The FIA Institute is carrying out tests to improve the safety of rally cars in rollovers (scroll down for video of the testing), an area brought into sharp focus by Mads Ostberg’s crash on Rally Italy last week.
Ostberg’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC had to have the A-pillar section of its rollcage cut out and replaced during last week’s event, as it sustained damage in a crash on the Friday of the rally.
The FIA Institute is focusing on that area of the rollcage and in particular the material used. It is testing four different rollcages, each made from a different type of steel. In the process, it destroys four Subaru rally cars, but buys potentially life-saving data.
The nature of the first simulated accident includes an impact on the car’s A-pillar at less than 20mph via an Impreza mounted on a flying floor.
Prodrive technical director David Lapworth is part of the research group. He explained: “We reconstructed a serious, but not catastrophic crash. That was a roll, if you like, with the car impacting the ground at 30kph and the top of the A-pillar taking the full force.
“We’re looking to replicate the vertical drop of the car. This isn’t about a big, dramatic, head-on impact; it’s about the roll-over protection system. When a car rolls, it rarely drops off a cliff and lands square onto its roof.”
FIA Institute research consultant Andy Mellor said: “Should a rollcage be strong or energy absorbing? In fact, it needs to be both – a compromise. But metallics tend not to behave like that — they’re either strong or stretchy.
“Today we’ve had a unique look inside an accident, which makes this pioneering work.
“What we’ll study now is the sequence of failures within the rollcage. For example, when the triangulation bar fails, the cage can lose its structural stiffness. So replacing those joints with something more elastic or tolerant may allow more bending in the joints while keeping the whole structure more intact.”