Safety Equipment

I’m starting the selection process for the various safety equipment needed.  This includes:

  • Racing Seat
  • Safety Harness
  • Head and Neck restraint

Head and Neck Restraint

These things all work together to provide a safe driver.  It is important that they all be picked together.  Central to the system is the Head and Neck restraint.  Each device levies different contraints on the seat and or belts.  minimum criteria for me is SFI 38.1 rating.  SFI is one of standardizing bodies for safety equipment in motorsports.  38.1 is the SFI Head and Neck Restraint Systems specification.

http://www.sfifoundation.com/

http://www.racesafetydata.info/SFI381_09.pdf

There are some devices available that do not meet the SFI standard.  But, I will not be considering those.  Here are the SFI 38.1 certified devices (as of this writing):

All of the above devices are excellent, and will protect you in an off or serious crash.  They have all been proven on racing circuits around the world.  Selecting between them becomes a matter of personal preference.

Leatt-Brace is very popular in the motor-cross, and motorcycling community.  But, it is hard to find much information on the Leatt-Brace Moto-R device.  It is a device without a tether.  From what I can tell looking at pictures it is effectively a brace that fits under the lip of the helmet and transfers the forces to your torso.  Sort of like a giant plastic neck collar.  I couldn’t even find a reference to it on the Leatt-Brace website.  I found a couple of vendors that sell it, that’s about it.  I like the idea, but the fact that I can’t find info on their own website.  The comments suggest that rotational mobility is “uncompromised”, while the device protects from impacts in the full 360 degree range.  At $700, that’s pretty ideal.

HANS has been around since the beginning.  They even helped write the original SFI specifications.  They are essentially the original.  The device fits under your harness, has a high collar, and a strap that wraps around the collar and attaches to the helmet.  The HANS device essentially provides neck protection in a front impact, and little to no protection in a side impact.  So, it is necessary to use a halo type seat if side impact protection is desired.  The original HANS had fixed tethers from the collar.  This limited rotating the head to look around.  They now have a single strap that wraps from one post to the other. This lets the strap slide and therefore the head can rotate.  HANS has both Pro and Sport models.  The Pro is lighter, and costs $1100…while the sport is about $600.

The safety solutions devices don’t use the harness to hold it in place.  They have their own straps that wrap around the torso.  There are two basic models the R3, and the Hybrid the R3 is a front impact only type of device, and the Hybrid is a front and angular impact device.  These devices are large and bulky.  They all have a special pad that fits behind the driver to eliminate the excess pressure of the device on the back.  All the various models run around $1000+.

The DefNder device is like a cross between the HANS and the Hybrid device.  It uses the harness to hold the device to the torso similar to the HANS.  It also has side straps to protect the neck in a side/angular impact, and does not require a halo seat for non-frontal impacts. The DefNDef device runs about $600.

For me it comes down to either the leatt-Brace or the DefNDer.  I like both because they have good mobility, and more than one axis of protection.  In the end, I’ll probably go with the DefNDer when it comes time to buy one, simply because I can access more information about it.  As I said above, it bothers me that leatt-Brace doesn’t even list the product on their site.  If that changes between now and the time I purchase a device, then we will see.  In either case, they both allow me to not purchase a halo seat.  The defNDer is compatible with both 2” and 3” belts, as is the leatt-brace.


Seat

There are a million different seats to choose from several different vendors: Sparco, Kirkey, Ultrashield.  There are two basic types of material that seats are made of: composite, and metal.  Composite seats are generally FIA rated, and are designed to transfer all the crash load into the floor.  The seat upright is designed to flex.  Metal seats (typically aluminum) are designed to be rigidly mounted to the car and cage using 1 or more braces.  Composite seats have a maximum life (currently 5 years).  Metal seats do not.

Most Sparco seats are composite of one type or another (fiberglass, carbon fiber, etc).  Both ultrshield and Kirkey make a large selection of aluminum seats.

For any head and neck system to work properly the torso needs to be properly restrained from lateral motion.  This is not just a function of the belt-system, but also of the seat.  Namely, the lower-back side-braces, and the shoulder braces.  The Ultrashield Spec Miata seat does not have sholder supports.  The Kirkey Model 47 has torso supports, and shoulder supports.  As does the Ultrashield Pro Road Race seat.  It really comes down to these two seats.

l’ve driven in both, I found the Kirkey a little more comfortable that the USPR.


Harness

Again there are a bunch of options.  From latch type, to number of restraint points, to webbing width, etc.  There are budget manufacturers like G-Force, and the suppliers of F-1 like Schroth and Safecraft.  5pt vs. 6pt comes down to comfort, and seat compatibility.  Some seats do not have holes suitable for a 6pt harness.  6pt harness is more comfortable, and safer on the family jewels in the event of a crash.  So, I’ve settled on a 6pt harness and if money were no object, the safecraft and the Schroth would be a no question.  But, these are $400 vs. the G-force and the like which are less than half that price.

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