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Capt Slow
Capt Slow HalfDork
6/17/10 11:12 p.m.

A bit of back story first:

The company I work for has an sports car club which has been holding autocrosses since the mid 1950's.

Recently amid desperate calls for new help, I volunteered to be an officer. I stipulated that I would serve in any office except treasure (since I thought that would be too much work). I guess they really were desperate since they elected me president (much to my surprise).

Things have been going swimmingly until now. At the last autocross I was asked a question so mindbogglingly difficult that I need to break out the big guns and run here for help.

Here is the question: May I autocross my smart car?

further information:

1) Its a Brabus smart car (lowered, stiffer springs,better shifting, more bling)

2) The club bylaws include a clause excluding cars with an excessively high center of gravity

Would I be nuts to let this guy run? How much of a risk is it? Has anyone on the board actually autocrossed one?

Thanks

Apexcarver
Apexcarver SuperDork
6/17/10 11:29 p.m.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEzi3fk1at0

http://vimeo.com/303238

I havent seen one in person, but those came up in internet search

Our autocross club has had a S10 (zq8 package) and one of those viper powered trucks autocross without incident.

just tell them that they will be watched at the first event and if it seems unsafe he is, unfortunately, done. From the above footage and as long as hes not on R-comps it looks like it shouldnt be a problem to let him try it out as long as you explain the possible issues and he understands that he may have to park it (and that if it does roll the club is NOT liable)

rennlist discussion on same, seems SCCA says no http://forums.rennlist.com/rennforums/autocross/505586-smart-car-at-an-autocross.html

http://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/grm/smart-car-autox/10032/page1/

dean1484
dean1484 Dork
6/18/10 7:28 a.m.

Ask him/her if it is ok with them if they cash the "Smart" car and if they are ok with possibly serious personal injury... . .. . If the answer is yes they can have at it.

Smart Car.. . . . . Compensating for something I am sure... .. . And it ain't their shoe size.. ..

On a serious note; You should NOT be in the business of determining what is "safe" for the owner / driver to drive. If they ask you and you say it is "ok" and they crash they can (and probably will) sue you.

If I was the president I would issue my first decree and it would read something like: "If you have to ask if a vehicle is safe to drive or is appropriate for the event the answer is automatically no." If the user has to ask they probably should not be on the track yet. They need a bit more self imposed classroom time.

jstein77
jstein77 HalfDork
6/18/10 7:59 a.m.
dean1484 wrote: Smart Car.. . . . . Compensating for something I am sure... .. . And it ain't their shoe size.. ..

IQ?

I keed...

Seriously though, the videos posted didn't seem to show any inherent instability. I didn't see any two-wheeled antics, or even three (unlike my car, which is always on three). I felt uncertain about the Toyota Echo and Yaris, but I've seen them autocrossed successfully. The Smart isn't specifically listed in 3.1 Appendix A:

"The following are examples of vehicles excluded from Stock for reasons of stability, per 3.1: Dodge Caliber (non-SRT) GEO Tracker & Suzuki Sidekick Jeep CJ series Suzuki Samurai Scion xB (2004-06)"

You might want to contact Howard Duncan at the national office for the latest guidelines from SCCA.

81gtv6
81gtv6 HalfDork
6/18/10 9:06 a.m.

On a side note, the other day I saw one of those Brabus smart cars on display at a mall with a strange tire/wheel combo. It had a 175/55 15 front tire and a 215/35 17 back tire. It just seems stange to me, and the difference was enough to jump right out to me just glancing at it. Does anyone know if this is normal?

ClemSparks
ClemSparks SuperDork
6/18/10 9:39 a.m.
dean1484 wrote: If they ask you and you say it is "ok" and they crash they can (and probably will) sue you.

Having been involved recently in an accident (rollover) in a situation where EVERYONE involved knew the risks and played the game anyway...I can tell you that it's not necessarily the person putting themselves in danger that will be doing the suing.

Husbands, wives, kids, parents, etc....they're not always onboard with shenanigans. And they could sue.

These comments are separate from the issue about whether a Smart is safe to autocross or not.

Clem

integraguy
integraguy HalfDork
6/18/10 9:43 a.m.

Since the original question.... "can I autocross my car?" could be interperted as ...."is there any reason why you won't let me autocross my car?" I would think a smart, like pretty much any vehicle, MIGHT be allowed, especially the Brabus which is lower, and as noted, has wider wheels/rubber under it.

HOWEVER, some kind of release should be signed by ALL participants, that absolves the car club if any damages, FOR ANY REASON, are incurred by a driver. Tho I supposed in today's legal climate, that release wouldn't be worth the paper it's printed on.

Keith
Keith SuperDork
6/18/10 9:50 a.m.
dean1484 wrote: On a serious note; You should NOT be in the business of determining what is "safe" for the owner / driver to drive. If they ask you and you say it is "ok" and they crash they can (and probably will) sue you.

Event organizers do have to set some safety rules - helmet usage and a basic tech inspection, for example. And if a car is unfit to run either due to mechanical condition or due to fundamental design, then the organizer should pull it. Any car is capable of crashing if driven appropriately, of course!

There's been a lot of effort put into making the Smart as safe as possible to drive - see the whole A-class moose test fuss. I'd let one run.

Klayfish
Klayfish New Reader
6/18/10 11:27 a.m.
integraguy wrote: Tho I supposed in today's legal climate, that release wouldn't be worth the paper it's printed on.

^^^^^^BINGO. The release, depending on how it's worded, may not be worth much. I'm in the auto and general liability claims business. Releases don't "automatically" relieve someone of negligence. However, what can go a very, very long way is being able to document that you clearly warned the individual about the inherent risks, the individual clearly understood them, and that they made the decision on their own to participate anyway.

As for autox'ing the Smart, I've never seen one do it. But I'd think that if driven smartly...pardon the pun...it should be fine.

Marty!
Marty! Dork
6/18/10 11:48 a.m.
jstein77 wrote:
dean1484 wrote: Smart Car.. . . . . Compensating for something I am sure... .. . And it ain't their shoe size.. ..
IQ? "The following are examples of vehicles excluded from Stock for reasons of stability, per 3.1: Dodge Caliber (non-SRT)

Huh, I didn't know a Caliber was banned from auto-x. Besides crappy interiors I never knew they were prone to roll-overs. learn sumthin' new every day.

Capt Slow
Capt Slow HalfDork
6/18/10 12:17 p.m.

We do have releases and we carry event insurance, as I am sure most if not all clubs do. At the next club meeting we are going to discuss this amongst the officers (including the safety officer) I am just trying to get a feel for where I stand on the issue.

Thanks for the input so far guys!

irish44j
irish44j HalfDork
6/18/10 2:46 p.m.

I've seen one in person. At a BMW club event. It was slow as hell, but didn't appear to be unsafe or overly tippy. I talked to the owner (a woman) and she said she had done several autocrosses in it. The funny part was that her husband was there too. He was driving a Porsche Cayman.

Sounds like someone got a raw deal!

husband and wife...

irish44j
irish44j HalfDork
6/18/10 2:49 p.m.

on a side note, I've also ridden along with a buddy driving a stock Echo. He usually drives a Miata and pushes it. Scariest thing I've ever done riding in that echo on a tight course and we definitely lifted inside rear a few times. I thought we were going to flip on every turn, but we didn't. He did 4 runs that day with no issues, driving the hell out of it.

irish44j
irish44j HalfDork
6/18/10 2:54 p.m.

as to rules about high center of gravity.....this was at an event by an SCCA-sanctioned club and (surprisingly) finished ahead of about 10 normal cars!

If an Odyssey can autocross, I can't see how a Smart can't. The high center of gravity really applies to SUVs and SUV-like vehicles that are lifted and have the machinery above the wheel hub level for ground clearance - hence high center of gravity. I would think the Caliber fits that description to some extent...

Cotton
Cotton HalfDork
6/18/10 2:56 p.m.
ClemSparks wrote:
dean1484 wrote: If they ask you and you say it is "ok" and they crash they can (and probably will) sue you.
Having been involved recently in an accident (rollover) in a situation where EVERYONE involved knew the risks and played the game anyway...I can tell you that it's not necessarily the person putting themselves in danger that will be doing the suing. Husbands, wives, kids, parents, etc....they're not always onboard with shenanigans. And they could sue. These comments are separate from the issue about whether a Smart is safe to autocross or not. Clem

Is this with the "back 40" racing? Do you mind telling the story behind it? We occasionally do something similar at my place....

dean1484
dean1484 Dork
6/18/10 4:41 p.m.

Couple things.

Are the safety related mandates (helmets, hanz etc) actually made by the club or there insurance carrier of a club? Ya I know common sense and all sais use them BUT lets just forget about that and look at the litigious side of things. I would ask your insurance carrier if a smart car is covered.

This also (kind of) gets you off the hook if you have to say no you can not compete if the carrier says no-go to the smart.

Regarding minivans versus the smart car. It is a ratio of wheelbase width and length to height and center of gravity. Most minivans are based on car platforms so there really should be little if any difference between a minivan and the respective car its platform comes from. You may actually pick up some speed due to the aero advantage (think Volvo Wagons back in the day). Where as a smart car has what appears to be a high CG (I don't know this for a fact) for a narrow short wheelbase. I would think that this should make it easier to tip over.

Keith
Keith SuperDork
6/18/10 5:03 p.m.

The packaging of the Smart puts the CG lower than you'd expect. It's still a narrow car, but all the heavy stuff is basically under the floor.

ahutson03
ahutson03 New Reader
6/18/10 5:26 p.m.

On the topic of mini vans (and entirely off topic), anyone remember the Renault Espace F1, now that was a fast mini van...

Capt Slow
Capt Slow HalfDork
6/18/10 5:55 p.m.

so I did some crude back of the envelope calculations...

Assuming the car is on street tires and fairly stock suspension wise, I figure that having the vehicle the will not tip over until ~1.5 G's of cornering force is achieved would be safe.

To meet that criteria, the center of gravity of the car would need to be be less than 17" above the tire contact patch. If I drop that to 1.2 G's I get a 21" minimum...

These number sound a bit too low, maybe my calculations are too crude...

vwcorvette
vwcorvette New Reader
6/18/10 7:02 p.m.

My wife won't let me autocross the smart we own. Ok...SHE owns. The CG is low. Plastic roof and most heavy essentials placed low in the chassis. As well it has some serious stability nannies that keep you from having too much fun. Removing the fuse to the stabilty also shuts down the ABS which is not good on a car that short as it will swap ends in a heartbeat without it. I was able to get it to drag it's tail in the parking lot last winter however. Took a bit of last minute drop-throttle. That being said there was one that ran the lunch time session at NHMS last year and it did well. Ours is not a Brabus. I would like one but am turned off by the lack of engine upgrades. Doug Thorley does make headers for them however! I say go for it. I've heard of Focuses and BMW 318Tis going over due to stock suspension and sticky tires. EDIT: I think I've calculated the CG correctly at about 8.5 inches. I bit higher than I would have guessed. Hmmm, time for some lowering springs.

Vigo
Vigo HalfDork
6/18/10 7:24 p.m.

im with Keith.. in spite of their looks, they have a low center of gravity.

I wouldnt worry about it at all.

Our local club has had all sorts of stuff run on occasion.. up to stock dodge rams, an an Isuzu Vehicross..

The one that made me nervous as hell to ride in was a twin i-beam ranger. Imo, twin i-beam no es bueno.

ea_sport
ea_sport Reader
6/18/10 9:24 p.m.
irish44j wrote: husband and wife...

I was there, this was at Summit Point right?

Apexcarver
Apexcarver SuperDork
6/18/10 11:20 p.m.
vwcorvette wrote: I've heard of Focuses and BMW 318Tis going over due to stock suspension and sticky tires.

If you can supply picture of the 318ti rollover I would be very grateful (want to fun ends on a friend who has one)

vwcorvette
vwcorvette New Reader
6/19/10 9:23 a.m.

Only heard about. I think it was someone in the SEDIV regions of SCCA about 10 or so years ago. Those cars sit a little high in the back.

irish44j
irish44j HalfDork
6/19/10 1:52 p.m.
ea_sport wrote:
irish44j wrote: husband and wife...
I was there, this was at Summit Point right?

sure was.

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