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COBRA SEATS AND SCHROTH HELP BTCC NET ANOTHER FIRST

A collaboration between the BTCC, Cobra Seats and Schroth has resulted in the development of a seat net that provides optimum safety.

The need for seat nets in a racing car is often exhibited and was proven a number of times in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship earlier this year, most notably during Bobby Thompson’s dramatic barrel roll at Croft.

As Thompson’s Audi somersaulted several times before coming to rest, it clearly demonstrated how drivers experience a range of forces during such incidents, not just front to rear or side to side, but every angle in between.

The championship’s Technical Director, Peter Riches, was eager to introduce the use of seat nets, and this latest collaboration ‘squares the circle’ of providing optimum geometry in the car and optimum safety when needed most.

The process of finding a solution required discussion with Mark Dunsford, MD of Cobra Seats, a company which supplies over half of the seats to BTCC drivers, including eight of the last nine BTCC Drivers’ champions.

“Mark is the third generation of his family to run Cobra Seats,” explained Peter. “You could say that racing seats are part of his DNA and he has spent the last ten years developing seats for the BTCC, so he knows the drivers, knows the cars and really understood what we needed to achieve, both from a safety perspective and from the driver’s viewpoint.

“Furthermore, Cobra has a long established strategic technical partnership with Schroth who, themselves, are world leading manufacturers in motorsport and aerospace restraint systems.”

The result was a collaborative effort between the three parties, with Peter establishing the ‘wish list’ and analysing the results during development. Cobra developed and refined the solution, working with Schroth’s technical team to finalise a design which would pass the FIA’s stringent testing as well as technical appraisal to gain full approval.

The FIA Driver’s Guide advocates the use of head and shoulder nets, which offer significant advantages over window nets. While window nets are designed primarily to prevent an occupant’s limbs from being thrown out of the window in a crash, seat nets not only perform this function, but also provide further significant benefits.

The BTCC’s new seat net provides additional support to the head and shoulders in a crash, as well as guiding the occupant back into the seat. It prevents drivers arms from being thrown around inside the car and also offers greatly improved visibility compared to window nets.

Implementing the FIA recommendations in BTCC cars wasn’t straightforward, as existing seat nets didn’t provide a universal solution. Its design could only be adapted to certain cockpits and achieving the desired geometry was almost impossible in touring car cockpits where the front attachment point was effectively in the middle of the screen.

An innovative solution had to be found, which combined safety and practicality and which, vitally, would be equally effective for every car on the grid.

“Drivers nets represent a significant advance in motorsport safety,” explains Riches. “We knew that if we could develop a highly adaptable solution, which could be installed without any modification to seats and cages in competition cars, it could be a game-changer.”

After a huge technical challenge, the resulting product is a seat net that can be used inboard and outboard in any car, with almost any seat position, and allows the net to fully function to the optimum geometry, regardless of the available attachment points at the front of the car.

Engineered in accordance with the latest FIA 8863 – 2013 standard, the new seat nets have earned widespread praise for ‘squaring the circle’ of providing optimum geometry in the car and optimum safety when needed most.

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