Modern competition cars are very durable and safe thanks to their solid bodies and sophisticated safety frames. But the rigid construction can be a challenge for rescuers who have to extricate the crew in the event of an accident. That is why Škoda Motorsport, by mutual agreement, has allowed the Czech rescue team Autoklub Sport Rescue (ASR) to practice the extrication directly on the skeleton of a competition car.
The new Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 pushes the boundaries of crew safety in the event of a crash a little further than in the previous model and is one of the top performers in its category in this respect. In order to familiarize the rescuers who provide crew recovery in the event of a rally crash with the strength solution of the competition car, Škoda Motorsport held a workshop where experts from Autoklub Sport Rescue could rehearse the extrication from the car in practice.
ASR is a specialized rescue system operated under the Autoclub of the Czech Republic. Since 1977, it has focused on rescuing people from crashed racing vehicles, firefighting, and other technical assistance at car races. ASR assistance is required at every event organized in the Czech Republic under the banner of the FIA or the Autoclub of the Czech Republic and can also be ordered for other motorsport events. ASR has fast response vehicles equipped according to the FIA International Sporting Regulations. It includes manual and LUCAS hydraulic extrication equipment, fire-fighting equipment, or equipment for the disposal of oil spills. The crew of the vehicle is always formed by at least two specially trained rescuers with AS AČR license.
"Training is extremely important for us, but at the same time it is very difficult for us to get hold of even a mere skeleton of a crashed competition car for these purposes. That's why we are extremely grateful for this opportunity for cooperation with Škoda Motorsport," says Michal Patloka, a member of the ASR committee and an active rescuer himself. For the purpose of gaining experience, the car manufacturer provided the rescuers with a development skeleton of the Fabia RS Rally2, which was heading for scrapping anyway. Škoda Motorsport experts were also on hand during the event and were able to discuss specific details of the car's strength structure with the rescuers.
"Having the opportunity to practice and rehearse such an operation as authentically as possible and at the same time to stop at any time, to discuss various details in peace and to share experience with each other is absolutely invaluable for us," explains Patloka. The ASR members thus tested the possibilities of cutting the car body and safety frame with hydraulic extrication equipment. "In addition to the general possibility of such an operation, we were interested in a number of details, including the new frame design of the Rally2 cars," Patloka says, adding: „Until 2018, these cars sometimes had a safety frame that could withstand and absorb a large amount of energy in the event of an accident. This could cause uncomfortable, even dangerous situations, where the frame could bounce up to ten centimetres in some cases, putting not only the crew but also rescue workers in danger."
The new safety frame eliminates this danger, and the Škoda Motorsport experts explained in detail to the ASR rescuers how the solution works. "We learnt to recognize the technical elements that make this possible and which, at first glance, may be superfluous and may even act as an obstacle to the rescuers," Patloka describes the experience. The rescuers tried out various options for breaking the frame with a hydraulic extrication device, but also, for example, the removal of the centre pillar of the bodywork as well as some other tasks. Another specialty was the training of hitting the floor sill. "This part of the car, which in the case of a competition special is taken from a production car, is extremely rigid according to the experience of accidents in normal road traffic in modern cars. During a rally, even serious accidents with floor deformation can occur, where this part could then interfere with the recovery of the crew," Patloka explains the reason for testing such a procedure. This confirmed that this part of the car is extremely strong. "We therefore assume that even with the presence of the safety frame, deformation in this part is very unlikely in a racing car," adds the rescuer.
Of course, the ASR team hopes that the newly acquired experience will never actually be put to practice. "Sometimes accidents happen in motorsport. I've been a member of the rescue system since the 90's and I've been in several actions. No accident has ever been the same, which is why training, which prepares you for different situations, is so important," explains Patloka.
The crew is extricated from the crashed car as soon as possible. Ideally by the usual route, this means through the side door. "Just getting into the race car through the safety frame is rather complicated gymnastic stunt," says Michal Patloka, who points out that even getting out the usual way may not be easy. For example, in the case of a suspected spinal injury, it is often necessary to create an opening through which the rescuers can extricate the crew member and the seat. Therefore, rescuers may "cut" not only the safety frame, but also the body pillar, and sometimes it is necessary to cut off part or the entire roof.