Safety Equipment for Kart Racing
$100 – $1000 (more for painting)
Helmets are the most visible piece of safety equipment and are required in most any form of motorsports. For many racers, the helmet is the signature statement for their style, with wild paint jobs containing all the colors of the rainbow. The investment some of these racers have in their helmets is often higher than many local club racers have in their race karts. The rules however stipulate the construction of the helmets meet standards the help insure the best protection for the intended use, not the style. IKF rules require that helmets meet the Snell Memorial Foundation standard. At this writing, the most current standard is SNELL 2000 approved.
Starting In 2004 they must be the newest standard. When selecting a helmet, look for ONE of the three following standards accepted in kart racing. There will be a label either on or in the helmet – Snell M2000, Snell SA2000, or Snell K98. The “M” tells you the helmet meets the standard for motorcycles. The SA is for “Specialty Automotive” or car racing. The K is for karting, and the year 98 is still the newest kart standard and will be legal in 2004 and most likely for two to four more years. M, SA, K are the three standards accepted for IKF kart racing. Full coverage helmets are recommended, and some racing organizations will only allow this type.
Proper fit is the most important thing to get when choosing a helmet. More important than brand or color by far. The Snell Memorial Foundation recommends the following procedure for testing fit: Position the helmet on your head so that it sits low on your forehead; if you can’t see the edge of the brim at the extreme upper range of your vision, the helmet is probably out of place. Adjust the retention system so that when in use, it will hold the helmet firmly in place. This positioning and adjusting should be repeated to obtain the very best result possible. Try to remove the helmet without undoing the retention system closures. If the helmet comes off or shifts over your eyes, readjust and try again. If no adjustment seems to work, this helmet is not for you; try another.
Helmets for younger children are often hard to fit. Although some children can fit adult helmets, their little necks are not yet capable of supporting the weight. There are manufactures working on light- weight models at this time. Snell is researching what balance between weight and protection is right for kids. For more information see http://www.smf.org .
Don’t but a used helmet. You don’t know the history. Has it taken a big hit? Snell recommends that helmets be replace every 5 years. They will brake down over time from use, sweat, chemicals used to clean them, etc. This is an important investment in your safety.
$90-$375 for a full suit.
Surprisingly, there are very little standards for suits in the US. The minimum requirement is a leather coat and jeans. Or you can purchase jackets made out of the same nylon or Cordura material that full suits are made from. The primary difference between car racing suit and a Kart racing suit, is the car suit is flame resistant and the kart suit is abrasion resistant. You have to ask yourself, do I want to be sliding along the pavement with just some old jeans between the asphalt and my skin? Personally, I only recommend full one piece suits. Even though you can purchase two-piece jacket/pants combinations, they do not always protect your midsection when sliding along the ground.
Suits are specified by the fabric type and thread count. The thickest suits that offer the most protection are 1000 denier Cordura. Most commercial suits are a little thinner than this, trying to balance weight, comfort, and protection. Just like helmets, suits can be simple single color safety tools, or a wearable billboard. Fit again is important. While wearing the suit you need to be able to squat all the way to the ground. This will assure that you will not bind up in areas you DON’T want pain while in the kart. Make sure there is room in the shoulder so that the suit will allow you movement while steering. Some suits have reinforced knees and/or heat shields on the elbows. From there the options go into a wide range of mostly style or appearance decisions. A good full service kart shop can help you with your choice and fit. Wash these suits by hand or on gentle cycles with mild detergents. And remember, the grease on your kart’s chain is GOING to find it’s way to your suit. Dark colors look better longer, but are warmer on a hot day.
IKF requires gloves that cover the entire hand. There are many fabrics and styles available that will do the job. As always, fit is important. They should be snug so they stay in place, but not be tight when you close your hand around the wheel. Use your best judgment when it comes to fabric, some brands use too thin of fabric for the back of the hand. Look for added protection on knuckles, palm, wrist, fingertips and forearm. Again, think about what you want covering your hand in the event you find yourself sliding down the pavement. Even though they show dirt, I like a light or bright colored glove as they are more visible when a driver throws his hand in the air to signal danger ahead.
Every kart racing organization I am aware of requires neck collars. Their intent is to reduce neck injuries but they also do a good job of protecting the collarbone from the chin bar on a full-face helmet. There are many styles and colors available. Look for on that provides 360-degree protection as opposed to the horseshoe style. The foam used inside should be fairly dense, not soft like furniture foam. Also check that the Velcro that secures the collar around the neck will hold. You will be black flagged if your collar flies off during competition. The newest designs have a thicker section at the very base of the neck to provide a more stable base around the helmet. You should check the fit of your collar with your helmet on. If it is too thick, you will limit the rotation of the head. Too thin and it offers less protection.
What you have – $300
Shoes need to fully cover the foot and ankle. While the fancy racing shoes look cool and do offer great feel on the pedals, they are very expensive. Leather high-top tennis shoes are perfectly fine for racing. Wrestling shoes are a great solution for giving the racing shoe look and feel for a fraction of the cost. Make sure the laces are secured so they will not get caught in the petals on the kart.
This is the only optional piece of equipment on this list. Kart racing generates very high G-forces during cornering. Rib injuries are probably the most common affliction to hit a kart racer. Rib protection devices are usually vests worn around the mid-section of the body. The lower priced models have a layer of foam around the rib area and usually just help the comfort level during competition. The higher priced models will have harder plastic strips intended to spread the energy transmitted from the seat to a larger area of the rib cage. These models will do a better job if you were to take a big hit such as an off track excursion. I highly recommend (from personal experience) the use of a good rib vest. Nothing will ruin your race season faster than painful ribs that take months to heal.