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MSA partners with FIA Institute for improved race car safety
The jointly-funded project has run a number of tests over the last two years to determine the safety-level of cars used in national championships. The work has focused on the “crashworthiness” of space-frame chassis construction race cars, which are used in national single-seater championships such as Formula Ford.

With assistance from Ford Motor Company and Van Diemen International, a standard Van Diemen Formula Ford chassis was fitted with prototype energy absorbing crash structures and subjected to frontal and side impact tests. The chassis and roll-hoop were also subjected to physical loading tests.

The Van Diemen chassis comfortably met the test criteria, demonstrating the high level of driver protection that can be provided by a traditional space-frame chassis. This chassis will be used as the foundation to develop low cost, but high performing safety features, including an energy absorbing nosebox, rear impact structures and anti-penetration side panels.

As a result of the work undertaken by the MSA, crash test criteria are in the process of being formulated for implementation in future cars of this construction and a full report will be completed for the FIA Institute.

Colin Hilton, MSA Chief Executive:
“I am delighted that the MSA`s skills have been utilised to undertake this important project and I would like to commend John Symes and the other project partners for their excellent work. It further underlines UK motor sport`s excellent reputation on the international stage.”

Sid Watkins, FIA Institute President:
“Race car safety is of paramount importance at every level of motor sport. This is why the FIA Institute has actively supported this project from its inception and will continue to work with the MSA to develop safety at a grass roots level.”

John Symes, MSA Technical and Risk Control Manager:
“A similar process was undertaken in respect of composite chassis construction a few years ago and this had led to a perception that space-frame chassis could not offer adequate levels of protection. It is essential that the risk inherent in motor sport continues to be managed to the highest possible level and the future introduction of these test criteria will contribute to the continuance of this form of chassis construction which is common in many formulae.”

Mike Norton of Ford Motor Company commented:
“This project was initiated with the FIA Institute and MSA to confirm the strength of modern tubular steel chassis cars such as the Formula Ford. Safety is crucial to Ford Motor Company and having the cars certified by the FIA will enable Formula Ford`s resurgence to continue into countries which stipulate this certification.

“This recognition will also be important in emerging markets where motorsport is growing fast. The opportunities to manufacture and design Formula Ford cars locally without the need for carbon monocoque designs will be most welcome. The ability to maintain and repair the chassis locally is another area that makes steel a favourable option.

“The recognition and certification of tubular steel chassis will mean this small specialist industry of designers and technicians will continue to be part of our motorsport heritage.”

Steve Jenner of Van Diemen commented:
“We think that this is a very important project and it was a pleasure to work with the MSA, the FIA Institute, Ford and Cranfield on such a professional operation. We have always believed in the strength and safety of the space-frame chassis and I think that the results of these tests could well give a new lease of life to this type of racing car construction.”


Release MSA08-005: 30 January 2008

No regulatory value: for information purposes only