In January 2013, OG Racing held a drawing for two SPA 4L Mechanical on board fire systems. All that the entrants had to do was register for the drawing at www.ogracing.com. No purchase necessary. The winners were chosen in April 2013. One of the winners was Kyle Nilson. He shares a Miata with his friends Erich Pfalzgraf, and Randy Sams from Iowa who race the car with several different organizations.
On Saturday, July 23rd, the guys were at Iowa Raceway Park of the Midlands in a World Racing League (WRL) 8 Hour endurance race. After a couple of off track excursions, the exhaust broke near the fuel filter. The guys think that the hot exhaust gasses blowing onto the fuel filter, caused fuel vapors to escape from the filter’s plastic fittings. The vapors accumulated and then were ignited about 5 hours into the race while Randy was at the wheel. As he accelerated into Turn 6 a fire ignited and entered the cockpit behind the driver’s seat. Once Randy realized what was happening, he quickly shut the power off to the car, and pulled off track near the closest corner station and triggered the fire system. The nozzles pointed at the driver kept the fire at bay as Randy safely exited the car. Thanks to the SPA fire system and his Alpinestars nomex driver’s suit, Randy was unharmed. By then the corner worker was on scene with his dry chemical fire bottle and they were able to fully extinguish the remaining flames. Randy’s seat took one for the team and was no longer usable. Had they had a replacement handy, Randy and Erich could have raced on Sunday.
Kyle said they learned a few things at the end of the day when analyzing what happened. “More correctly place nozzles are never a bad thing,” said Kyle. The SPA 4L systems will support up to 6 nozzles which are included in the complete kit. Some lower capacity systems out there will only support 2-3 nozzles effectively. “In a Miata, having a nozzle pointed at both the rear of the seat, and the driver’s feet would have increased the amount of time to escape and possibly would have completely extinguished the blaze.” Kyle also said, “Nozzles in the trunk and engine bay are always helpful, but multiple angles are a must in the driver’s compartment.” Furthermore according to Kyle, “the extinguisher trigger should be easy to activate when belted into the driver’s seat. We installed the fire switch alongside our engine kill switch near the passenger window and this was difficult for Randy to pull completely in the heat of the moment. The system still triggered, but a more central location will be used in the future to ensure easy access.”
Kyle also said that AFFF is very easy to clean up. Dry Chemical, not so much. The guys are already hard at work cleaning up the car and replacing the seat and harness while the SPA bottle is going to be inspected and recharged. They will be back racing the Miata at the WRL 24 Hour endurance race on August 27-28 at High Plains Raceway in Colorado.
So based on Kyle, Erich, and Randy’s story, if you don’t have an on board fire system in your race car, it might be time to consider installing one. I want to thank Kyle, Erich, and Randy for sharing their story so others can learn from their experience and thank you to Randy Patten for providing the photos.