Discussions are currently underway about the use of the HANS device in Offshore racing. For those not familiar with it a HANS (Head And Neck Support) device is a type of head restraint that when G-Force loads build during a forward impact, the device assures that the driver’s helmeted head moves with his torso so vulnerable neck and skull bones aren’t overloaded. There are many such devices on the market today, but the Simpson one is probably the most common.
It has been mandatory to wear one since tests were carried out back in 2015. At the time both Eric Stark and Shaun Torrente were asked to review those tests that were led by Gianfranco Venturelli, and to discuss other possible changes that might be made to lower the risk of injury in an XCat crash. Both Stark and Torrente were using a Hybrid head and neck restraint in their F1H2O race boats and stated that they would not race without them. Both had used the restraints for a number of seasons and Torrente said that he had to exit his cockpit a number of times and that he had no issues wearing one. Stark stated that the head and neck restraint probably saved his life during a severe crash in September 2015.
Following the UIM XCat World Championships held last year in the UAE the use of the HANS device is once again being questioned.
When we spoke to Pål Virik Nilsen he said;
Honestly, I would wear it to race in a single seater cockpit but not in XCat. The G-Force experienced when you crash in an F1 or F2 boat is different from that in offshore.
We had a very scary accident in the Team Australia boat when I raced with Brett Luhrmann. I had to help him get out of the cockpit, the HANS device made it a very close moment.
In a recent conversation with the UIM COMINOFF President Jean-Marie Van Lancker, we spoke to him about this subject and he said;
We will change the rules because the drivers would rather pay a five hundred Euro penalty and race without it. So, from 2022 we will make it recommended, not mandatory.’
When the UIM changes the rule, it will only be for the offshore racing categories, but as we have seen in previous years you could still end up with a situation where a country, say for example Italy states in an Advance Race Program that the HANS device is mandatory, and you must race with it.
It’s not confirmed yet when the new rule will become official, but it’s expected to be in place before the XCat 2022 season kicks off in Fujairah.