ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A refueling safety interlock system designed to reduce the potential for pit fires was unveiled before the first IZOD IndyCar Series practice by American Honda and its Honda Performance Development subsidiary.

The system, the first in open-wheel racing, includes a fuel-probe sensor and corresponding electronics in the Engine Control Unit and Gearbox Control Unit. 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.

Maybe a similar application could be used for passenger cars.

Dallara Automobili has included the system into the IndyCar Safety Cell it is designing and producing for the start of the 2012 season. Crews and drivers tested it during the Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park last week.

“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, HPD’s technical director.  “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."

When the sensor detects a connection between the pit lane refueling nozzle and the buckeye, software in the ECU signals the GCU to hold the transmission in neutral and prevents the driver from leaving before the refueling hose is detached from the car.