Safety on the circuit: Maintaining the safety cars

FIA WEC safety cars at Spa-Francorchamps

WEC-Magazin recently got an exclusive look behind the scenes at the WEC to find out more about the important role René Röhn and the safety cars play in the championship.

The safety cars utilised in the FIA WEC are no run-of-the-mill vehicles. They begin life as regular Porsche road cars, before being sent to Manthey Racing to be prepared for their special job. Special components added to the car include additional lighting, radio communications and emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers and intercom systems for flag communications).

The safety cars are maintained during the race weekends and spend the time between races at Manthey Racing in Meuspath, a stone’s throw from the Nürburgring. René Röhn and his team have an important responsibility to make sure the cars are always in flawless working order. Two members of the team travel to each WEC race to provide support at the track.

Service intervals and refuelling

The safety cars have largely the same service intervals as normal road-going models. However, oil and brake fluids are changed after every race to make sure everything is functioning as it should. The cars are refuelled using fuel canisters by a two-man team equipped with fireproof clothing. During refuelling, the safety car is switched off. Otherwise, the engine is on and idling for the entire race so that the safety car team can respond to on-track incidents as soon as possible.

Despite spending so much time idling, the safety cars have the same life cycles as regular cars. In Le Mans, three Porsche 911s serve as safety cars, while a further six Porsche Panameras are available as track and medical cars.

Transport and fuel

The safety cars are transported from circuit to circuit in special trucks, or by container ship to the flyaway races. The same cars are used in each case, and are not swapped out between FIA WEC rounds.

The Porsche 911s use 98 or 102 octane fuel, depending on what is available at the respective race. When idling, the cars use roughly 5 litres of fuel per hour, but amounts vary depending on whether the air conditioning is activated. Fuel levels are checked every two hours and if necessary the cars are refuelled to make sure the tanks are full.

Away from the limelight and the on-track action, René Röhn and his team play a vital role in ensuring that the FIA WEC remains a safe place to go racing. Only through meticulous preparation are the safety cars able to do their job and neutralise races at a moment’s notice. Without the safety cars and safety team in place, no race can take place.

For more information on the work of the safety car driver, check out our interview with Yannick Dalmas.