The Touring Car Masters in recent years has become one of motorsports most loved categories. The series transports fans back to the heady days where names like Beechey, Moffat, Brock and Johnson were the gods of the racetracks.
As much as the drivers were considered gods, the cars were almost on the same level. Moffat’s ‘Coke’ Mustang and Brock’s SLR 5000 Torana are now considered motorsport royalty and hold a very special place in the pantheon of great racing machines.
But are today’s TCM cars just like the cars of the old days? The answer is not a simple yes or no. Really, the answer is “kind of”. Yes they look exactly the same, tough and brutish, with an engine note that makes motorsport fans run to the fence to see what’s making such a beautiful sound. However, one big difference between the old and new is the safety aspects of the cars... and thank goodness!
Back in the heyday of the 60’s and 70’s, racing drivers took their lives into their hands every time they strapped themselves into their machines. While today’s racing is still dangerous, drivers stand a much better chance of emerging from an incident relatively unscathed.
Some of the cars in TCM generate well over 600 horsepower and can easily get up to speeds in excess of 250kph, so although we might like these cars to be exactly as they were back in the day and stay true to history, keeping the driver safe is a priority.
Today’s TCM cars feature cutting edge safety systems such as full roll cages as opposed to 4 point cages or indeed nothing at all and full side intrusion beams to keep the driver safe instead of just a door skin that came from the factory. Carbon fibre race seats are now used instead of the unsupported seat that came with the car from the showroom and of course 6 point race harnesses instead of a lap sash belt... and that’s just the cars!
Drivers are now better protected by their racing attire too. Three layer flame resistant NOMEX race suits with fire proof gloves, boots, socks and underwear, carbon fibre helmets attached to head and neck restraint systems (HANS Device), are all a far cry from cotton race suits, no gloves, loafers and open face helmets which were the only available options at the time.
So next time you’re at the track, make sure you go by the TCM pits and take a closer look at the cars of yesteryear with the technology of today and tip your hat to those brave souls of the past because back in its heyday, racing really was DANGEROUS!