Accident Data Recorders (ADRs) are set to be used in more championships than ever before following the development of increasingly affordable versions of this important technology by the FIA Institute and FIA Foundation.

In March 2015, the FIA World Motor Sport Council announced that ADRs will become mandatory for all cars in its national FIA Formula 4 Championships around the world. The low-cost formula was introduced in 2014 as an entry-level single-seater series and all eight of the regional championships operating under F4 rules will incorporate the devices.

This is in addition to the recent addition of ADRs in the FIA GT championships, as well as Germany’s popular DTM series and the FIA Formula 3 European Championship.

It is all part of the Institute’s ongoing efforts to provide the technology in affordable form for all motor racing championships. Although Formula One, IRL, the World Rally Championship, and NASCAR were already using ADRs, for many lower-level series the cost of the system had proved prohibitive. To address this problem, the FIA Institute has worked over the last few years to ensure that more affordable ADR units are available. It succeeded in negotiating for providers such as EM Motorsport, Pi Delphi and MoTec to offer ADRs at an affordable price.

These ‘black boxes’ can hugely help with safety development by providing specific crash data to safety researchers. “The benefit is understanding more about what happens in accidents and how the safety systems and crash structures respond during a crash,” said research consultant Andy Mellor. “It also helps us understand how the driver’s safety equipment is performing and allows us to more fully understand the limits concerning drivers’ tolerance to injury.”

A key concern was to ensure that the lower-cost ADRs still provided adequate data from accidents, but the results gained from the championships already utilising the systems have proved their effectiveness.

The ADRs were pivotal in explaining the forces involved in Natacha Gachnang’s World GT1 accident in Abu Dhabi in April 2010, when, after a brake failure, her Ford GT struck barriers head-on at more than 180km/h – an accident from which she escaped with just a broken right leg. They also greatly assisted research into the fiery startline crash in the Barbagallo V8 Supercars race in May 2011. In that incident Steve Owen hit the stalled car of Karl Reindler at approximately 150km/h, recording an impact of 37g, leaving Reindler with minor burns to his hands but no more serious injuries.

All future data from these ADRs will be fed into the FIA World Accident Database, another Foundation-backed project. It will bring together information from motor racing accidents worldwide into one searchable database. By studying those accidents the safety researchers can identify development areas and deliver safety improvements.

Last year, the FIA and FIA Institute launched the beta version of this database. A cross-section of FIA National Sporting Authorities, including all accredited FIA Institute Regional Training Providers, were invited to participate in the pilot project to test and develop the database. During the year they have been entering data from any fatalities and serious accidents that have occurred in their territory.

Accident data is collected across all levels of the sport from Formula One and the World Rally Championship to Club Racing and Karting. The more data available to researchers, the clearer the picture and the more effective the safety strategy.
All of the data will be housed in a strictly secure system, ensuring that only safety researchers have access to confidential information.

The information in the database can include video footage, photographs, ADR data, medical reports and technical reports from motor racing accidents. This will have a huge safety benefit for championships as the FIA can more accurately target research and development activities. Furthermore, it will support more precise safety strategies for the FIA and its member clubs.