Racing suit technology

Let’s face it: motor racing remains one of the most dangerous sports even if the participants are mainly amateurs living their passion on the side.

But racing suits didn’t start with motor racing. At first, racing drivers were driving wearing their everyday life clothes (which were non-fireproofed, with limited abrasion and which could be potentially caught into parts of the car and yet hard to drag a driver out of the car in case of a crash).

The first ergonomic suits started to appear in the 1950's. Following numerous fatalities in fires, the first fireproofed models would appear in the 1960's. It would take another decade to see the first made-to-measure racing suits and another one to see breathable garments. All-in-all several decades were necessary to get innovated racing suits answering both safety and comfort needs.

Motor racing shouldn't be a threat to drivers but only a passion and as much as safety, comfort is essential. Thus, as active and passive safety exists for a car, it does so for the driver's equipment and especially for racing suits.

Passive safety:

Passive safety defines all the racing suit technical characteristics which will allow to ensure the driver's safety once a fire breaks out. Basically two notions are concerned: fireproofing and climbing out of the car.
Motor racing standards (FIA, SFI, etc…) enable to control these notions well. In a nutshell standards define the fire and heat resistance time limit within which a driver must climb out or be dragged out of the car.
The fiber used in the fabric of most fireproofed racing suits is aramid originally developed by DuPont de Nemours for occupations such as firemen or astronauts where fire risks were involved. This fiber is a real barrier against fire in various and more or less thin configurations depending on sewing processes.
Indeed, racing suits are not mere pieces of clothing. The air being the best insulator against fire, breathable or stretchable fabrics (allowing letting more air between protective layers and the driver)
are far more performing. Therefore two-layer suits made of specially studied fabric are better than three-layer suits made of "basic" fabric. The whole Stand 21 range of racing suits is FIA 8856-2000 and SFI 3.2A Level 5 homologated with only two layers instead of the three used by most of competitors.
Moreover, today's racing suits are one-piece suits and not two-pieces (as in the past) to prevent the flames to find holes and get to the body.
Standards also regulate customized elements. For instance, the FIA standard allows direct embroidery on the outside layer of the suit only because threads used for embroideries are
non-fireproofed and must never be in contact with the driver's skin; it would cause severe burns in case of a fire. This means sponsors embroideries can only be done while manufacturing the suit or by using badges with an ISO 15025A background and sewn with ISO 15025A thread.
However passive safety relies also on the ergonomic aspect of the suit regarding the driver’s dragging out of the car in case of a crash. The suit configuration must prevent any pieces of the suit to be caught on any cockpits elements. Shoulder straps are also necessary and compulsory (within the FIA 8856-2000 standard) for medical staff to pull a driver out of the car. With the HANS appearing, some shoulder straps had to evolve to be able to grab the driver even with this new system on.

Active safety:

As for cars, when we think safety, we think passive safety. We are wrong. The most important notion is actually active safety.
Indeed, if passive safety protects the driver in crashes, active safety prevents those same crashes from happening. That way we win on both sides: less physical damage and less mechanical damage.
It can be done through optimum comfort in the driver’s equipment.

A good racing suit will allow:

- A freedom of movement at key points and optimized by a made-to-measure cut and most of all a stretchable fabric. "Early on, our main care was to adapt the racing suit to the driver" Yves Morizot, Stand 21 chairman and creator, said. "That’s why, in the early 1980's, we entirely focused on developing a completely stretchable and breathable fabric we are still the only one to offer."
- A battle against heat stress which can lead to collapse while racing. The Heat Stress Program started by Stand 21 in 2004 (alongside with a scientific and medical team from around the world involved in various motor racing series), showed that inside a racing car, temperature could easily reach 70°C and humidity 60% whereas air flows were limited due to aerodynamics.

Furthermore, a driver can spend as many as 400 calories per hour which equals an hour of punching bag. If this same driver is wearing a racing suit not letting air or perspiration go through, it creates
heat storage within the suit and an accumulation of sweat on the skin surface. If the skin can no longer breathe, the body core temperature will rise.

Hyperthermia mixed with adrenaline (due to racing) increases driving errors dramatically and even leads to a crash. Meanwhile, heartbeats are intensifying. It is therefore easier to see that the financial difference between a regular suit and a perfectly adapted breathable racing suit is widely refunded due to optimum driving comfort and less damage whether physical and material.

But today besides safety and performance, promotion plays a big role. Indeed a driver whishes to have a good look and because teams must promote themselves and their sponsors, two customization options exist. "At Stand 21, the credo is to dress the racing driver made-to-measure and from head to toe to one’s colors. Stand 21 was the first manufacturer to offer made-to-measure racing suits with full customization." Chad Outz at Stand 21 Georgia said.

Thus, the racing driver, amateur or pro, has all the cards to create the perfect "wardrobe" (large choice of fabric colors, elaborated designs, tremendous embroideries, piping, quilting stitches, etc…)

In Vintage racing where a graphic chart (matching the driver’s  equipment to the colors and era of the car) is so important, it is essential to find the proper racing suit with both optimum safety and comfort. Yesterday’s look and tomorrow's technology are powerful allies.

Tony Dunn
Stand 21 Australia
Mobile: 0404 007 768
Fax: 02 9868 5899
Skype: tony.dunn.stand21
Web: http://www.stand21.com.au/
Email: tony@stand21.com.au

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