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Episode 24

The Ultimate Guide To Racewear

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 3/3 – Racewear

This week we’re going to be wrapping up the mini-series that is “The Ultimate Guide” to racewear, by focusing on what you need to adorn whilst on-track for a MotorsportUK national race meeting. So far in the series we had a look at how to pick out a suitable helmet for your head, followed by what to wear to stay safe whilst karting. This week, we’re focusing on the go-kart’s bigger sibling, the car.

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.

In summary, to go racing in the UK, you will need to wear flame-resistant overalls, with flame-resistant underwear also strongly recommended. So far, much like karting, just with flame-resistance rather than abrasion-resistance. However, with cars, you also need to clip on a frontal head restraint (FHR, also commonly known as HANS device) to the back of your helmet, in order to protect your neck from whiplash (or worse) in the event of, well, a sudden deceleration as a result of external factors…

Specifically speaking, when it comes to racing, your race suits need to be homologated to the FIA standard 8856-2000, or 8856-2018. There are a few exceptions where you can get away with wearing the FIA 1986 standard or a select few others, but if you stick to 8856-2000 or 8856-2018 you can’t go wrong. For a brand-new suit that complies, you’re looking at spending around £270 for an entry-level OMP suit, however prices for top-of-the-range Formula 1 level suits can fetch prices of £1,500, just like this Alpinestars Hypertech V2! My personal pick would be the Sparco Sprint, at £345 it’s a perfect entry-level option, and I even own an older generation of the same suit myself!

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The 2020 Yearbook, with regards to the rest of a competitor’s racewear, states “competitors are also strongly advised to wear flame-resistant gloves, socks, balaclavas and underwear.” However, when it comes to series-specific regulations, these pieces of equipment are often made mandatory, and it’s always best to prioritise your self-preservation, anyway.

Therefore, when looking at gloves, you’re looking at between £65 and £180. They are homologated to the same standards as the race suits, so it’s simple to remember what you’re looking for, too. At the budget end of the scale, you can pick up these Sparco Land gloves, or you could splash out on the Sparco Tide gloves at the opposite end of the spectrum. My pick, though, are the Sparco Arrow gloves, matching my pick from the karting gloves last week. They are £130, so firmly in the mid-range, however to me they felt extremely comfortable, so well worth the cost.

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When it comes to boots, the creative departments have gone a bit mad in comparison to the race suits and gloves. Take these Sparco X-Light boots for example. At £400, they’re the most expensive new boots on the market, and to me the design looks to have been very much inspired by current football boots, with the ankle sock. On the budget end, you can get the Sparco Slalon RB-3.1, at just over £100. They’re much more understated in their appearance, even foregoing the velcro ankle strap. A solid mid-range option could be the OMP Tecnica Evo’s, at £180, with their suede outer giving a very luxurious look.

Underneath your overalls, an extra layer of fire-proofing is a great way to ensure you’re not grilled in the unfortunate instance of a fire, and this can be done by wearing FIA 8856-2000/8856-2018 underwear. Prices for a complete set of balaclava, top, leggings and socks could set you back more than £400 if you brought the OMP Lamborghini collection equipment (linked top, leggings, balaclava and socks), but the basics only have to cost £170 all in (top, leggings, balaclava, socks). I feel that the best value equipment, though, comes out at £225 (top, leggings, balaclava, socks). I picked these because they have flat seams, meaning they’re more comfortable when pressed onto your body, but still relatively cheap.

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The last item the talk about is the Frontal Head Restraint (or Head And Neck Support) device (FHR/HANS). These are homologated to the FIA 8858-2010 helmet standard, so maybe I should’ve mentioned them two weeks ago, but here we are. In essence, their purpose is to stop the neck from hyperextension in a crash, by limiting the movement of the head. They sit on your shoulders, being clamped down by the seat belts, and clip to a pair of posts on the back of your helmet.

Because they’re all pretty similar in their form, the only thing you need to look out for is the recline angle. The recline angle is how much the top of the FHR device is tilted away from its base, and the recline angle you need depends on how much you lean back in your car. For most cars (i.e cars based on a production chassis) a 20 degree recline angle is most suited for you, whereas if you race in single-seaters you probably require a 30 degree recline, as you’re sat closer to a lying-down position.

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FHR devices can range in price from £215 for the entry level Stand21 Club, up to £1350 for the Stand21 Featherlite, which is made entirely from carbon-fibre, and boasts users such as Lewis Hamilton. If you want the enjoyable aesthetic of the carbon weave without the 4-figure price tag, the Schroth Pro is the cheapest carbon-fibre model on the market, at a shade over £900.

And there you have it, everything you need to buy if you want to go racing. In summary, your equipment needs to meet the FIA 8856-2000 or FIA 8856-2018 standards, and your FHR device needs to meet the FIA 8858-2010 homologation. As long as what you buy fits these standards, it’s thoroughly up to you how little or how much you spend, as long as you’re staying safe!

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