As well as protecting heads, our car racing helmet buyer's guide can also offer some protection for the wallet. We have lids here ranging from $259 to $6,000, with features from simple straps and visors to intercoms and ingenious methods of emergency removal. All are approved to Snell SA2010 standards. Have fun, be safe.
1. Stand 21 IVOS-Double Duty
This full carbon helmet has an aramid inner section and comes with a clear visor and a peak, so it can be used in open- as well as closed-cockpit cars. The visor is 0.12 of an inch (3 mm) thick and tested for fire and impact. The lining is a durable expanded polypropylene. It's available in a couple of forms: The Snell SA2010-spec version comes with HANS M6 terminal post anchors and weighs 3.2 pounds. The FIA 8860-2010 version also has those M6 anchors and weighs 3.4 pounds. The top wing is an optional extra on either model. Stand 21 also has this ingenious item called a Lid Lifter that is part of a Nomex balaclava and allows a helmet to be lifted off gently, without risking further damage to a driver who's been in a crash; this could be the best $110 you ever spent on race gear. The SA2010 model starts at $2,099. The FIA 8860-spec equivalent goes from $3,090.
2. OMP Speed 10
A large aperture and a sunshade, plus full face protection, mean this helmet offers the best of both worlds. There's even a hole for a drinking tube. As well as those vents across the chin, there are two vents at the top and two at the back. The sun shield can be swapped for a conventional full-face visor if desired. It also does the whole variable cheek padding thing. Composite shell, weighs 5 pounds. Pre-drilled for HANS M6 clips. $599.
3. Arai GP-5W
This is one of Arai's most popular helmets for car racers. It has a large aperture (3.5 inches top to bottom), two IC Duct-2 vents at the front, and a Delta Duct around the back, plus pre-installed threaded M6 female studs for the HANS post anchor system. The proprietary Lightweight Super Complex Laminate System (SCLS) construction offsets any weight issue with having a larger shield. The cheek pads are removable for washing and replaceable with pads of various thicknesses for a snug custom fit. Kevlar straps; Nomex liner. $899.95.
4. Schuberth SF1
Anyone who follows Formula One will recognize the Schuberth name, especially if they're fans of Fernando Alonso. That F1 helmet expertise is now available to the rest of us, which amounts to 18 layers of Toray T1000 carbon fiber (the kind used in aerospace) and carbon aramid hybrid fiber compressed and hardened into an optimal aerodynamic shape. The polycarbonate visor is 0.15 of an inch thick (4 mm) and it's bulletproof. The visor locks tight. With 10 air inlets and 6 outlets, 2.6 gallons per second of fresh air blow through the SF1 at 62 mph. The chin strap is flame-resistant aramid fiber. Naturally, it's set up for HANS. A middle size two weighs 3.25 pounds. Certified for Snell SA2010 and FIA 8860-2004. The purchase process involves receiving a personalized fit. $6,000, including three visors of different tints, extra visor hardware, a set of Racing Optics tear-offs, and a deluxe helmet bag.
5. OMP Sport
OMP's Sport range is the company's cheaper line. But this fiberglass helmet isn't too basic. It still has removable cheek pads, soft-knit fire-retardant lining, air vents and is HANS ready. It comes in white only and weighs 3.4 pounds. Consider it a safe but economical option. $259.
6. HJC Si-12R
A super-light composite weave means this helmet weighs just 3.2 pounds. Its anti-fog/anti-scratch shield provides 95 percent UV protection, while the moisture-wicking lining is removable and washable. The front top vent is titanium and is just part of the helmet's advanced ventilation system. The version pictured here is finished in Rubbertone Black. Comes with its own hardshell case and is pre-drilled for HANS posts. Noise-reducing ear cups are optional and sold separately. $675.99.
7. Bell Mag-1 Rally
This open-face helmet is constructed with a composite shell, features removable cheek pads, and its big selling point is that it comes with a noise-canceling intercom microphone on an adjustable boom. It also has ultra-thin integrated speakers (no ear cups), and the intercom setup is fully compatible with Peltor systems. HANS anchors are pre-installed, so it's ready to rally as soon as it comes out of the box. $459.95.
8. Bell Sport
Bell is one of the giants on Planet Helmet, and several of its lids go deep into the four figures. But the company's Sport line is aimed at the entry-level racer whose budget isn't on a par with the whole Ferrari F1 team. Yet it still has pre-drilled HANS points, decent ventilation, and interchangeable cheek pads. All for less than 3 pounds in weight. The composite shell has a standard aperture, protected by a 281 SRV shield and the lower-profile SRV-2 pivot system. $299.95. bellracing.com
Our deepest thanks to Sube Sports of Huntington Beach, California, for supplying some of our "models" (Bell, Arai, OMP) and stocking a ton of cool racing-related stuff. Contact them on (714) 847-1501 or through subesports.com.