Safety: Helmets

Anytime the car is out on track (track day or race day), the drivers are mandated to wear a race helmet. Helmets can be categorized into 1 of the following 3 categories:

Helmet 2

The first helmets were open faced and often referred to as pudding basins (on the ground that they looked like one) and a gradual improvement in safety moved to full face helmets. Typically full face helmets are used in open topped race cars (single seaters, sports cars), with open / partial open face used in closed cockpit cars (rallying, saloon cars).

A helmet comprises of an outer shell which has two layers, typically fibre-reinforced resin over carbon fibre. Under that comes a layer of aramid (usually Kevlar®, the same material used in many bullet-proof vests). Then there is a softer, deformable layer made from polyethylene (a plastic based on polystyrene), covered with the same flame-proof material used in the driver’s overalls.


The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) is generally accepted as being the world governing body for all motorsport (we exclude North America from that statement) and the FIA defines the specifications and lists the approved products relating to the safety aspects (helmets, race suits etc).  The standard by which the main FHR component and the auxiliary components must comply is 8858-2010. All current race helmets must have the facility to install Frontal Head Restraint posts.

In order to be approved for racing, a helmet is subjected to a number of tests, these are summarised below:

  • Impact test: Helmet dropped from set heights onto a metal form.
  • Roll off test: Helmet is tested to check helmet does not roll off drivers head.
  • Dynamic retention test: Tests the helmet strap.
  • Shell penetration test: Metal form is dropped onto the shell.
  • Faceshield penetration test: Checks penetration resistance of the visor.
  • Flame resistance test: Helmet is subjected to  790 degrees centigrade
  • Chin bar test: Used to check the chin bar deflection.

Only when a helmet passes all of the minimum limits is the helmet certified for racing use.

There is a general move towards all drivers using full face helmets as they provide greater frontal protection (nose and mouth) and allow a visor to be fitted (protects the eyes and tinted visors help in bright sunlight). All of the teams drivers are currently using full face helmets.

Helmet 1

Click Here for Frontal Head Restraint

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