Next exit: gravel bed
How does the Bilster Berg team ensure that nothing happens between the Mutkurve and the pit lane? A safety ABC.
There has never been a big crash at the BILSTER Berg. Frank Igelbrinck, the head of track safety, is not the only one who is happy about that. “On the other hand, we have small accidents all the time,” says the 50-year-old. Most of them happen in the Mausefalle: this is where most of the trackday participants end up off the track. So far, only two drivers have had to be treated in hospital, and neither of them suffered any permanent injuries. So far, only two drivers have had to be treated in hospital, and neither of them suffered any permanent injuries. Neither did the motorcyclist who broke his collarbone in a crash. “The few accidents show that you can’t underestimate our track,” says Igelbrinck, “but their rarity also shows that our safety measures are working.” And they range from A to Z:
At trackdays, it is common for drivers to bring their own cars. Therefore, these are also relevant to the system for any safety concept. “The series components of most cars are designed for the demands of public transport,” says Frank Igelbrinck. “This means that if you drive them out of the intended temperature working range for a longer period of time, excessive wear can occur.” Brakes, tyres and oil levels in particular should therefore be checked: “It’s best to have the vehicle freshly serviced before it starts at BILSTER BERG.”
A safety briefing of all drivers is mandatory before every trackday. “A good briefing should be completed in 15 minutes, because the drivers are usually nervous before a trackday and their receptiveness is therefore limited,” says the safety chief. The professionals at Bilster Berg work with rhetorical skills here: sending key messages, working with speech melody, dialogue instead of frontal instruction.
FIA safety fences
The safety fences around the track are certified according to the strict specifications of the automobile umbrella organisation FIA. Their regulations give millimetre-precise specifications for all three protective lines: The first is a triple guardrail or concrete wall – at least one metre high. If a vehicle breaks through this line, it is stopped by the 2.50-metre-high safety fence behind it, which also stops tyres or debris flying through the air. The third line, which keeps spectators at a distance in vulnerable areas, consists of a fence or barrier at least 1.20 metres high.
According to the permit, up to 50 vehicles are allowed on the Bilster Berg track at the same time. If one has an accident, the others have to be warned within seconds. “Communication with the drivers is handled by the safety marshals, who are stationed at the track posts waving their flags,” explains Igelbrinck. A red flag, for example, means: immediately reduce your speed to below 50 km/h and leave the track.
Only those who are physically fit drive safely. “Only then you can keep your concentration high,” says Frank Igelbrinck. It is not without reason that many accidents happen at the end of a race day when one’s attention wanes. “That’s why I advise everyone to come to the trackday well rested and to take enough breaks in between to drink plenty of water.”
If a vehicle does end up in the crash barrier, help is immediately at hand. At every trackday, an ambulance is on site, manned by paramedics. At motorbike events, there is even an emergency doctor on standby at the track.
Race Control Centre
From its command centre, Race Control has everything under control: 26 cameras show every corner of the track. Via radio, the track control is in contact with all marshals and decides immediately what to do in an emergency.
Adjusting the steering wheel and seat correctly also increases driving safety. “Many people have the backrest set far too flat. When you take a bend, your body moves out of the seat and you tear the steering wheel,” explains Frank Igelbrinck. Braking technique and driving around curves also need to be learned. You can learn these aspects as well as the best driving line on the track at “Race Track Trainings”, which Bilster Berg offers regularly. The next dates can be found here: To the Bilster Berg events calendar.
The fact that all safety standards are adhered to at Bilster Berg is permanently and meticulously checked internally and annually by the German Motorsport Association.
Text: Michael Aust (Zimmermann Editorial)