Most racing sanctioned events will require basic safety gear, the first one being a helmet. If you go to an Auto Cross the minimum required helmet would probably be an “M” designated helmet which is for motorcycles. This works well for Auto Cross because of the relatively low speeds and less dangerous environment. But for those who need helmets for Auto racing, they will need a helmet with the “SA” rating, or Special Application.
Helmets with the SA rating have a number of features required for car racing such as:
- Fire resistant lined interior helmet.
- Fire resistant chin strap.
- For helmets with a visor, it must be able to withstand a shot from a lead pellet. This simulates flying debris in open cockpit enviroments.
- Visors must be flame resistant within a specified time.
- Visors must have a positive hold down.
Also, Snell recommends that the helmet be changed after 5 years of ownership regardless of the amount of usage. Heat, humidity, and other factors cannot affect the safety of the helmet.
If you are buying a helmet, look inside the helmet for the SA tag. This tag is orange colored and has a unique serial number for each helmet. It can be difficult to locate the tag because it can be hidden under padding.
Ratings for Automotive use are done every 5 years, similar to what Snell recommends for changing helmets. The current tag is SA2005 (2005 Model year was last approval year) and all auto helmets conform to that spec will have that tag. Snell typically comes out with the next tag late in the model year, so around late October 2010 there will start to be some SA2010 helmets available.
Please keep in mind that you will be able to use a SA2005 for a few more years, usually 5 years for most sanctioning bodies after the release of newest SA approval. Most people fear that they wasted their money buy buying a SA2005 helmet with the new approval coming around the corner. SCCA, NASA, etc realize that people would waste money so they allow the helmets to be used after the latest approval.