Wounded Marine Will Fight for a Win at Sebring

dwyer-leg

Half of Liam Dwyer’s clutch leg is gone. His entire right knee has been replaced. A steel plate, a rod, and 23 screws hold his right forearm together. He endured more than 50 surgeries over four and a half years and still requires 10 or more hours of physical therapy every week.

Dwyer is a United States Marine. A Taliban IED hit him on May 22, 2011.

Whenever possible, Dwyer is strapping into a race car, attaching his prosthetic clutch leg, and blazing out on track to compete for position with drivers who have four complete appendages. “I have no regrets,” he says. “I would do it again knowing this would happen.”

Dwyer is a professional race car driver. He has trophies to prove it.

How the Foot Works

Liam Dwyer

His current clutch leg attaches securely, and includes a quick-release for fast exits. Photo courtesy Liam Dwyer.

When Dwyer had first returned to racing, he simply attached his regular prosthetic foot to the clutch pedal with Velcro. However, a bumpy section at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix shook his foot loose, forcing him to pull off course.

A corner worker walked over to the Sprite and Dwyer had to explain that no, really, he was OK; his leg had just come off. “He looked at me like I was crazy, but I was able to reattach my foot and wrestle the car back on track.”

It was clear then that he’d need a more specialized solution, and he made it happen. His new clutch leg isn’t like a prosthetic leg at all. It’s a straight aluminum post with a heim joint in place of the foot. The joint slips over a shaft attached to the clutch pedal and a cotter pin holds it in place—no more Velcro.

He says operating the clutch isn’t a problem at all now that he’s developed the skill, but one question remains: Is it safe?

Liam Dwyer

Dwyer can bail out of a flaming car as fast as anyone. Photo courtesy Mazdaspeed/Al Merion Padron.

Driver changes are required in the Continental Tire series; with the new prosthethis, Dwyer can trade places with Carbonell in 30 seconds. They’re working to get even faster. Dwyer also has an easy bailout procedure in case there’s a fire or other emergency that requires exiting the car. “I have a quick-release to release my body from the joint,” he says. “I just pull a separate pin, detach myself at the knee and throw myself out of the car.”

Once and Always a Racer

Dwyer has loved cars, he says, “since before I could breathe.” He’s determined to one day have a third-generation Mazda RX-7 similar to the one he used to own. He began time trial racing in 1999 and autocross in 2004, earning wins and setting records regularly. Then that bomb hit him. A physical therapist said he’d never drive stickshift again. His own dad stopped talking to him when he insisted on pursuing a racing career.

Liam Dwyer

Dwyer returned to racing in a Sprite and this Z-car. Photo courtesy Liam Dwyer

But nothing would get in Dwyer’s way. Less than a year after the blast, he was vintage racing an Austin-Healey Sprite and also competing in NASA’s Spec 350Z series. He pursued a partnership with OG Racing for safety gear and found a sympathetic ear in Bill Love, the company’s founder.

Love is a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient. During the infamous assault into the Plei Trap Valley in March 1969, Love received two AK-47 bullets: one in the chest, one in the hand. When Love was hit, he had to wait a full 24 hours before it was safe for a helicopter to transport him out, to eventually be treated at the old Walter Reed medical facility in Washington, D.C.

This experience has inspired Love to choose veterans to represent OG Racing whenever possible. The company currently has one other veteran on staff: Salesman Johnny Cichowski served in Iraq as a mechanic and built goodwill with local children by tossing them goodies like Sylvester Stallone pudding.

“It’s my way of putting out a hand and helping somebody up from that situation,” Love says. “Having been there and gone through the whole thing, I realized the military and the public aren’t gonna do a whole lot for ya.”

Love was compelled by Dwyer’s story, which is similar to his own but from a more recent military operation. Love was impressed by Dwyer’s tenacity and didn’t hesitate to get involved. OG Racing initially gave Dwyer a Sparco M-5 racing suit, Sparco Slalom SL-3 racing shoes, Sparco Tide Nomex gloves, Sparco WTX-7 Air helmet, and a HANS Sport II; OG Racing’s support continues today.

Finding Success One Lap at a Time

Liam Dwyer

Dwyer and OG Racing employee Brian Hair competed in One Lap of America together. Photo courtesy Liam Dwyer.

Brian Hair, one of OG Racing’s sales specialists, helped Dwyer get fitted with his new safety gear on his first visit to their shop. Dwyer later found out that Hair had competed several times in One Lap of America.

Dwyer had always wanted to compete in One Lap, so it was natural that they join forces. The two have raced a 2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302 in the grueling event for the last two years, finishing first in class and seventh overall in 2014.

That was about the same time that people were starting to notice that a veteran with a prosthetic leg was winning races. Freedom Autosport invited Dwyer to test at Sebring in front of team manager Tom Long and representatives from Mazda. The team’s name reflects their dedication to charities that help injured veterans; Dwyer’s story combined with his exemplary lap times earned him a spot on the team, racing a Mazda MX-5 in the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge for the 2014 season.

His successful season, marked by a win at Lime Rock and many other strong finishes, brought him back to Freedom Autosport for 2015. This Friday, Dwyer will drive that MX-5 in the Continental Tire Series race during the Sebring 12 Hour weekend. He’s co-driving this season with Andrew Carbonell.

Continuing to Serve

Liam Dwyer

Though Dwyer is retiring from the Corps in May, he continues to help other veterans find purpose through Racing4Vets. Photo courtesy Liam Dwyer.

During all these pursuits, Sergeant Dwyer has remained an active-duty Marine. He’s scheduled to retire from the Corps on May 30, but will continue racing. He also helps other injured veterans get involved in racing via Racing4Vets. Dwyer believes that working toward a common goal with a supportive group of people really helps injured vets to deal with what’s happened to them and to begin feeling accomplished and useful again.

“Everyone has different injuries,” Dwyer says. “Some people will look at a veteran and say, ‘You don’t look injured,’ but they might have traumatic brain injury or suffer from PTSD. This program gets people back in a team setting with an ultimate goal in mind; a lot of these guys, including myself, are truly grateful for that.”

 

Look for Dwyer and Carbonell driving the Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 in the Continental Tire series at Sebring International Raceway. The green flag waves for the 2.5-hour Microsoft Visual Studio 150 at 1:05 p.m. Eastern on Friday, March 20. Watch the race live at IMSA.com, or catch the broadcast April 5 at 9 a.m. on Fox Sports 1.

Posted in Company and People, Event Posts, No Category

Snell SA2015 – What We Know

As we get closer and closer to the release of the latest Snell SA2015 rating, we’re seeing more and more questions on when the helmets will be available. We should be seeing our first shipments in early October, with at least Bell Helmets committing to this timeframe. More news from the other manufacturers as it comes in. For a quick primer on the rating change, and whether it is worth it to wait, check out our previous article on Snell ratings and how they apply to you:

Link: Where’s my SA2015 Helmet?

We also have a better idea on the changes that are coming with the latest homologation from Snell, AND the changes from FIA:

FIA 8860-2010:

The current Grand-Daddy of helmet certifications, the FIA 8860-2010 is mandatory for many professional levels of racing, such as Indy Car & IMSA. These helmets will remain unchanged into next year, with the next update not due until 2017.

FIA 8859-2015:

Formerly known as the 8858 standard, the latest 8859-2015 rating will be required at all FIA-sanctioned events. In the past, FIA-events would recognize helmets with only a Snell-rating – this will no longer be the case. Obviously, just about all US-based events require Snell-ratings only, so this only applies to International racers. The most important safety updates follow:

  • Energy requirements have been updated for all helmet sizes. These are known as “head-forms” in engineering speak – basically, helmets are tested using different sized heads, with each size requiring different levels of protection. FIA 8859 has additional energy requirements for the largest sizes.
  • A permanent mount is required for the chin-strap. The strap cannot be removed without destroying the helmet.
  • The strap’s pull-tab is also not allowed to slide further then 7mm.

Snell SA2015:

The biggest update to the Snell rating is a requirement for Head-and-Neck Restraint compatibility across all helmets. This comes in the form of the pre-installed M6 hardware that was typically only found on helmets with a Snell/FIA rating (formerly known as the SAH-rating). Additionally, all new impact testing is being used that mimics that of the above FIA-testing. Low velocity testing is now required; as is protection against lower impact points, such as strikes against window frames and other lower structures.

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Porsche 918 Vs. McLaren P1

A Porsche 918, a McLaren P1, Randy Pobst, Laguna Seca, and a stopwatch. Can the 918 keep it’s lap record?

 

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AiM LearnFast Seminar

This past weekend, OG Racing held it’s first AIM LearnFast Seminar. Presented by Roger Caddel, AiM Sport’s National Training Manager, the seminar is designed to help users analyze and improve lap times by understanding the what, when and why’s of vehicle behavior. Starting off with Practical Data Acquisition topics that covered the basics of Data Acquisition and hardware installation, the day progressed into Advanced topics and in-depth use of the powerful Race Studio 2 software.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Click here to view a gallery of the event.

We’re hoping to hold more of these events in the future – Stay tuned!

Posted in Event Posts

TraqGear Underwear – Extra Protection for EveryMan?

Friend of the shop, Roger Burdette, contacted us late last year to introduce us to his new line of racing underwear, TraqGear. His products have been making the rounds at local events for the past couple years, and Roger wanted to take it to the next step. In all honesty, I saw it as just another line of underwear to fall into an already saturated market. Each of our major lines offers several different lines of fire-proof underwear, with at least 2 offering models to cover all 3 price ranges (budget, regular, and $$$). Roger’s line was intriguing – he wanted to come in at an “Everyman” price that seemed to fit in around most competitor’s “Budget” lines of underwear. His product was even more intriguing – an extremely lightweight material that felt remarkably similar to high-tech athletic garb, and that promised to wick just as well to keep the driver cool. In summary, a fine looking product that was lighter then the competition’s, complete with SFI-approval, at a non-sticker-shock inducing price. We decided to take a chance, and his products are now available for shipment from our warehouse.

Read more ›

Posted in New Product Releases, Product Related Posts

AiM LearnFast Seminar is coming to OG-Racing!

AiM LearnFast Seminar

We’re excited to host Roger Caddel, AiM Sport’s National Training Manager, for an all-day training seminar at our showroom in Sterling, VA on Saturday, February 7, 2015.

The core principle of all AiM Sports data training is to reveal that data acquisition will allow the user to determine what the vehicle is doing, when it is doing it and why it is doing it while using AiM Sports hardware and software. This AiM Sports data seminar has been designed to be very interactive with real examples of actual racing data. This seminar is not just a lecture – AiM Sports National Training Manager, Roger Caddell invites questions and comments from attendees and has found that group discussion helps everybody understand the information more fully.

The day will be split into 2 separate classes:

Practical Data Acquisition (8am to Noon): Join us for Coffee and Snacks at 7:30am, then listen in to a beneficial class for all user levels that covers the basics of Data Acquisition, AiM Hardware, and AiM’s powerful Race Studio 2 Software. We’ll also cover how Practical Data Analysis can improve your driving and the What’s, Why’s and How’s of Data Acquisition. Finally, we’ll examine the SmartyCam HD and how best to utilize it for you track events. AIM-Practical-Seminar-Flyer

Advanced Data Acquisition (1pm to 5pm): Arrive early for snacks and beverages at 12:30pm. Roger Caddel will then dive into an afternoon of advanced Data Acquisition tips and tricks. This class requires a basic understand of AiM hardware, and the Practical class is highly suggested before attending. Roger takes the basics from the Practical class even further and explores Data Analysis, advanced tips/tricks and advanced Race Studio 2 Topics. AIM-Advanced-Seminar-Flyer

Space is extremely limited to 30 participants for the morning, Practical class and 20 for the Advanced class. Each class is $30 (or join both for $50). Pre-Registration is required.

To register, contact Robbie Clements at: E-mail: robbie@ogracing.com – Phone: 703-430-3303 x110

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Ask Johnny (The Brake Nerd): Everyone says buy the cheap rotors – Should I listen?

Today’s Question comes from Pacheko@miataturbo.com:

Originally Posted by PaCHeKo! View Post

I run Sports Brakes all around on my Turbo’d 1990 Miata. I decided to go with regular/jobber rotors with my Hawk HP+ Pads since a lot of people told me that expensive rotors were money thrown out of the window. Knowing that the car doesn’t do more than 30min sessions, I’m daily driving it and I have no brake heat issues. Are these people right? Would it be beneficial to get expensive performance rotors?

I’m on my second year with the HP+ pads and I’m also curious about trying something else. What pad/rotor combo would you suggest for my current setup?

There are a lot of different aspects to consider when it comes to brake rotors. What are they made from (Iron, Steel, Aluminum, Carbon Ceramic, Carbon Carbon)? Where are they made? Are they 2-piece rotors (ie, hat made from aluminum, rotor ring made from iron)? If so, are they floating rotors?

Not wanting to spend all day on these aspects (save that for another post), I’ll try to keep the answer short, and focus on the “generic” parts-store brake rotor. These are the standard, Chinese-made rotors that you find on Rockauto, Autozone, etc. They are machined and covered with oil; the materials used to make them not as pure as they should be; and they are NEVER engineered for racing. Allow me to explain: The machining process for Chinese rotors involves blasting the machining surface and tools with an oil to keep them cool – this process lowers maintenance costs on the tooling machines. After machining, factory workers will wrap the rotors with an oil impregnated paper. This oil is an attempt to prevent rust, and the process works quite well at rust prevention. The problem with using so much oil is that it will impregnate itself into the iron of the rotor. Once the iron is impregnated, the oils will come out under extreme braking. Most of the time when you see problems creating and keeping a transfer layer1)A transfer layer is the thin layer of material deposited on a rotor by the brake pad. This layer aids in pad and rotor cohesion, increasing braking performance., impurities, such as the oil seeping from inside the iron, are causing the issue. In other words, the impurities in the rotor are kicking the transfer layer off. Read more ›

References   [ + ]

1. A transfer layer is the thin layer of material deposited on a rotor by the brake pad. This layer aids in pad and rotor cohesion, increasing braking performance.
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Posted in Ask the Brake Nerd, Educational Posts, No Category, Product Related Posts

Bell Carbon Fiber Helmet Visor Panels

We recently received an e-mail from Bell Racing regarding the trend of aftermarket Helmet Visor Panels. Let’s first start with the basics of what a Helmet Visor panel is. Initially developed for Pro-level Open-Wheel racing (F1, Indy, etc.), the Visor Panel is designed to add additional protection from debris to the upper helmet/visor gap. An excellent video can be found here:

http://www.theindychannel.com/sports/indycar/new-indycar-helmet-feature-already-saving-lives

Bell Racing has worked together with the FIA to develop a Zylon Visor Panel that can be installed to the FIA8860 HP7, and RS7 racing helmets. The panel is custom installed by Bell for $499.95 plus the cost of a new shield.

Bell FIA Zylong Visor Panel

Bell FIA Zylon Visor Panel (2030105)

The Bell V.14 Visor Panel is an original Bell Racing part made in compliance with FIA specification 2011 F1 visor reinforcement panel for FIA8860 helmets. The original Bell Visor and Panel must only be used with the specified Bell model, any use of other non-Bell certified parts on the helmet will invalidate the homologation. The Bell Visor Panel has been developed to match the contour and shape of the Bell SE07 visor and is not compatible with other Bell visor systems or other helmet brands. The Bell Visor and Panel are only valid with the unbroken warranty seal on the back of the shield. The Bell Visor and Panel can only be assembled / serviced by a Bell Racing Technician. Any modification or assembly by third parties will invalidate the homologation of the helmet and the part. Customers who want to re-use the visor panel on another shield must return the shield and panel back to Bell for installation on a new shield.

Sifting through all of Bell’s legal jargin, sounds like this isn’t something to be messed with. Can’t say I disagree – we’re looking at a safety feature that’s designed to stop high-speed projectiles from entering your helmet. This isn’t something that you want to half-ass the design and/or installation of. And now apparently there are companies that are selling stick-on carbon panels that look awfully similar to the FIA-approved design:

It has come to our attention that a company called Shell Shock is offering for sale an item called a “helmet saver” that is designed to look in appearance like a carbon fiber visor panel. As this “helmet saver” was not developed with any input from Bell Racing and we have no knowledge of its design, material composition or function, we are informing our dealers and customers that Bell does not support or authorize the use of the “helmet saver” produced by Shell Shock. Further, the use of the “helmet saver” with helmets or shields produced by Bell will completely void our product warranty. The user will assume all risks and liability associated with its use. We are concerned that customers will assume this item offers similar protection to panels produced by Bell and homologated to the FIA SPECIFICATION FOR VISOR REINFORCEMENT PANEL FOR FIA8860 HELMET and choose to purchase this item for use with their Bell Helmet.

Going forward, we will not support any similar items that are developed to function or designed to appear like a visor panel unless they meet the precise technical specifications published by the FIA called FIA SPECIFICATION FOR VISOR REINFORCEMENT PANEL FOR FIA8860 HELMET and have been approved by Bell Racing for use with our products.

As a company, Bell has dedicated hours of research and collaboration with the FIA on the design, function and performance of the Zylon reinforced visor panel and was the first company to debut the panel in Formula One in 2011. Further, the Bell visor panel is designed to fit the upper contour of the Bell SE07 shield and uses a specific adhesive material with surface tension properties that work in conjunction with the polycarbonate used in Bell racing shields. We have a specific procedure for securing the panel to the SE07 shield and the panel is not compatible with other Bell shields.

I did a quick internet search and found an image of the product. It does look awfully similar to the approved design. And although it doesn’t advertise itself as offering similar protection, looks alone can be enough to convince many to purchase in the name of added protection. Which everyone is free to do – just be aware of the criteria that is actually used in the development of a piece like this, then ask yourself if that is something you’re willing to compromise on.

If you need more information on the Bell Visor Panels, give us a call (1-800-934-9112).

Posted in Educational Posts, Product Related Posts

Where’s my SA2015 Helmet?

Something just doesn't smell right...

2015 is just around the corner. In the world of motorsports safety, that number holds a lot of significance, because it’s when all hell breaks loose, our warehouse starts to burst at the seams with inventory, and we find Rob (our warehouse manager) crying in the corner of the high-value room. And before we can even deal with 2015, we first have to get through 2014 and survive our single most frequently asked question: When will the Snell SA2015 rated helmets be available?

Helmet season is here!

Helmet season is here!

Every 5 years, like clockwork, this time comes. A quick bit of background information for those who are new to this game. The Snell foundation releases a new SA-rating every 5 years. The SA-rating (SA stands for Special Applications) is specific to auto racing helmets; however, it is often used in any type of racing that typically occurs in a closed-door vehicle where you’re strapped in and in danger of burning to death (auto-racing, boat racing, truck-racing, even some karting). The basic idea behind an auto racing helmet, making them unique from other full-face helmets out there (such as Motorcycle helmets) are that SA-rated helmets are designed to protect from:

  1. High-speed projectiles (like the lug nut from your competitor’s car that he forgot to tighten)
  2. Multiple low-speed broad impacts (Rolling over and over in your car, as your helmet smacks the roll-bar again and again)
  3. Fire (because you’re stuck in a burning vehicle which is never fun)

Snell creates a new standard every 5-years. This is loosely based on their recommendation that a racing helmet should be retired after 5 years of use. They also use the opportunity to introduce new facets to the standard that will better protect the wearer. That’s right – it’s not a matter of Snell’s engineers needing to make the next payment on their new Porsche. They are actually designing things to help protect you from things like injury and death – because we all hate being injured and/or dying. Some years only have minor changes – for instance, there were not huge changes between the SA2000 rating and the SA2005. SA2010 brought significant changes in how the helmets were impact tested based on medical research (yes, actual science) that helped show different sized heads and their accompanying masses are affected by impacts in different ways. It also took into account the broader uses of Head and Neck Restraint devices (per the SAH-2010 rating that has since been absorbed by the more comprehensive FIA rating). You can read all of the details here (Warning: Big words, charts, and data are in the following link.)

Finding SA2010 sticker where to find

A Helmet’s SA sticker can be found inside the helmet behind the foam padding.

The upcoming SA2015 rating has been released and indicates that changes will once again be minimal. Some major improvements are that helmets must now be compatible and ready for Head and Neck Restraint hardware (this should make pre-drilling of helmets from the manufacturer mandatory). Testing has also been added for “Low-lateral” impacts (ie, secondary side-impacts with roll-bars, window frames, etc.)

Technical info aside, now is about the time that everyone tries to get the most for their money and purchase the helmet that will last the longest. Even though Snell recommends replacing your helmet every 5 years, most of the racing groups allow the use of a helmet for an approximate 10 year period. That means that an SA2010 helmet will be allowed for use though at least 2015 with the main sanctioning bodies in the U.S. I say at-least, because in the past, some groups have allowed up to a 2-year buffer period (depending on how many of their members complain about being forced to buy a new helmet) so that racers have time to replace their equipment. Many racers even get further exceptions to use past that 12 year period – it’s all a matter of what kind of day your tech-inspector is having and how big your smile is!

But lets go back to that 5-year recommendation. I’ll be the first to admit – if you attend a couple of events a year, have really good personal hygiene, and take good care of your helmet (no bounce testing, let it air out after you use it, don’t run over it with your car, etc.), it is fully within reality to get at least 10 years out of a helmet. HOWEVER, and this is coming from someone who has been working with all of you for a very long time, I’m going to one-up Snell and say that the average club-racer’s helmet should be replaced every couple of years. There’s a simple reason behind this, and it happens to be the same reason that I put on surgical gloves when installing Hans Device anchors on a used helmet – Your helmet is Disgusting! It smells, the fabric is falling apart, and a gritty, oily substance that is a combination of sweat, dirt, hair-gel, beard conditioner, and gasoline rubs off on my fingers when I touch it. All of that crap is degrading the protective foam and plastic that your helmet is made out of. And when you degrade that stuff, the helmet absolutely will NOT function in the way you want it to when it needs to be used. I’ll give a quick example – How long will that t-shirt you’re wearing last if you wear it every other weekend and never wash it? If you need further examples, just let me know – I have a bunch!

Something just doesn't smell right...

Something just doesn’t smell right…

Again, not all helmets are like this – but your clean, rose-smelling helmet is definitely the exception to the rule. In the end, what I think doesn’t really matter, rules are rules, and your friendly tech inspector will let you wear whatever you bring that has that SA-sticker on the inside. But for safety’s sake (and your personal health), when your wife/husband/son/daughter/friend/safety-equipment-guy won’t touch your helmet, it’s probably time to get a new one.

And speaking of new, now the news you’ve all patiently been waiting for. When will SA2015 helmets be available?

October 1st, 2015. That is the date that SA-2015 helmets will officially be allowed for sale. However, this does not mean that this is the date that these helmets will magically appear on our shelves. Depending on the manufacturer, and based on what we’ve seen in the past 25 years, we’ll see delivery of these helmets anywhere between October 1st and the following Spring (2016).

If you’re hanging onto your SA2005 helmet, chances are you’ll be able to use it until 2016 or so (again, based on what I’ve historically seen from the racing groups). However, if this is your first helmet, and you’ve decided to wait for the newest rating, think about all that I’ve typed above. How well do you take care of your equipment? How many events per year do you plan on attending? Do you have a dog or cat and does it tend to pee in round objects? And finally, how long do you think you can make your helmet safely last?

Update 6/25/2014: We just received the following e-mail from Kyle @ Bell Helmets regarding SA2015 helmets:

We have received a number of questions regarding when the next Snell homologation standard will be implemented. The changeover to  SA2015 Snell standard will take effect on October 1, 2015. For the balance of the 2014 race season and the majority of the 2015 selling season, the Snell SA2010 standard is and will be the most current standard . No manufacturer is allowed to label or sell a Snell SA2015 homologated helmet prior to October 1, 2015 per the Snell Memorial Foundation.

Posted in Product Related Posts

Simpson has released a very informative video. Watching it could save your life.

15 Minutes Can Save Your Life.

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