How to choose a Racing Harness

How to choose a Racing Harness

A racing harness is one of the most important safety items required for a racing driver. There are plenty of options to consider when buying a new racing harness and our team rounded up key questions asked, to help in making your decision and narrowing down your options.

It’s worth noting, as a general principal, it is advised that any safety item: helmet, safety harness, seats etc. which have been involved within a severe accident should be replaced.

FIA Regulations

If you’re competing at a national level within the UK, you’ll need to refer to your chosen championship’s specific regulations, when it comes to the harnesses that are fit for use. More often than not, you will need a harness carrying an FIA homologation.

Homologations are a class of safety requirements and tests by the FIA that harness manufacturers must meet when designing a new harness. The possibility of collision means that a harness has to be able to endure impact and protecting the driver is essential. The homologations are currently FIA Standard 8854-1998 (for 4-point harness) and FIA Standard 8853-2016 (for 6-point harness). 

Please note: As stated in the Motorsport UK Yearbook 2020,  “Each strap of the harness carries a label that states the expiry date of the harness when used in FIA regulated events” and so, any harness carrying the FIA 8853-2016 homologation has a prescribed lifespan of 5 years (plus the year of manufacture) when used in FIA regulated events.

Any UK governed by Motorsport UK events, the harnesses are eligible for use for 10 years use. Whereas any FIA 8854-1998 harnesses remain acceptable for 5 years (plus the year of manufacture).

What’s the difference between 6-point, 5-point and 4-point harnesses?

One of the biggest factors to consider when choosing which point harness to go for is submarining. This is when the body slips beneath the harness belts upon impact and can cause serious injury to the driver. It’s a major concern with 4-point harnesses - whilst they meet the minimum requirements under FIA homologation regulations - it’s a massive drawback for the use of the 4-point harness.

QSP Racing Harnesses

The 5-point harness was introduced with an extra belt between the legs and was originally designed to prevent a driver from submarining. However, there was the  added pain to consider, with the belt pressed between a driver's legs upon collision instead, not to mention some discomfort when seated. The 5-point harness is now only manufactured with a Nascar style buckle and is not FIA approved.

When it comes to the 6-point harness, it’s the safest option and most commonly used by drivers. It features two sub belts that meet at a cam lock, with belts around the hips and legs too. This prevents submarining as the driver cannot slip beneath the belt and is more comfortable for the driver in the instance of a collision. It offers a lot more stability with webbing of its belts which come in either 2” or 3” inch widths.

QSP Racing Harnesses

When it comes to non-FIA approved harnesses (such as the 5-point harness), although the belts generally have the same webbing and fixings as the FIA approved harnesses, non-FIA approved harnesses are not suitable for use in FIA or Motorsport UK governed championships. The type of buckles used are not homologated by the FIA regulations.

Why are there differences in belt width?

2” inch width belts are a comfortable fit for smaller drivers and if a FHR (Front Head Restraint) device is used, the straps fit better over the wings, whereas the 3” inch belts are a little bulkier and will overlap the device. It’s best to look at the head and neck restraint device you’re using to see which width belt they will accept, as many will not accommodate a 3” inch belt.

If that’s not a problem then the difference really falls to the size of the driver and whereas 3” inch belts might feel a little less comfortable, for a larger driver, the belt offers more support.

QSP Racing Harnesses width comparison

Is there any difference in cam lock buckles?

When choosing a racing harness, most buckles are cam lock and will either be a turn or a lever adjustment. A turn type cam lock means that the belts are detached by turning a knob, whereas the lever type cam lock uses a lever to detach the harness belts.

Is it possible to adjust strap length instantly?

Every harness features adjusters to ensure a driver is securely strapped into the seat. However, not all harnesses come with the ability to be able to adjust the strap length when in the vehicle itself by the driver.

The QSP 6-point FIA FHR Endurance Harness does have the advantage of being able to change length of the lap-straps when in the driver's seat. The adjusters on this model are placed next to the buckle and it’s especially advantageous for the changing of drivers during an event, without losing too much time in the pitlane.

Adjusters can be especially stubborn and when seated, it's difficult for a driver to achieve the angle to be able to adjust the strap themselves. Too loose or too tight a strap can be uncomfortable and less than ideal from a safety point of view, too. Some harnesses do have a “pull up” system rather than “pull down” lap adjustment and “pull up” makes it easier for the driver to adjust themselves.

You might also find that some harnesses have steel or aluminium adjusters. Steel adjusters are heavier, can be stiffer when trying to adjust and can inevitably lead to lost time. Whereas aluminum adjusters are lighter, much easier to loosen and are becoming more common on harnesses. It’s worth checking as some harnesses do come with both steel and aluminum adjusters, and steel is often found on the lap straps where you need them to be easier to release.

What are the different types of harness fitting?

Racing harnesses can be bolt-in, clip-in, wrap-around or a mixture. A bolt-in fitting is a flat plate and a single bolt hole whereas wrap-around doesn’t come with metal fittings on the shoulder straps, so that the harness can be wrapped around the harness bar within a roll cage/frame gusset. A clip-in fitting is similar to that of a carabiner and clips onto an eye bolt fitting instead. Fittings are heavily dependent on the vehicle.

We offer a wide range of FIA-Approved and Non-FIA approved harnesses, but if you’re unsure of which harness you need - based on your requirements - simply get in touch via our online form or call 0333 344 2682 and we’d be more than happy to help you work through the options available.