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Episode 23

The Ultimate Guide To Kartwear

Do you know your Snell from your Bell? Your HANS from your hands? Your Nomex from your Spandex? This is The Ultimate Guide to Racewear!

Part 2/3 – Kartwear

Welcome back, and to part 2 of “The Ultimate Guide” to racewear! Now that, after reading last week’s episode, your head is suitably safe (for the time being, at least), it’s time to protect the rest of your body. This week, we’re looking at race suits, boots and gloves, and what exactly you need to go racing.

DISCLAIMER

The following information is a summary compiled from the MotorsportUK 2020 Yearbook. If you are unsure about purchasing equipment, please refer to the Yearbook, and ask a reputable retailer. The following guide, although correct to the best of my knowledge, should not be taken as gospel.
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Luckily, unlike with last week’s helmet standards, your choices of equipment are much simpler when it comes to your body. The main difference, however, is whether your karting or racing. Whereas with helmets you can use a racing-standard lid for karting, the same is not applicable for race suits. As a result, this week we’re focusing on Karting, and next week we’ll take a look at Racing.

When it comes to karting – specifically, in this case, “short circuit” karting – fireproof protection isn’t exactly necessary. After all, if your kart is on fire, you could simply hop out and run away. No, the injury that karting race suits protect against is the abrasion of the skin, in the event of ejection from your kart. A lovely thought, skin shredding against tarmac. Probably best to avoid it, really.

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As a result, karting overalls are CIK homologated for abrasion, more specifically they must meet standard No. 2001-1 or No. 2013-1, at level 1 or level 2. Whether the kart suit you need has to be level 2 homologated depends on which series you’re competing in, so if you’re on a tight budget it’s best to check with the organisers as to whether you can get away with a cheaper Level 1 suit or not.

For adult size suits, the cheapest on the market right now is the OMP KS-4, at just under £130, although thanks to clearance offers you can currently pick up a Level 2 certified Alpinestars KMX-9 V2 for just over the £130 mark. If you like to stand out, however, both OMP and Sparco offer truly customisable suit designs for more than £400, although in comparison to race suits that doesn’t seem like horrendous value, to be honest. For a mid-range offering, this Sparco Kerb suit is Level 2 certified, features lots of features and comes in good, not overtly garish colour schemes, too, all for less than £200.

Max Verstappen & Pierre Gasly, karting on ice

The MotorsportUK Karting regulations also specify that “complete” (i.e not fingerless etc) gloves must be worn at all times, alongside boots “which must cover and protect the ankles.” The Yearbook, however, does not mention that these gloves and boots have to meet any standards, meaning you could theoretically drive with gardening gloves and wellies on, although I wouldn’t recommend it.

If you’re looking for proper karting gloves and boots, gloves can start from £30 for these OMP’s, ranging all the way to more than £110 for some Sparco Tide gloves. Personally, I would choose the Sparco Arrow gloves at £65, but that’s because I have a very particular way in which I like my gloves to fit me, and these filled my brief perfectly. When it comes to boots, these start at £65 for some Sparco’s, but can cost north of £200, such as these OMP’s. At the £100 mark, Alpinestars produce their Tech 1-K boots, which offer good value for money.

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When it comes to Karting “underwear,” the products themselves offer no driving-specific protection. Instead, they are marketed as aiding breathability and muscular compression. In reality, any brand of sporting base-layer will provide the same properties, and so I would suggest wearing whatever you feel most comfortable in, even if that’s just a normal t-shirt and jeans.

One thing you may want to consider, though, is a rib protector. Some circuits can have potholes or bumps and, when in a kart with no suspension, your body can be thrown around a little. Especially if you’re on the slimmer side. Generally, because of where the top of the seat is, your ribs take the most punishment, so they’re the most commonly protected area. As with everything, there’s many different products at many different price-points that offer varying degrees of protection, all the way from this Sparco vest-thing at £85 to the all-singing, all-dancing, all-carbon Stilo Curva, at £265. As a mid-budget offering, the Sparco Rib Pro K-7 is a good bet, as it offers full wrap-around protection at just £135.

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Other extras that you could invest in are wet-suits, which go over your karting suit to waterproof it, waterproof over-boots for, well, your boots, and neck braces (which, although not necessary for adults, are pretty vital for children).

In summary, then, in order to compete in a MotorsportUK Karting series, you must have a homologated, CIK 2001-1 or 2013-1 suit, along with complete gloves and boots that protect your ankles. You also need a helmet that meets the requirements explained in last week’s #RacingGrind post, but everything else is optional. Now you know what to buy, have fun in whatever karting series you’re racing in, but most importantly, stay safe!

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