PRI Magazine March 2013 : Page 36
does not make any distinction of the type of race car,” said Ben Ryan from DJ Safety, Los Angeles, California, referring to the fact that every single race car driver needs proper safety gear, which offers abundant business opportunities for racing retailers. “The bottom line is keeping the racer safe,” he added. Patrick Utt from RaceQuip, Riverview, Florida, noted, “The mantra for retailers selling safety gear is ‘price and availability.’ Safety equipment is typically the last purchase a racer will make before they go racing, so it’s usually a last-minute buy. It’s imperative for retailers to have stock of the basic items in the most popular sizes. At RaceQuip, we have learned that Santee, California. “Impact has different helmets for different forms of racing, and the most ideal helmet for drag racing may not work for circle track. So being able to know and understand the sanctioning rules and the customers’ needs is key.” Gina Wolcott at CV Products, Thomasville, North Carolina, added, “The first question we always ask the customer is what type of racing they are involved in and does their track or series have any speciﬁc rules. After that, we strive to ﬁrst educate the customer on what he/she should have and then try to match their needs with the best product depending on rules and budget.” “Understand the products, the ratings and, if at all possible, a racer may prefer a red or blue item, but in a bind, they will always take black. So we tell our smaller dealers to just stock black items in sizes medium through x-large, as this will cover 80 percent of your sales. “Successful retailers have learned that they need to sell a value-priced line of safety gear alongside whatever high-end brand they carry,” Utt added. In addition to keeping a basic inventory of safety products, the sales team needs to stay informed about the latest regulations and share the importance of updating safety gear with their customers. “There are many risks involved in racing, and with that comes the importance of keeping your safety equipment up to date and in top shape,” advised Jonathon Ziegleman from Racelite Protection, Boca Raton, Florida. “FIA/SFI and SA ratings on safety equipment have expiration dates you need to follow.” “Knowledge of SFI ratings is the key to making an appropriate purchase. If the driver is only required to wear a single layer suit, inform the customer that the simple addition of Nomex underwear will make him/her substantially safer in the worst-case scenario,” Ryan agreed. Other suggestions for racing retailers include knowing the sanctioning series rules and what the best product is for the customers, noted Kelli Willmore of Impact by Mastercraft Safety, 36 Performance Racing Industry | March 2013
A Heads-Up On The Latest Helmets, Suits & Other Driver Safety Gear
From helmets to shoes, drivers' safety gear continues to improve each year. Manufacturers reveal thir latest products, plus sales tips to keep your customers in the safest gear while being mindful of their budgets.
"Fire does not make any distinction of the type of race car,” said Ben Ryan from DJ Safety, Los Angeles, California, referring to the fact that every single race car driver needs proper safety gear, which offers abundant business opportunities for racing retailers. “The bottom line is keeping the racer safe,” he added.
Patrick Utt from RaceQuip, Riverview, Florida, noted, “The mantra for retailers selling safety gear is ‘price and availability.’ Safety equipment is typically the last purchase a racer will make before they go racing, so it’s usually a last-minute buy. It’s imperative for retailers to have stock of the basic items in the most popular sizes. At RaceQuip, we have learned that a racer may prefer a red or blue item, but in a bind, they will always take black. So we tell our smaller dealers to just stock black items in sizes medium through x-large, as this will cover 80 percent of your sales.
“Successful retailers have learned that they need to sell a value-priced line of safety gear alongside whatever high-end brand they carry,” Utt added.
In addition to keeping a basic inventory of safety products, the sales team needs to stay informed about the latest regulations and share the importance of updating safety gear with their customers.
“There are many risks involved in racing, and with that comes the importance of keeping your safety equipment up to date and in top shape,” advised Jonathon Ziegleman from Racelite Protection, Boca Raton, Florida. “FIA/SFI and SA ratings on safety equipment have expiration dates you need to follow.”
“Knowledge of SFI ratings is the key to making an appropriate purchase. If the driver is only required to wear a single layer suit, inform the customer that the simple addition of Nomex underwear will make him/her substantially safer in the worstcase scenario,” Ryan agreed.
Other suggestions for racing retailers include knowing the sanctioning series rules and what the best product is for the customers, noted Kelli Willmore of Impact by Mastercraft Safety the rules,” stated Jeremy Curtis from G-Force Racing Gear, Roswell, Georgia. “Often, the speed shop has to serve as an interpreter for a rulebook and help the racer get something that is legal as well as appropriate for the class.”
Racing apparel is just like any other clothes you own—they have a lifespan and will wear out over time, according to Utt. “Contrary to what many believe, the fire retardant nature of the fabric does not diminish, but the garment will actually wear out and get thinner as it is laundered, etc. The lifespan is really dependent on frequency of use and cleaning techniques.
“The general rule of thumb on helmet lifespan is five to seven years, depending on how often it is used,” Utt continued. “Over time, your sweat will penetrate the interior of the helmet and begin to break down the liner material. Where and how the helmet is stored also affects the lifespan.”
“It is important to inspect your safety gear after each race,” noted Debbie Bishop from Simpson, Mooresville, North Carolina. “If there are any signs of wear, replace it. If you’re involved in any type of crash, it is important to have your helmet inspected by the manufacturer before going racing again.”
Dennis Taylor at Taylor Motorsports, Anaheim, California, added, “Racers should always look at their safety gear just as the crew looks at vital parts of the race car.”
DJ Safety’s Ryan noted, “Racers should upgrade their safety equipment at the first sign of wear, which can compromise the performance integrity of the product.
Gloves in particular should be replaced every year due to the amount of abuse they endure over the course of the racing season.”
Wolcott added, “Suits, shoes and gloves have no specific shelf life but should be inspected on a regular basis for wear. Helmet specs are updated every five years, and most sanctioning bodies allow you to use a helmet for 10 years.”
Kyle Kietzmann from Bell Racing, Champaign, Illinois, said, “We recommend that racers replace their helmet at least every five years to take advantage of new manufacturing advancements and designs, and also due to the fact that materials can wear down over time with continued use.
“If a racer is involved in an accident with the helmet, we strongly recommend sending the product in for physical inspection to determine if it’s still safe to use as protective equipment.
“Bell also recommends that if the driver sees any evidence of shell delamination or liner compression, or they experience a loss of consciousness they should replace the helmet immediately,” Kietzmann continued. “It is important for racers to be aware of the helmet requirements for the series or tracks they race at to make sure their helmet at least meets the minimum specifications.”
When retailing race helmets, “the most important aspect is that the retailer fit the driver’s head properly,” said Kyle Egkan of HJC Motorsports, La Habra, California. “The helmet needs to fit in order to provide the best protection possible. Other key features to the helmets will include materials that the helmets are made of.”
“When selling helmets, retailers have to realize the proper fit is critical to helmet safety, as helmets that are too large will Shift during an impact and reduce the helmet’s effectiveness in protecting the driver,” agreed Kietzmann. “Many drivers tend to choose helmets that are a size or two too large because they believe they ‘feel’ more comfortable. It is important for retailers to know how to properly size and fit helmets, as this is an important aspect of safety.
“In addition to properly sizing helmets, retailers can add value for their customers by helping them make proper helmet selection in terms of performance, features and budget,” he added.
“Helmets are continually being made lighter with more efficient airflow,” noted Wolcott. “Head and neck restraints have also seen advances with lighter materials and more options to improve fit.”
HJC Motorsports’ most current helmet release is the Fi-10, which is “a ‘top air’ helmet with seven different entry points for forced air,” Egkan explained. “With the use of a filtered air system or fresh air system, the driver has the ability to breathe fresh air. The Fi-10 uses a positive pressure system to flush out small debris and bring fresh air into the helmet.
“The helmet also features a multidirectional oval air tube that will fit the driver’s current stand hose,” he continued. “The oval connection actually makes better contact with the inner diameter of the hose and allows the driver to position the air hose over a fully contained seat.”
Bell Racing offers a full range of Helmets for general forms of racing, and others for specific types of racing. Bell also offers a range of price points, from the Sport, designed for the entrylevel or budget racer, to the advanced all-carbon FIA8860-2010 HP3 and HP Star Infusion helmets designed for the professional racer.
“For 2013, Bell has introduced several models that can be purchased with integrated ear cups to help reduce noise, including the HP Star Infusion, Star Infusion and Infusion EV,” Keitzmann explained. “Bell also has introduced a full line of graphic helmets that allow racers to have the look of a custom painted helmet without spending serious money to have a professional artist paint or wrap the helmet.
He added that Bell has a new line of youth helmets based on the GP.2 design, which can be used in quarter midgets, Jr. Dragsters and karting.
DJ Safety now offers the ProSports line of helmets, “which is SA rated, lightweight, features an aerodynamic design, and is ready for easy HANS/ NecksGen installation,” Ryan said. DJ Safety also offers the SFI 38.1 approved NecksGen head and neck restraint.
Simpson offers 26 different helmet models for all types of racing, including lightweight carbon fiber models at a budget friendly price. In addition, “we have most recently added head and neck restraint technology to our product range,” Bishop explained.
Simpson purchased Safety Solutions and, most recently, HANS, both manufacturers of these devices. Trevor Ashline, also of Simpson, reported that a number of new regulations are being adopted by the FIA. “These include the allowance of the Hybrid Pro head and neck restraint device into the FIA list of approved products,” Ashline said.
“The G-Force Racing Gear CFG helmet is our lightest weight helmet to date,” Curtis noted. “This carbon fiber, SNELL SA-2010 helmet averages 20 percent lighter than our current lineup of full face helmets. Helmet technology is changing more rapidly with lighter composite materials and carbon fiber applications.”
Advancements in materials technology have allowed RaceQuip to produce more efficient and lighter products without a significant increase in price. “Our SA-2010 helmets are a great example of this,” explained Utt. “We have incorporated steel tooling and pre-preg composite molding techniques, along with a hybrid blend of carbon/Kevlar/ s-glass composite weave to achieve a very lightweight auto racing helmet. Our helmets are 15 percent lighter than our previous generation helmets, which provides a huge benefit to the wearer.”
Willmore at Impact noted, “The raw materials used in the manufacturing of our helmets is an important aspect of the overall safety of the product. Impact has an in-house helmet drop-test machine similar to what is used at the SNELL Foundation’s facility.”
Impact is now a source for the NecksGen head and neck restraint. “The Impact NecksGen device provides superior lateral protection from side impacts due to its combination of anchor placement and dual sliding tethers,” Willmore explained.
“The NecksGen is the next generation of head and neck restraint,” added Kevin Heath from NecksGen, El Cajon, California. “The backbone of the unit is its innovative helmet to restraint chassis tethering system. NecksGen utilizes a unique feature that does not attach the tether to the helmet on a fixed point. Instead, the single tether slides through a buckle mounted to the helmet. Using two low tether mounting points and with two upper sliding points, the forces generated by the head moving forward, or at any angle, can be equally distributed through our load paths on the unit.
“For optimum comfort, Nomex-covered, body-forming shoulder pads contour to the driver’s torso profile,” Heath continued. “In the event of an impact, the body moves forward and compresses the pads and Kevlar webbing between the body and the seatbelts. This compression tensions up the otherwise flexible device, creating a strong platform for the energy to be transferred from the head and helmet to the seatbelts.
“Since the NecksGen is a two-part design, it pivots at the shoulder area, and the rear section can be adjusted from 10–40 degrees, allowing the driver to fine tune the unit for seat or helmet clearance. This results in one size fitting most seat angles,” Heath added.
Racelite Protection designs and manufactures driver and race car protection products from optical visor tearoff protection to CAD-designed paint protection products for helmets to the entire Road to Indy fleet of formula cars.
“When it comes to visor tearoffs and driver safety, we’re strict on quality control and cut zero corners,” Ziegelman explained. “Each particular shield we design a tearoff model for is carefully designed to fit within the exact measurements of OE specifications.
“Unlike other substrates on the market today mainly used for constant disposal, we specialize in more of the open top car market where drivers are faced with high speed and adverse driving conditions, where visor substrates not only need to be optically clear, but need to be strong enough to protect against road debris and can withstand the impact of flying objects,” he continued. “With your average tearoff layering done in three to five per install, we can provide an additional 40–60 mil of added protection in front of a factory face shield, and even more added protection with our extended post anchors we provide for several Indy car drivers.”
Suits, Gloves & More
“Driving suits and fire-restraint garments are improving with lighter, more breathable fabrics,” Wolcott explained. “Gloves that have outside stitching to increase driver comfort have recently received SFI approval, making them legal with more sanctioning bodies.”
OMP Racing in Miami, Florida, has been focusing on breathability and lightening the weight of its products. OMP recently debuted the Dry System solution, a registered utility model that makes OMP’s underwear and suit combination unique, noted Gabriele Pedone.
“ The Dry System facilitates the thermal regulation of the body, reducing the feeling of fatigue and improving the driver’s performance through high breathability areas in the suit and underwear,” Pedone said. “New breathable material inserts are strategically located on the back and lumbar for maximum cooling in hot conditions.
“The OMP One line of breathable underwear facilitates the body thermoregulation, thanks to the innovative weave of the inserts. Strategically positioned, maintaining their own fireretardant properties (according to the FIA standard 8856-2000 and SFI 3.3),” he continued. “The OMP One line suits have breathable inserts in focused areas of greater perspiration. The inserts’ ability to cool is enhanced when worn with the OMP One breathable underwear.”
OMP One shoes feature new soles and foot support construction, which includes comfort foam for pressure reduction, heel support in low density material for minimum weight, and more.
Taylor Motorsports makes custom fire suits in-house. “We do it all under our roof; nothing is subbed out. We can control everything from artwork, design, fabrics, colors, logos, embroidery, etc. All of our safety gear is made in the USA. Made for racers by racers,” Taylor said.
DJ Safety offers SFI/5 custom fire suits with all the bells and whistles at very attractive prices, according to Ryan. In addition, “our Funny Car boot features a rigid sole and does not require an inner shoe, and has been one of our most anticipated items,” he said.
Simpson’s Bishop noted, “Our Pro-Lite series fire suits offer SFI.15 and SFI.20 extreme fire protection while weighing in at 25 percent reduction over previous drag suits. The suits are thinner and more comfortable as well, while not sacrificing any protective benefits.
“Our Hole Shot glove and shoe are 40 percent lighter than the competition, very wearable for SFI.20 protection,” she said.
“One of the most notable advancements in our Impact driving suits is the materials used in the construction of the suit,” Willmore said. “Because the fabrics are evolving, Impact has been able to achieve the desired level of protection outlined by the SFI and FIA specification with lighter weight and more breathable fabrics. For the SFI.15 and 20 rated suits, Impact has been able to exceed the spec’s TPP criteria with one less layer of fabric because of the advancements in our raw materials. The benefit to the racers, especially the drag racers with notoriously heavy and bulky suits, is the suits are far lighter than previous versions and more breathable, too, which also minimizes heat exhaustion.”
The entire line of G-Force Racing Gear safety products is being refocused on style and functionality. “They need a product that meets all specs, is affordable, but also meets all needs with comfort and style,” Curtis said.
RaceQuip offers an extended range of sizes as off-the-shelf items. “This has become increasingly important as more and more series and sanctions are requiring crew members to wear fire-retardant gear. We stock suits to 5XL, Nomex gloves to 3XL, helmets to 3XL and SFI rated shoes to size 20,” Utt explained. “Of course, at the other end of the spectrum, we offer kids’ suits down to size five and shoes down to size one.”
Momo Automotive Accessories in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, has many new products. “For 2013, Momo is introducing new safety suits, Air Tech Driver underwear and Advanced Driver Cooling System (ADC),” Marc Phaneuf explained. “The new XL One Driver suit is the driver in our suit collection. FIA and SFI homologated, the suit is triple layer, super lightweight and made with Nomex Tela. The design is simple but the performance is top.
“The all-new Air Tech underwear is super breathable, quick drying and lightweight to maximize driver comfort,” he added. “We have the full range of Momo Advanced Driver Cooling (ADC) designed to keep the driver cool and focused. This is a bladder system built into a shirt that allows cool water to flow through, which provides an effective solution to managing core body temperature for competitive driving.”