Drivers adapting to ‘fundamental’ belt change

Tom Howard

Friday 9th September, 2016 - 2:50pm

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Craig Lowndes and Steve Richards took part in extensive driver change practice at Queensland Raceway pic: Matthew Paul Photography

Craig Lowndes and Steve Richards took part in extensive driver change practice at Queensland Raceway pic: Matthew Paul Photography

Supercars drivers have labelled a new FIA regulation regarding seat belts as a ‘fundamental’ change ahead of this year’s Pirtek Enduro Cup.

This week Supercars teams have been adapting to the new rule which sees the elastic straps attached to the shoulder belts outlawed as part of a move to improve safety.

Prior to this year, the elastic straps would pull the seat belts up and away from the seat once unfastened, allowing an unobstructed driver change.

As result of the rule, the belts will now lie in the seat and will have to be moved by the driver before fastening during a pitstop.

Teams have dedicated more time than ever to driver change practice in the lead up to the Pirtek Enduro Cup to master the new system, which has proved to be a slower process.

The regulation has been adopted by categories in Europe with the directive introduced to ensure the elastic does not cause the belts to be pulled away if they slip in the event of a serious crash.

Triple Eight driver Craig Lowndes says the change will prove significant and is hopeful teams award sufficient time for driver swaps during pitstops.

“I think all drivers will need a bit of work to make it fluent as we have relied on it (the elastic) for so long,” Lowndes told Speedcafe.com.

“It is a big, fundamental change. It is not a issue but it is very different to what we are used to.

“When you jump out it is ok but when you jump in the belts are normally hanging for you and it isn’t the case anymore.

“Now you have to collect the belts and make sure they are over the HANS device (before fastening).

“There is a lot more work to be done for the inward bound driver then there was before.

“The driver change will be slower. Hopefully teams will be smart enough to allocate enough time for drivers to do what they have to do.

“Watching the Red Bull guys they were getting it down pat and we are not too disappointed with our progress.”

It is a view echoed by DJR Team Penske’s Scott Pye who believes the lack of elastics will prove to be one of the biggest talking points in the Pirtek Enduro Cup.

“There is a potential that it could cause a drama,” Pye told Speedcafe.com

“In the co-driver changes this year (the lack of the elastics) is the trickiest thing as the belts are a lot more free than they were last year.”

Triple Eight team manager Mark Dutton admitted his squad has increased its focus on the driver change procedure to ensure it is completed at speed and without fault.

“We had the elastics working so well that the driver would get in, clip them in and guide the belts in such a way that it wouldn’t allow them to twist,” Dutton told Speedcafe.com.

“Now we are still trying to do it as quick but without the assistance of the elastic they are more likely to tangle so you have to be mindful of that.

“We have done a lot of driver change practice, more so than normal, to make sure we do it as good as possible.

“Everyone will have to learn another way to do it.

“Safety is always first. While the immediate thing you think about is that it is going to slow the pitstops down but everyone has to deal with it.”

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