Honda Improves Pit Lane Safety with Refueling Interlock

American Honda and its Honda Performance Development (HPD) subsidiary today unveiled a unique refueling safety interlock system designed to reduce the potential for pit fires and injuries resulting from drivers leaving their pit boxes with refueling equipment still attached in the IZOD IndyCar Series – a cause of many fires in the past.

HPD has developed a new, inter-connected system that includes a fuel-probe sensor and corresponding electronics in the Engine Control Unit (ECU) and Gearbox Control Unit (GCU). The system prevents first gear from being engaged in the "paddle shift" system while the refueling hose is still attached to the car in the pit lane.

"Every year, as a result of human error or mechanical malfunction, there are instances of drivers leaving their pit boxes while the refueling hose is still attached to the car," said Roger Griffiths, technical director at HPD. "All of these incidents create the potential for a fire in the pits and injuries to the driver, crew members, or others in the pit-lane area.

"It was just such an incident – one that resulted in serious injuries during an American Le Mans Series race in 2008 – that led to the development of this system. The system has been in development at HPD since 2009 for use in both the IZOD IndyCar Series and endurance sports-car racing. We're very pleased to be introducing it here at St. Petersburg."

At the heart of the system is a new fuel-probe electronic sensor, installed in the refueling "buckeye" – or inlet valve – on an IndyCar chassis. When the sensor detects a connection between the pit-lane refueling nozzle and the buckeye, software in the Engine Control Unit signals the Gearbox Control Unit to place, or hold, the transmission in neutral, and prevents the driver from driving off before the refueling hose is detached from the car.

Developed throughout the 2009 and 2010 racing seasons, the system has been repeatedly tested during IZOD IndyCar Series practice sessions and test days to address potential reliability issues, while HPD engineers worked to incorporate the new feature into the Honda Indy V8-powered Dallara chassis currently used by all teams in the series.

Honda is providing every team in the IZOD IndyCar Series with this important safety device, free of charge, and will provide its design, free of charge, to other racing series that request the device.

Honda has been a fixture in North American open-wheel racing since 1994, and has played an active role in the growth of the IZOD IndyCar Series – as both a Manufacturers' Championship competitor and single engine supplier – since joining the series in 2003.

The company scored its first Indianapolis 500 victory in 2004 with Buddy Rice; Manufacturers' championships in 2004 & '05; and became engine supplier to the entire IZOD IndyCar Series in 2006. Honda has supplied racing engines to the entire 33-car Indianapolis 500 starting field every year since 2006, and for a record five consecutive years, there has not been a single engine failure in the '500'. The 2010 Indianapolis 500 marked Honda's 100th race win as a manufacturer and engine supplier in IZOD IndyCar Series competition.

Honda Performance Development (HPD) is the Honda racing company within North America. Founded in 1993, and located in Santa Clarita, Calif., HPD is the technical operations center for high-performance Honda racing cars and engines. HPD is the single engine supplier to the IZOD IndyCar Series and spearheaded championship-winning efforts in the 2009-2010 American Le Mans Series, 2010 Le Mans Series and the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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