2009 Stewards Proposal #19: SFI Belt Expiry


Well-known member
This rule was promised by a Stewards Sopbox at the beginning of the year after the wording of the safety belt rule was changed at the Spring Meeting.

SFI certification studies the decomposition of belts, but only simulates two years of wear. ICSCC is one of the few organizations that doesn't expire SFI-stamped belts after two years since the manufacture date of the belts. This rule change reduces the time that SFI belts may see use after their manufacture date, bringing the expiry into line with the engineering and testing specification of the product.

While this change might increase the incremental cost of preparing a race car, it will reduce the cost of insurance, post-accident care, and trauma to drivers involved in accidents.
Ok, I'll bite- SFI looks at belt decomposition for CONTINUOUS UV exposure,
and 2 years outside in the Arizona sun is not the same as 4 years in my garage.

(I know I'm gonna lose this one, but sometimes ya gotta fight)
There has been a ton of discussion on this since SCCA revised their belt rules a few years ago and it is pretty clear that the testing that they based their decision on is not really directly applicable to typical race car usage patterns.

I would think that addressing a choice between nylon and polyester belts would be a better focus than this particular rule. Testing has shown that polyester belts stretch significantly less in an accident and age better than nylon. Stipulating the better material and leaving the expiration at it's very reasonable five year replacement rate seems like a better choice.
I don't understand the resistance to accepting the SFI service life definition.

Who are we (besides a bunch of type-A personalities) in this litigious world we live in, to presume to know better than the SFI what is the "real" service life of a device so critical to driver safety?

The bottom-line arguments I have heard against just following the SFI rating always boil down to affordability, and in my opinion that's a piss-poor argument. If a person can't afford to follow a replacement schedule for a critical safety device, when there are harnesses on the market costing less than half a race entry fee, I'll go ahead and say that they can't afford to be racing.

If I was the one this weekend that tried to knock down the front stretch wall, impacting squarely with such force that the front of the car was crushed back to the point of cracking the oil pan on the engine, in those few milliseconds of recognition before impact, I wouldn't want to be wondering... "did I make the right choice in looking at my harnesses and assuming they were fine because they look OK, or because of some debate on a forum where lots of self appointed experts asserted that they were fine, even though SFI says they should be replaced after two years....?"

It's a little late at that point to make a judgement about the validity of the SFI rating, and the strength of the arguments against the SFI recommended replacement schedule, when it's so much easier, and not a huge financial burden, to just go ahead and do what maximizes a person's safety. To do less for the sake of a debate just seems foolish to me, and I may be dumb about lots of stuff, but I'm not going to be the test dummy testing people's assertions that the SFI doesn't know what they're talking about. Then again, nobody asked me.
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.... Then again, nobody asked me.


AND there is an option that ads very little (if any) to this cost. Buy, FIA certified belts and they are good for 5 years. Problem solved :)

Nobody asked me either and I don't count.

But I DO CARE about the safety of the driver I work for :)

Although I do question the validity of the SFI test, I do think if you're using SFI belts then you should follow their standards.
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FWIW, I agree with Randy. I haven't listened to "a whole bunch of discussion"; what I've read are the research papers and testing descriptions from the organizations themselves. I believe the Conference rules surrounding these matters should reflect the advice of the engineers and the testing organizations rather than the opinion of the unqualified.
"While this change might increase the incremental cost of preparing a race car, it will reduce the cost of insurance, post-accident care, and trauma to drivers involved in accidents. "

I'd like to see this documented. Will the insurance REALLY go down, and if so by how much. I'd like to see the results from the other areas also. The problem usually is the manner in which the belts are attached to the vehicle, their angle, the seat position or how they are worn, (how tight they are when the driver is strapped in etc.)

IMHO too much emphasis is placed on the age of the belt. 5 years is reasonable. 3 is acceptable to me. 2 is for the investors of the belt manufacturers.

I am open to adjusting my frame of mind if documentation and not someones opinion can be produced and verified.

Based on industry standards, we have to pass this rule. For liability reasons, if no other....

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Hmmm ... difficult for me because I find myself dsagreeing with people that I rarely if ever disagree with.

There is a continued move towards satisfying insurers that is not completely safety related. Yes, it is great that individuals and organizations are deeply invested in improving safety for our sport. The basic concept of racing automobiles has not changed in decades, but the society around it has changed almost immeasurably. The value of human life, especially in the United States, and the cost of preserving that life through advanced medical techniques has SKYROCKETED. Insurance companies who not only have to be able to cover these expenses but also make record profits every year are extremely interested in anything that skews accident costs downward allowing them to pay out less of the premiums they take in. Race parts manufactureres and suppliers are selling parts that by their very nature expose them to substantial liability so they need an organization like SFI so they can demonstrate that they are doing their best to protect their customers and forestall the idea of outright negligence that would land them in court. The SFI is funded by the manufacturers who want the ratings and contributions from sanctioning bodies and insurance companies who want to reduce actuarial risk.

I get all that. I appreciate that race cars and race tracks are safer now than they have ever been because of the application of knowledge about what CAN happen when everything goes wrong. I'm not saying that SFI is bad, or that more safety is bad. What I disagree with is the basic ide that ANYONE should just accept the testing and rating specs on ANYTHING that is a "critical safety device" without knowing the whole story. I disagree with the SFI spec because if you read their recommendations thoroughly it states that a "DuPont Nylon 6-6" material belt can lose 50% of it's breaking strength if exposed to outdoor conditions continually in ONE YEAR!!!!!

There is no freaking way I am going on track with belts that are at 50% of their design strength even if the rules say they are good for another year. According to their graph, under the same conditions they are at 20% breaking strength after 24 months! If that is the case, then how come they are even legal for two years? We can't continually ask others to make decisions about our safety without any responsibility of our own. I understand setting a baseline that attempts to insure some minimum level of safety, but the ultimate decision should be made by the person who ultimately needs to be liable - each of us for our own safety. We have all seen belts that are UV and weather degraded - I'm replacing them immediately regardless of the date. The specs are based on the worst case of the lowest performing material and the most extreme situation of exposure. In my "unqualified opinion" this leaves me with some serious questions. It's a slippery slope - how much regulation is enough and how much is too much. Certainly an actuarial analysis of our race season would suggest that riding a bicycle is substantially more dangerous than driving a race car. Should we ban all bicycles from the track? Should we include all two wheel transportation because the data says bikes are a potential liability and motorcycles are kind of like bikes under certain conditions? Now I'm just getting sarcastic.

I will definitely admit to another bias - the idea that there is no unreasonable cost if it applies to safety. "Wear a hundred dollar helmet if you have a hundred dollar head." Can I expand that to mean I shouldn't go racing until I can afford a million dollar helmet if that is the value I place on my head? Maybe we should all replace our roll cages every two years becasue stress cracks can develop in SOME cars under SOME conditions. Maybe we should all race styrofoam filled eggs with half horsepower motors on tires made of grease? You can get all of the sliding around and car control you exhibit now at four miles an hour and minimal risk. Maybe minimal risk will also become too much and we will all realize that it is just safer not to race at all?

Bah! Off my soapbox.
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It's a good debate loaded with lots of things to think about, I guess we should try to figure out what it is we're trying to accomplish, and at what cost, and whether the value is there.

At the risk of oversimplifying things and sounding harsh, I'd ask if you're willing to potentially risk your life, or someone else's life, or my future financial health as a Conference official, when someone or someone's agent sues Conference et al, because we decided to simply disregard a comprehensively documented safety guideline, based on an arbitrary opinion about what constitutes a "safe" harness, rather than some quantified laboratory testing, all over a hundred bucks or so every three years?

I hear your hundred dollar helmet analogy, but at this point in time there are SFI rated products at roughly a hundred bucks, that would seem to satisfy both the intent of the requirement, and lamentably, the hazards of the legal system. Both seem to be worth the cost, to me anyway.

This question assumes of course that I'm not viewing the issue from the same perspective as some that the SFI is in a profit relationship with harness manufacturers, and all that that suggests.

I agree the installation and use of harnesses is as big or bigger factor than the age of the harnesses, but that doesn't mitigate or supercede the undeniable fact that harnesses do not perform at whatever minimum standard in perpetuity. There must be some interval where the standard is no longer met, and I think there is some relationship between cost and duration, as in the difference between the type and cost for a harness with an FIA 5 year rating vs. an SFI 2 year, or I could be one of those suckers born every minute I guess.

It's not ordinarily in my nature, I'm usually reluctant to endorse a perceived big brother approach to safety, and would rather let everyone be responsible for their own lives, but that's not the world we live in unfortunately. I care about people in Conference (not saying you don't) to the extent that the downside of a hundred bucks every third year, is vastly outweighed by the upside of my belief that a newer set of harnesses are intrinsically safer.
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Realize that none of the major manufactures offer up belts in nylon anymore and have not for a number of years.

However, if SFI says their recommendation is for 2 years on belts based on their testing procedures, how can you go past that time frame as a sanctioning body?
Why would you assume that it had anything to do with a hundred bucks - or money at all?

Being associated with an organization that stages and/or sanctions racing events is like playing golf in a thunderstorm anyway. You hope that there is no lightning in the immediate vincinity, but realize that if there is it is probably going to hit the guy standing out in the open with the metal stick. I have no real "dog" in this fight and am in an only slightly less exposed postion than you are. My car always has and always will meet the required safety standards mandated by the member endorsed rules of Conference.

That being said, I am a skeptic by nature. Lots of people want to do things for (or to) me that they feel are in my best interest and they know I can't be trusted to safeguard my own safety so they need to step in and do it for me. Who decides that Snell certification is better than DOT or TUV or any other certifying standard? Do we have any obligation to actually take a look and be involved or at least informed about that? This is stated as pure example - I feel that traditionally the Snell Foundation has done a good job of pushing helmet certification and technology forward, but I found that out by studying them back when I was riding motorcycles all the time. I've actually tried to get a copy of the SFI testing requirements for belts and been unable to find the actual lab description of what is being done and why. I'm not even saying I am against a revision of the belt life rule, I just want to be able to have a logical and scientific basis for doing so. Doing it just because "SFI says so" is just as ignorant as voting against it without anything to support you but an opinion.

Lance actually kind of reinforces my point - We are talking about replacing all belts based on a recommendation that SFI published based on the degradation of nylon belts even though Lance says nobody has made nylon belts for a number of years. It may be that SFI has some compelling data on polyester belts too - is it too much to ask to make an informed decision?

I'm easy to convince - just give me the facts and I'll be happy to argue on your side. I don't blindly follow anybody.
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SFI NEVER did any actual testing on the life of belts exposed to UV.

They based their conclusions on tests run on nylon/polyester stuff by the SAIL BOAT INDUSTRY (test in rigging for sail boats) where these items are exposed continuously to UV when sitting dock side or in use.

I've never seen a sail boater that replaced all their running rigging every 2 years. Even on a small boat, that would easily run 3 or 4 times the cost of a racing harness.
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In the research I did on harness systems that I presented to Mike B. leading up to last year's rule changes I found that SFI only tested minimum belt strength by stretching a single piece of material until it broke. It was not a system test.

The FIA test was a full system test by placing a harness system on a dummy and then tested on a sled. Interestingly they found that the mechanical latch system was the weak link in the harness system.

This may be one reason that the SFI is only good for 2 years vs. 5 years for an FIA system. Not an apples to apples test. But that is only my opinion.

Just knowing how each body did their test led me to purchase an FIA appoved belt system.
What I disagree with is the basic ide that ANYONE should just accept the testing and rating specs on ANYTHING that is a "critical safety device" without knowing the whole story. I disagree with the SFI spec because if you read their recommendations thoroughly it states that a "DuPont Nylon 6-6" material belt can lose 50% of it's breaking strength if exposed to outdoor conditions continually in ONE YEAR!!!!!

dammit, Rick, you're really trying to resuscitate that dog, aren't you?

Ok, looking at MY harnesses logically, the car gets out of the garage about 10 times
a year. It has a roof. We live in the PNW. So the actual harness sees full
sun UV for (ABSOLUTE worst case) 30 days a year. And not for 100% of those
30 days, but who cares, huh?

So realistically, if my harness was replaced every TEN years, it would be, at a MINIMUM,
at half its brand- new strength. Which was what? Anyone? Try something on the
order of 30,000 lbs. Which is me, decelerating at 150g's. Oops, dead.
But wait, that was the RATED load, the fail strength was 5x that. So now I'm 750g's- dead.
Oh, but UV's derated it by 50%, so now it's only 350g's, and I'm- yeah, still dead.

Sure, there's the argument, and it's valid.

The problem is that the people who make the junk say it's only good for 2 years
to cover their own fanny, because there's an outside chance I may buy a SSB car from
Texas that's sat outside for 4 1/2 years and has rotten belts, wreck it, and sue
everyone around me because 'it was supposed to be safe'. I should be shot for
such stupidity, BUT that ain't legal, and a lawsuit IS.


Shutting up now, sir.

I hate Rick because I can't think in the layers that he does, I'm two stoopid.

I know, I'll try a thread hijack. Don't look there, look over here>>>>>> I like Pabst Blue Ribbon. It's the best. Just try and say it isn't!
I doubt that helmets are stored outside either.

While all of the engineering specs are being reviewed on whether the Sun has anything to do with the longevity of a belt set, is anyone considering how the longevity of a belt set is affected as they are constantly absorbing the stresses of keeping a human body, of their various size and shapes, securely in place under the braking, the turning, and 'other' G-forces that they endure lap after lap, event session after event session, and that through even one season with the Conference?

It ain't all in the black and white, but a standard must be set, a line drawn in the sand if you will. There are people that aren't quite as smart as y'all out there, and they should be protected, and guided.