We recently took a look at how to get started in motorsport racing when it comes to racing on a track as well as getting your race license. However, aside from physically racing, it’s just as important to prepare yourself, as a driver, with personal safety equipment that’s going to protect you in the event of a collision or fire.
It’s important to ensure that your equipment is appropriate and inline with any national or FIA standard regulations too. Criteria is always subject to change so make sure you’re up to date with the latest FIA homologations.
Individual drivers are responsible for ensuring their own safety, but there are set standards that need to be met. One of the most important of these is racewear - appropriate, flame resistant clothing, for heat protection against direct flame and radiant heat, is mandatory.
Race underwear is one of the most important parts of your racewear kit. As well as ensuring that your garments meet regulation, consideration should be taken to material, features and fit, too.
As racing underwear is directly next to your skin — in the event of a fire, it is your last line of defence – and so racing underwear increases your protection against serious burns by up to 50%. Any fabrics other than those developed to provide fire protection (such as Nomex) should be avoided because they will transmit the heat to your skin or melt and stick to it.
Socks & gloves
When choosing your first pair of racing gloves or just opting for some new ones, it’s all about feel and how secure the grip is on the steering wheel. Make sure that gloves and socks are flame resistant. It’s also an important consideration, when it comes to gloves, to go for a bright, contrasting colour compared to the car exterior, so gloves are easily noticed by marshals in case you have to signal problems on the grid or while driving.
Drivers’ race suit
Always go for the best that you can afford, that’s FIA approved and flame resistant. A race suit protects your life and your skin from severe burns in the event of a fire. Race suits aren’t entirely fireproof either, but rather fire retardant and on average, each layer usually allows for 15 seconds of protection.
Overalls should not fit you tightly anywhere as a looser fit gives better fire protection and comfort – and always wear your own overalls. Do not rely on borrowed equipment and ensure you’re checking for any areas of wear and tear.
Not sure on what racesuit to go for? Here’s our guide to choosing a racing suit.
If you’re looking to confirm if your garment is FIA approved, download the Technical List for homologation FIA 8856-2000 here.
Just like with the rest of your racewear, your footwear needs to be flame resistant, too. Ensure that they’re a good, comfortable fit and not too big so that there’s movement on the pedals as you drive. Overshoes are also useful in wet service areas and paddocks to keep your racing footwear dry for when you’re back in the car.
Rally specific clothing
If you’re specifically rally racing we would recommend having a rally jacket or windbreaker jacket and a hat to keep you warm in the service areas whilst not racing.
Choosing a racing helmet can be a bit of a minefield with so many options on the market, across both brands and race categories, too. When it comes to starting to look for a new helmet, whether that’s because of wear and tear or after a collision, or you simply need a new fit, we’d recommend taking your time to try on new helmets across different brands first.
Size is an important factor when choosing a racing helmet and you want to get as tight a fit as comfortable. If a racing helmet is too big then it can begin to move and rotate around a driver’s head, as soon as the motion of driving begins and impact from the road beneath. It could shift to the front of the head, impair vision and eliminate the safety it provides, for both you and other driver’s on the road upon impact.
Not sure what helmet is for you? Check out our full guide for choosing and fitting a racing helmet, as well as our top 5 Stilo race and rally helmets.
Noise is definitely an unseen and sometimes overlooked danger in motorsports. With the potential for prolonged exposure to high decibel levels, this can lead to loss of hearing or tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Unlike a broken limb, damaged hearing does not recover and so we recommend always wearing good ear defenders for your hearing protection.
That’s everything when it comes to key personal equipment for driver safety in Motorsport. Take a look at our guide to choosing a racing harness and how to make your car as driver-friendly as possible.