Helmet Requirements

Helmet Requirements 2023-04-11T11:51:31-06:00

All participants, passengers and instructors MUST wear a properly certified helmet for ALL on-track activities. This includes open lapping, Time Attack, discovery and orientation laps, testing and tuning, On Track Experience, and lapping behind a pace car.

Minimum Acceptable Helmet Certifications:

  • Snell M2010 or later (motorcycle standard)
  • Snell SA2010 or later (motorsport standard)
  • Snell SAH2010 or later (SA helmet with additional reinforcement for use with HANS devices)
  • ECE R22-05 (European motorcycle standard)
  • FIA 8859-2015 (soon to be required at all FIA-sanctioned international events)
  • FIA 8860-2010 (The current Grand-Daddy of motorsport helmet certifications, mandatory for many professional levels of racing, such as F1, Indy Car & IMSA)

ALL Snell, ECE and FIA helmets bear a rating sticker, typically found by lifting up the helmet liner. You should not need to remove any glued portions of the liner to view the certification sticker. This means if you can’t easily find the sticker, its not certified.

What are the differences between the SA and M standards?

The Snell Memorial Foundation SA standard was designed for competitive auto racing while the M standard was for motorcycling and other motorsports. There are three major differences between them:

  1. SA standard requires pass a flammability test while the M standards do not. Generally speaking, SA and SAH helmets will have a Nomex lining and a yellow Nomex chin strap.
  2. SA standard allows for a narrower visual field than the M standard (Some SA certified helmets may not be legal for street motorcycle use).
  3. SA standards include a rollbar multi-impact test while the M standard does not.
  4. SA2015 and SAH2015 helmets are required to pass much more stringent low-impact testing than M versions (as well as earlier SA versions).

Open Face vs Closed Face

Open face helmets are preferred in cars with air bags. This is because the airbag inflates into the same space as the chin/face protection on a closed face helmet, which pushes the occupant’s head up and back (ouch!) and lessens the effectiveness of the airbag. Closed face helmets are preferred in cars without airbags due to the additional impact protection they provide.

Changes to Snell 2015 SA helmet standards

Snell 2020 SA helmets are now available in the marketplace (it was a slow start, but they are here now). We strongly recommend updating your helmet to a 2020 due to two significant changes that are incorporated in the Snell 2020 SA standards:

1) Head-and-Neck Restraint (HANS) compatibility across all helmets. This comes in the form of the pre-installed M6 hardware that was previously required only on helmets with a Snell/FIA rating (formerly known as the SAH-rating).

2) New impact testing is being used that mimics FIA-testing. Low velocity testing is now required; as is protection against lower impact points, such as strikes against window frames and other lower structures.

Can I use a DOT helmet?

NO.  The DOT standard  (meaning United States Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #218) is considered to be lesser than current Snell Memorial Foundation standards from both functional and compliance perspectives. With respect to function, the DOT standard was developed in 1972 and remains virtually unchanged except for a minor revision to the testing process in 1988; whereas the Snell standard is revised every 5 years and is continually evolving based on new information on how to prevent brain injuries. For example, the latest 2020 Snell standard has significant improvements in low-velocity impact protection and low-lateral impact protection which DOT does not require.

More important, however, is the issue of compliance with the certification standard. Snell independently tests samples of each and every helmet design before providing certification, and then performs ongoing spot-checks of each helmet design throughout its production life. Manufacturers who use the ECE R22-05 standard must also submit their helmets to an independent third-party for similar testing. But with DOT, there is no third-party verification or testing requirements, meaning that companies certify their own helmets. BUT DO THEY?  NHTSA conducts random tests on about 40 sample helmets every year for compliance.  During the years 2004-2008, NHTSA found 28% of so-called DOT-approved helmets failed performance testing.  This is an unacceptable failure rate.

Even without knowing you, we are certain you are worth the cost of a helmet that will actually protect you when you need it.

More information comparing helmets certification standards is available here http://www.smf.org/docs/articles/dot as well as here http://ultimatemotorcycling.com/motorcycle-helmet-standards-explained-dot-ece-22-05-snell/.  Actual NHTSA helmet test results can be found here http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/testing/comply/fmvss218/index-doom_04-25-2013.html.

Can I rent a helmet?

We have a limited number of approved open-face helmets available for rental by novice drivers. However, we simply can NOT guarantee fitment for every head at every event. We strongly recommend that drivers obtain their own properly-fitting helmet, or borrow a properly-fitting helmet, in advance of their track day.