In this installment on Driver Safety Gear we are going to talk about the importance of racing suits, gloves and shoes. These components of the driver gear protect the driver's body from the neck down to their toes. As we go through this installment, we will talk about each of the items individually.
While all race suits may look the same, there are some very important differences. Besides looking cool and being a great way to advertise for your sponsors, race suits provide a very important function for the driver.
First thing to understand is the differences between a race suit for karting and a race suit for other types of motorsports such as stock car racing, drag racing and motorcycle racing. Race suits come as either Fire Retardant or Non Fire Retardant. Almost every form of professional motorsports racing requires fire retardant suits due to the fact that drivers are belted into their race cars and getting out of them can take more than a few seconds. If there is damage to the race car, it can take even longer for a driver to get out. Therefore, drivers are required to wear a fire retardant suit to protect them in case of a fire in a crash. The suits protects the driver from getting burned and allows them time to get out of the vehicle without suffering burns.
Fire Retardant suits also have differences. When researching suits you will see references to One Layer, Two Layers and Three Layers. Typically, the more layers a race suit has the greater the protection it offers the driver in as far as the TIME the driver has to get out of the race car before getting burned. Fire retardant race suits must have a certification label sewn into it. If the suit does not have the certification label, assume the suit is NOT fire retardant. Here is an example of a fire retardant certification label.
While having a fire retardant suit is a good thing. It may not be required at the karting event you are planning to participate in. Most karting events require that the driver be covered from head to toe in protective clothing. Most karting race suits are Non Fire Retardant and can come as one piece or two piece suits. Choosing between a one piece or two piece suit is usually a personal preference. The one piece suits are usually a little warmer to wear than the two piece suits. Also some drivers find the one piece suits are a little more constrictive than the two piece suits.
There are a lot of race suit manufacturers for you to choose from. First determine what specifications your race suits needs to meet. Then take a look at the different features each manufacturers suit provides. Here are a few recommendation to look for in a race suit. Extra material in the armpit and back area. When sitting in your kart in the driving position, your arms are extended to reach to steering wheel. Having some extra material so the arms of the race suits are not tight against you, will make the world of difference in comfort. Another place where some extra material is useful is on the waist and crotch area. When sitting in the driving position, you don't want your suit to be too tght around your waist or riding up into your crotch area. If it does, it will cause distractions for the driver and make them very uncomfortable. Almost all of the race suit manufacturers have their own sizing chart. Make sure to use the chart the manufacturer provides. When taking measurements, adding a little bit to each measurement won't hurt or make the suit too big.
As with all driver gear, check with the club or organizing officials to see what specifications are required for your race suit.
Race Gloves serve multiple purposes and just like race suits can be either fire retardant or non-fire retardant. Race gloves differ from work gloves as they are longer to cover the entire wrist and the lower half of the forearm. The race gloves go over the sleeves of the race suit to ensure the entire arm of the driver is covered and protected while in the driving position in the kart.
Gloves can me made from different materials and offer different types of features and protection. Some gloves have padding on the palm side of the glove to provide protection from vibration. Other gloves have a harder padding on the backside of the hand and fingers to provide impact protection. Race gloves should be snug on the hands and fingers, while still providing enough room to freely move your fingers. As with race suits, glove manufacturers have sizing charts. Be sure to use their sizing chart and pay extra attention when taking measurements. Improperly fitting gloves can have big impact on the driver and results you are looking for.
Race Shoes are very similar to race gloves and race suits. They provide protection to your driver and can be either fire retardant or non-fire retardant and if not properly fit, can have a big impact on the driver and the result. All race shoes have high tops to provide padding protection to the ankle bone. The shoes should properly fit the feet of the driver. Race shoes usually have thinner soles to allow the driver to have a better feel on the pedals. Laces should be short and tucked under the velcro strap on most shoes. This practice is tucking in the laces is to ensure they don't get caught or snagged on the pedals or some other part of the kart.
Proper race suit, gloves and shoes will provide the best protection and a comfortable racing experience. You have a lot of choices when it comes to race gear so do your homework, ask questions, reach out to manufacturers and most importantly, check with your racing organization and local kart shop. You will finid that the best source of information and help will come from your local kart shop.
In our next installment we will start talking about the importance of Race Craft.
Until then... Go to the Track, Make Friends, Have Fun and Go Home Happy!