The first attempt at bringing top-of-the-line safety equipment to the grassroots racing masses – particularly those who can’t afford high-ticket items like HANS devices and high-tech helmets – was an unqualified success.
The Motorsport Safety Foundation, formed last year, debuted its “Race With Restraint” initiative this past weekend at the 24 Hours of LeMons at Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Ill.
“It went amazingly well,” said Scot Elkins, chief operation officer of the MSF. “We came here with six HANS devices and six helmets. We ended up renting all of the HANS devices we had and probably could have rented two or three more if we had more because once the word got out, everyone wanted to do it.
“At $30 per day for the HANS device and another $30 per day for the Bell helmets. For $60 a day, a driver got $1,600 worth of safety equipment. Immediately after the driver’s meeting, we rented all our units. It was kind of proof in the pudding. … It seems like this could go very, very well.”
The 24 Hours of LeMons endurance race was arguably the most basic level of grassroots racing there is. Drivers compete in cars that cannot be worth more than $500.
“This type of racing, the LeMons racing, works perfectly for us because these guys only participate two or three times a year and it doesn’t justify them to go out and spend a lot of money on safety equipment,” said Elkins, a former vice president of IMSA.
The debut was so successful, Elkins said, that the MSF plans to take the concept national, with hopes of having 20 different displays placed across the country that will travel to nearby racetracks to allow drivers to feel safer while competing.
“Road racing is where we want to start, but clearly, we want to spread this to every form of motorsport because it applies the same way,” Elkins said. “There’s grassroots drag racing and open-wheel racing. We want to apply it there, as well.”
Those that took part in the initiative lauded it.
“I know when I was shopping for my gear, HANS was on my list,” Detroit resident Curtis Hogan said. “I read a lot about how important it was for safety, but it was just difficult to justify the purchase for the number of times I race (2-3 times per year). This is extremely affordable, so I was real happy to hear about it.”
Added fellow Detroit-based racer Matt Taus, “I think it’s actually a pretty good deal. Instead of having to buy a $500 HANS device, for $30 a race, you can’t go wrong.”
Elkins is working on where the initiative will go next.
“I think the biggest takeaway in doing this pilot program this weekend proves this initiative is very, very real and is something that is very, very much needed,” Elkins said.
“When we did it the first time here and nobody ever heard of it or us before, and then we run out of equipment because of demand, I think it’s very, very clear this is something that’s needed in the marketplace and something we really need to step up and add to more locations. It’s good to justify your idea.”