Tips on Choosing the Right Racing Helmet
As a rule auto racing safety equipment is rated in accordance with SFI specifications. When it comes to helmest they are rated by the Snell Memorial Foundation which states whether a particular model is recommended to be used in race competitions and allowed by a motorsports sanctioning body. Such information is also available in rule books for NHRA, IHRA and some other racing organizations. Keep in mind that in circle track racing, rules and requirements may vary depending on the racetrack. DOT-approved and Snell-approved helmets are different. Helmets approved only by the Department of Transportation cannot be accepted for the use in racing classes.
Snell-rated helmets are classified as:
Snell SA Helmets (Snell SA2015 or SA2010)
SA means Sports Application. Such helmets are of the highest quality and are considered to be professional-grade. Designed specifically for auto racing they ensure the best impact resistance and fire protection.
Snell M Helmets (Snell M2015 or M2010)
Designed exclusively for motorcycle racing, M-rated helmets provide less protection than SA-rated helmets.
Snell K Helmets (Snell K2015 or K2010)
These helmets used for karting meet the highest level of impact standards similar to those provided by SA helmets, but the level of fire-retardant protection is inferior.
There are some differences between SA-rated helmets and M-rated ones. The former require flammability testing while the latter don't. Unlike M-rated helmets all SA-rated helmets pass a roll bar impact test.
However, the SA-rated helmets are characterized by a narrower field of vision compared by the M-rated ones, and that is why some SA models aren't street legal.
Helmet Design Overview
There are four aspects that impact helmet design and use: field of vision, face shield material, internal lining and ventilation. Field of vision determines the use of a given helmet. As a rule, a drag racing helmet features a much narrower field of vision than circle track and motorcycle helmets.
It should be noted that the majority of racing helmets come with a fire-retardant Nomex liner. This feature determines whether a particular helmet can be used in particular motorsports events or racetracks. Modern face shields are made from polycarbonate. This glasslike polymer ensures transparency and flexibility. In addition, this material is tough, scratch resistant and offers ultra-violet light screening. All these criteria meet Snell's rigorous standards. However, a helmet with good insulating properties traps heat and this makes driving uncomfortable and impedes breathing. So drivers who are going to wear a helmet for long stretches had better opt for a helmet with a fresh-air system that supplies fresh air and helps prevent driver feeling exhausted.
There are also helmets with a restraint system that limit a driver's head movement during racing. They will have a SAH2015 Snell rating instead of the standard SA2015 rating. If you are going to purchase such helmet consider checking its attachment points.
Choose a Helmet That Fits
It is important to choose a helmet that fits perfectly. It should fit tight to make you feel as if an evenly distributed pressure keeps being exerted around your head and cheeks. After you fasten a helmet fastened, try to pull it off your head in any direction. If the helmet can move considerably, it is too big and consequently will fail to ensure the proper level of protection.