When a race competitor uses a safety tank, it has to have been made by a manufacturer that’s been approved by the International Automobile Federation [‘FIA’]. In order to win FIA approval, or homologation, a manufacturer has to have proven that their output is of a consistently high quality, and that it complies with FIA-approved specifications. Manufacturers of FIA-homologated fuel tanks undertake to only deliver tanks that comply with the set standards.
To this end, every tank delivered must be marked with the manufacturer’s name along with the exact specifications to which that tank has been made, the homologation number, the series number and the validity end date. The marking method must be indelible, and must have been previously approved by the FIA in line with the standards in force.
After a five-year period, the ageing of a fuel cell tank results in significant deterioration of its physical properties.
No tank should ever be used more than five years after its date of manufacture unless it has been checked and re-certificated by the manufacturer for a further period of two years at the most.
A cover that’s watertight, made of fireproof material that is easily accessed and can be dismantled only with tools must be installed as part of the protective element of FT3 1999, FT3.5 and FT5 tanks so that validity end dates can be checked.
The fuel tank hose must be made from a material that has been reinforced with polyamide, polyester, aramid or equivalent, and must also be impregnated and coated on both sides with a fuel-resistant elastomer. All these physical properties must be maintained everywhere in the finished tank including in welding, assembly and accessory areas.
All fuel tanks must undergo a pressure test at the manufacturer prior to being delivered to the clients. The amount of pressure to be applied is down to the manufacturer. The exterior surface is to be checked using a diluted soapy solution or equivalent to ensure that there are no leaks.
Fuel tanks must be fitted with a polyurethane foam enclosure that is resistant to the relevant fuel, and that complies with the required standards. The foam must fill at least 80% of the fuel tank volume.
All cars fitted with a tank that has a fuelling channel running across the cockpit section must be fitted with an FIA-homologated check valve. This valve – the kind that has one or two flaps – must be fitted to the fuelling channel on the fuel tank side.
The tank, including the fuelling channel, must be fully insulated using fireproof and watertight partitions that prevent any fuel from getting into the cockpit area or having any contact with the exhaust piping. The cockpit area and fuel tank should be separated by a fireproof and liquid-resistant partition.
Fuel tanks must be effectively protected and very solidly fixed to the car’s shell or chassis.