Racing is a blast; that’s just a simple fact. Another simple fact about racing is that it’s dangerous, possibly one of the most dangerous ways you can spend your time outside of meeting live sharks on Craigslist for unprotected sex. That’s why a good racecar must have real safety equipment and not half-assed terrors like this.
I asked Front Wheel Drive racing if they’d let me use these photos from their Facebook page, and they’re letting us post them on a a couple of very reasonable conditions:
First, nobody’s name gets used, photographer or builders/racers of the car in question. And second, they requested that I refrain from making fun of this alarmingly janky erector-set looking nightmare, and focus more on
“how important safety is and how the purpose of the photos is to exhibit what can happen when people who don’t know stuff try to do stuff they don’t know and those around let it happen.”
That’s some pretty sage advice, so let’s look at these pictures of a horribly malformed cage in that light.
The importance of a roll cage to a race car, whether it’s on an asphalt track or a dirt track (this one was seen at Screven speedway in Georgia) cannot be overstated. In fact, our colleague and pal Raph is still here with us today thanks to a very well-engineered roll cage in the BMW E30 we tried to race at Mid-Ohio.
The roll cage in a race car is the protective structure of the car; it gives the car the stiffness you want while driving, and the secure shell around you when crashing. All the important safety equipment in the car, like the race harness, is bolted to that cage. It’s incredibly important.
Which is why a cage like this one never, ever should have been qualified to run on a track. The cage looks like it was started with real tubing, but halfway through it looks like money or interest ran out and a number of crucial pieces of cross-bracing and supports are made of what looks a lot like metal shelving rails or large-scale erector set parts—stuff that in no way is strong enough to be any use on a cage.
In fact, if that car was hit, those thin, shitty stamped metal pieces could easily break, which would be like adding a few swords clattering around inside your spinning or rolling race car. A terrible idea.
The bends in the tubes by the A-pillar look like they’ve just been bent and crimped, not shaped with a real pipe-bender. That sort of kink is what kills the strength of the tubing. Even the welds look shitty and I should know—I’m a very shitty welder.
It doesn’t matter what class of racing you do or how seriously you take it; you can’t ignore safety. Even in something like LeMons racing, safety is taken very, very seriously. In the otherwise backyard-engineered LeMons car I ran, for example, the one thing we did not skimp on was a cage. We hired a real welder and fabricator, and that cage was possibly the best part of the car, and it did its job when the car eventually rolled.
So, sure, go ahead and laugh at this awful fucking cage: that’s what it deserves. But let these images sink in, and when the time comes to build your race car, know your limits, and, if you have any doubt, find help to make your roll cage safe and unfunny as hell.
You being alive after a race is the best way to race again, and to encourage others to enjoy racing, too. Safety is how that happens.
If you ever see anything like this racing, I know it’s awkward and no one wants to be a rat, but you really have to tell the team. Nobody wants anyone to get hurt. Good luck out there!