Helmets…the first thing you buy when it comes to motorsport

HelmetsArticle Written by: Joseph Burton-Harris

When it comes to safety the most important thing you will wear is your helmet. It is an absolute requirement before you step into anything that reaches great speeds. The technological advancements that have been made over the past 100 years have taken us from a leather rag with goggles to highly sophisticated full face pieces of art. Today the top of the line helmets are composed of a Nomex inner lining, an inner shell of polystyrene and finally a carbon fibre outer shell. That is just the helmet itself.

Lets talk about some of the many accessories that can be bought with it…

Visor: A polycarbonate visor is needed to give vision through the face of the helmet as well as protect the driver’s eyes from the outside elements. At high speeds even the smallest rock or bug can blind you. There are also tinted visors to protect the driver’s eyes from sunlight. New developments in visors are anti-fog which stops the loss of vision during moist conditions.

HANS device clips: Clips that enable the use of a HANS (Head And Neck Support) device, mandatory for most open-wheel categories of motorsport including Formula Mazda.

PED kit: The PED kit (Performance Enhancing Device) such as a front and rear spoiler are not only designed to make the helmet ‘look good’ but to stabilize the head at high speeds aka stop the drivers head from being thrown around by the wind at 200kph. I personally would not get a helmet without a PED kit especially in Formula Mazda.

Air inlets or vents: These are holes in the top and front of the helmet with polycarbonate aerodynamic vents that direct air to the drivers head to keep the driver cool.

Drink Bottle: A drink bottle can be fitted inside the car with a small tube funnelled up to the driver’s mouth through his suit. Many helmets discussed below offer inlet points for water systems. This is personally a requirement for me on hot days.

Radio: A radio device once fitted to the car can be connected by cables to the side of the driver’s helmet and finally routed to a microphone just in front of the driver’s mouth. If you are preparing for Formula Mazda or an open-wheel category, the team radio becomes very useful.

Shield: The newest development in helmet technology is the shield that sits on the top of a driver’s visor. Following the incident with Felipe Massa during qualifying at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix a flaw was detected in helmets around the world. A weak/soft spot was detected between the top of the visor and its connection to the helmet. To solve this issue a polycarbonate plate has been placed in the weak spot in order to prevent head injuries like Massa’s from occurring again.

So what helmet is right for you?? This all depends on your preferences for design, head shape, what you’re driving and most of all what you’re willing to spend on safety. An important point is that there are big differences between motorcycle helmets and auto racing helmets. Motorcycle helmets are not fireproof because when the rider falls off he simply slides away from the burning bike. In auto racing, however, the driver is strapped in so make sure if you’re racing cars you get an ‘auto racing’ helmet and bike riders need a ‘motorcycle’ helmet. Here are some popular brands to think about. All prices are guideline only as at 30th April 2015

Stilo: Stilo’s ST5/ST4 range is the top of the line in the auto racing helmet market. There are multiple versions of the ST5/ST4 ranging from Karting, Rally, GT all the way up to the $6,500 AUD ST5 Formula Version. Read More about Stilo here.

Arai: Arai’s GP Range is the most popular amongst the auto racing world. Once again like Stilo a range spanning across Karting, Rally, GT and Formula covers everything you would possibly need. Arai’s top of the line helmet is the GP-6 RC $5,000 AUD used by Formula one drivers such as Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo. Arai also offers great karting helmets such as the SK-6 (Seniors) and CK-6 (Juniors). Here are some of the features of the GP6- ERD (Emergency Release Design cheek pads), Shield Screw Kit, Top Ventilation Duct Set, PED Kit, HANS Anchors and a Clear Protective Coating.

Bell: Bell has the largest range of helmets spanning all the way to dirt and is highly popular around the speedway paddock. The Bell range consists of the ‘Advanced Series’, ‘Pro Series’, ‘Sport Series’, ‘Rally Series’, ‘Karting Series’ and ‘Classic Series. The new Bell HP7 $4,000 AUD is the top of the line Bell product which has features such as Super high strength carbon composite shell combined with titanium hardware. Other features include: Optical grade injected Double Screen Anti Fog (DSAF) visor for perfect vision under most severe circumstances; Powerful top and chin bar ventilations thanks to a total of no less than 14 air intakes and extraction channels; Optimized shell & shield design resulting in improved aerodynamic behaviour and energy absorbing capacities-available in 2 versions: with or without duckbill (chin spoiler). Bell is used in Formula 1 by Romain Grosjean, Kimi Raikkonen and Pastor Maldonado.

Another few honourable mentions are:

Schuberth’s ‘SF1’ $5,000 AUD
Simpson’s ‘VUDO Pro’ $2,000 AUD
OMP’s ‘GP CARBON 8860’ $2,000 AUD
Sparco’s ‘WTX-9 AIR’ $1,700 AUD
IMPACT’s ‘Carbon Fibre’ Series $1,500 AUD

When you need your helmet – it is worth every cent you pay for safety.

I hope this article has been useful in helping you invest wisely in this, the most important item you will ever buy.