In the same way, you cannot use your dust musk for welding tasks; you cannot use your bike helmet or any other helmet for car racing. With the racing car keys in your hands, you have the rare chance to find your limits and that of the car at the tracks. However, you also put yourself at risk, and this is why you need a helmet, among other protective gear. Most racing events require that you wear a certified helmet.
The Need for a Certified Helmet
SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) is a solo events organizer with events across the United States. One of their general rules of competition is that the driver and the passenger need to wear helmets.
You do not need any other helmet but a racing car crash helmet. While you do not want to be involved in a crash, you also do not want to race with your head exposed. In case of a crash or a collision, the helmet is strong enough to protect your brain.
Because the brain is so important, you cannot afford to cut corners when it comes to its protection. Spend time looking for the toughest helmet as it acts as your insurance policy. A racing car helmet is to a driver what a gas-powered welding helmet is to a welder. For the welder, the helmet protects them from fumes that might cause cancer and from welding light that can be blinding. For a racer, the helmet keeps the brain intact in case of a crash.
As an automobile racer, your helmet needs to bear a Snell Special Application (SA) certification. The certification shows that the helmet meets all safety standards and may also have been crash-tested.
Not only should you consider the Snell SA certification but also the Snell SA rating. Some of the helmet ratings include:
- D.O.T decal rating (which is for motorcycle helmets)
- M rating (also for motorcycles)
- SA rating (for all racing helmets where the rating indicate the year the helmet was last rated)
- F.I.A rating (for formula one racers and helmet rating in Europe)
If you see a helmet with a Snell SA 2000 rating, it means the helmet was last rated in 2000 and it is since out of date. The rating can hold for up to 12 years after which you need to get a new helmet.
Snell Certification has been observed since 1957 after the death of Pete Snell in a racing accident. Today, until your helmet has the certification, you will not get into a race.
The Snell Memorial Foundation does not come up with helmet designs. Instead, they stipulate the tests that a helmet should pass for certification. One of the tests involves placing a 6.1 kilogram metal head inside the helmet. They then drop the helmet from 11 feet and measure the impact the metal head takes. If the G-force felt (Gravity force) is more than 243, the helmet doesn’t get certification.
Today, most manufacturers design helmets with the Snell certification in mind. However, helmets still fail even with the Snell certification. The D.O.T ratings are government helmet requirements that have been observed since 1966. These requirements seldom change and they may not meet the needs of a racer.
Parts of a Helmet
A helmet has different parts each designed to protect you from different elements. These parts include:
- Fire retardant cloth covering a layer of soft foam
- The thin form above covers a 2-inch dense foam insert
- Outer shell made of fiberglass, carbon fiber or Kevlar (or a combination of two or more of these composite materials
- A layer of gel coat covering the outer shell to ensure a smooth finish and reduce growth of mold
- A layer of retardant paint covering the gel coat
It is better if you try out your first helmet at the store. This way, you get the right fit, and you know the brand to go for next time you want to shop online. Fitment is key if you need to be comfortable in the racing car.
Different Helmet Options
Besides the standard parts above, helmets come with different other features, which might include radio speakers and air vents. Whether you pick a helmet with any of these features is up to you and what you need in a helmet.
Other factors include the nature of the face shield. If you race at night, a clear face shield comes in handy. If you race during a sunny day, a dark face shield comes in handy. You may also need a driver hydration tube integrated into the helmet.
Take your time to choose the right helmet.