A ruling on the headroom in Formula cats has been in the pipeline for three or four years and is to be implemented this year. However, does Mr Wartinger, President of the International Medical & Safety Commission, and his seven man committee actually carry out serious tests on the various and often controversial rules they introduce? Are they aware that some of these rules carry huge financial penalties on boatbuilders?
Jonathan Jones in his F1 Dragon cockpit
As Mr Wartinger wings his way back to the USA from the UIM Awards dinner questions are being asked as to whether he is aware that the ruling we are referring to has left many boatbuilders in Europe uncertain of their future unless they belong to the wealthy UAE clubs. The new rule says that a 4 inch space must be allowed between the top of the drivers helmet and the cockpit roof and 4 inches either side of the helmet.…..WHY?
We have carried out extensive research on the subject and can find no evidence of incidents where a driver has been seriously injured by hitting his head on the roof of the cockpit. A boatbuilder has to carry out extensive and expensive development to gain 4 inches and surely it will depend on the height of the pilot. Philippe Chiappe and Cedric Deguisse are both over six foot whereas Marit Stromoy, Duarte Benavente and Mike Suzmura are just over five foot. If Stromoy’s seat is raised to enable her to see through the screen, her head almost touches the cockpit roof.
When the automotive industry introduces new safety ruling, they have the finances to carry out extensive testing, often destroying vehicles on the test programme. Does the marine industry enjoy such luxuries – of course not. How many tests has Mr Wartinger carried out on cockpit headroom, and has he any evidence showing injury to drivers who have hit the roof even in barrel-rolls? There have been isolated accidents when a pilot has injured his back after a barrel-roll, but the numbers could be counted on one hand. Does Mr Wartinger base his research on American built hulls, often elderly and constructed of timber, which don’t exist in Europe?
We were told that builders have had four years to implement the new rule, however, there are still several boats racing successfully today which are considerably older than four years. One of the longest running Formula classes, the German ADAC series, looks like it could grind to a halt as the builder of these small cats, Molgaard Racing, has said they cannot justify the huge expense of modifying a fleet of these craft to comply with the 4 inch ruling.
We wonder how many builders will duck the issue and withdraw from the sport, that is unless they are involved in new-builds. It will be interesting to see if any outfits arriving in Lithuania for the opening round of the World F2 championship get red-carded because their cocktpits do not comply with the new rules. UIM Commissioner for the event says, “Although I will feel very uncomfortable having to tell a driver he or she can’t race because their boat does not comply with the rules, I don’t have any option.”