and as light as possible, and this naturally means that you don't over-tank it. Next year the regulations state that no race will be over 200 miles, and this will help to a degree because that reduces the total capacity required in a car. In turn, things like foam become a little more feasible. You have to watch the economics involved, however, and next year a lot of people will run developments of their 1970 cars or even the same cars. If they continue with some of the longer races, many cars could not do the race distance with foam in the tanks, which would be rather silly as you would eliminate half the field straight away. I think that regulations like not using plastic pipes within the fuel. systems are entirely feasible and possibly necessary.

Mills Why not have more, smaller bags inside the monocoque-say 12?

Ebdon-Hussey This brings you straight back to economics. You not only have to build 12 bag tanks but also 12 compartments to take them.

Mills The March has seven tanks at the moment. With non-return valves between tanks this reduces individual tanks to about five gallons each, which is surely safer?

Wadsworth Supposing you halved the present fuel capacity and put in a refuelling stop?

Surtees Have you seen the chaos at refuelling stops in sports car races? I think the fire hazard would increase.

Andrews Another possible avenue of thought in fire prevention is a device which my company supplies for military aircraft. This is called an explosive suppressor. It reacts if a foreign body enters the fuel tank and it can be activated on a flame front or through a pressure rise. But of course this again is rather exotic and very expensive.

Surtees There seems little way of discovering what really causes these fires. For instance, does anyone know what caused the Ickx/Oliver fire in Spain?

CAR From pictures it would seem that Oliver's car hit Ickx's right amidships.

Andrews Yes, the BRM hit the Ferrari in the side and burst its fuel tank, which immediately caught fire. Oliver's dash panel was twisted sideways under the impact and he couldn't reach forward and press the button while he was strapped in. This is of course a case for automatic extinguishers.

Surtees But the automatics in Formula One cars have been going off at all sorts of odd times-during spins and under braking.

Andrews We orginally started with the inertia switches at 10g settings, which was quite satisfactory for all types of racing car except Formula One. We have been testing batches of switches and we now feel the optimum setting for F1 cars is 13g.

Surtees On the other hand Trevor Taylor had an enormous crash in one of our Formula 5000 cars. He had a puncture. When he hit the guard rail he heard the automatic fire extinguisher go off, but he continued rolling and somersaulting for another hundred yards or so, by which time the extinguisher had exhausted itself and fuel was running out of the car.

Andrews Yes, this is one of the great problems. It's almost a case of you telling us what sort of accident you are planning to have and we'll set up the system accordingly.

Ballisat Does anyone know what system Ickx had in the Ferrari during his Spanish crash? From the colour photographs which I saw of the accident he seemed to be sitting in clear air with the flames all around him. The extinguisher certainly seemed to work in his case.

Andrews The Ferrari has an Italian system very similar to our own.

CAR There was a letter in one of the magazines the other day which intimated that avery toxic gas is given off when the extinguisher is operated. Is this true?

Andrews No, it is not true. ICI have developed Bromochlorodifluoromethane, which is virtually non-toxic. Everything is toxic-even water -but there is no danger to the driver from BCF. We are still trying to get the regulations clarified over the amount of extinguish ant we can use, but even if it is six pounds as at present or 100 pounds it won't harm the driver.

Surtees I think there is a lot that can be learned from accidents such as poor Jo Schlesser's in the Honda, which of course caught fire and burned badly because of the amount of magnesium in it. I don't think any­one would object to regulations restricting the amount of magnesium in the outer skin of the car.

Ballisat Isn't it true, though, that magnesium is very much more difficult to ignite than other metals?

Surtees Yes, but what often happens is that a wheel comes off and the car slides along on a magnesium hub or something for a long while, which gives it plenty of time to generate heat and ignite.

Ebdon-Hussey Is there any investigation into accidents to determine why crashes have occurred, as there is with the Air Registration Board and air crashes?

Wadsworth There is a procedure in the UK. It is the chief scrutineer's responsibility to investigate and draw up a report, which goes to the clerk of the course and the RAC, which must try to indicate any failures and what was the probable cause.

Surtees I've never seen one published.

Ebdon-Hussey What do the RAC do with the reports?

Several voices File them!

Surtees The Constructors' Association is planning to get together to pool all information on safety, which is a step in the right direction.

Mills I believe the Jim Clark Foundation is interested in investigating crashes, but it would need a trained team of skilled professionals to do the job thoroughly. A scrutineer probably has half an hour in which to draw solid conclusions.

Surtees I understand the fee paid by the organisers of the British Grand Prix to the RAC was something in the region of £8000. I'm sure a little of that could be put towards an accident investigation team. The trouble is that the really knowledgeable people are already heavily involved in motor racing in oneway or another and probably could not be spared.

CAR Well, we seem to have covered a lot of ground in a short time. Whether anything constructive has emerged I'm not sure. Has anyone a final word to say?

Surtees The important message to put across is that panic measures cannot be entertained. Action has to be taken, but it must be constructive. The constructors, drivers and commercial interests should all get together with the ruling body and pool all information, not just over the present crisis but on a permanent basis so that future changes can be carried out smoothly.