As with any sport, you can only participate in motorsport if you have the right kit. Getting kitted out is costly but necessary, so you’ll need to budget for racewear and safety devices as part of the cost of your first season of racing. This article will give you a good idea of what to expect, but also how to buy smart and get the best deal.
The Kit List
Racewear falls into 3 categories: the head & neck, the outer layer, and the under layer. All racewear has to meet minimum standards of safety to be approved for use in competitive racing. In Europe and the UK, this is known as FIA homologation. What this means is that you can’t simply buy any race suit or helmet and expect to race in it, as it needs to carry a homologation mark to be eligible. Bear this in mind when looking at getting your gear. Whilst some items may be manufactured to equivalent international safety standards (e.g. SFI / Snell), these are not always accepted by UK competitions and their eligibility will vary from series to series. So always check with your chosen Championship before buying anything that is not specifically FIA homologated!
You will need a helmet, of course, and a Frontal Head Restraint device that is now mandatory in the vast majority of motorsport categories. Even if it’s not mandatory in your chosen series, I would highly recommend getting a FHR anyway. Your head and spine are at great risk during an accident, so you should make every effort to protect them.
Your ‘outer layer’ will comprise your race suit, gloves and boots. All of these will need to be flame resistant. The ‘under layer’ also needs to be flame resistant, and includes such fashionable pieces as the long johns and long-sleeved vest, full-face balaclava and socks. Once you’ve got all your racewear, you’ll be good to go.
Getting The Best Price
The best bit of advice I can give you is give yourself time to shop around. Racewear prices are usually consistent across all vendors so it can be tricky to find something that’s at a good price. Every major retailer will have clearance sales from time to time, and these are great sources of high-quality racewear at cut-down prices. Usually end-of-line items will be a specific colour and size, so it’s often down to luck whether you come across an item that’s right for you, but if you do you can save up to 50% on the price of buying it elsewhere. Clearance sales don’t come around often though, so that’s why it’s important to leave plenty of time to monitor retailers’ online stores and have a good idea of what you’re looking for well in advance.
The other place to find great deals on racewear is at trade shows, such as Autosport International. Many retailers will offer show discounts, and this is generally the most cost-effective way to get your gear. My advice here is always haggle with the vendor. If you’re enthusiastic about the products they’re selling and build a good rapport with the sales representative, they are usually willing to give a bit extra off in addition to the standard discount, particularly if you’re buying in bulk. I managed to bag an extra 10% off the show price of my kit this year, so it’s definitely worth doing.
What You Should Budget
Let’s take a step back at this point and think about why we buy racewear. It’s not just because the regulations say we have to. Racewear is our last line of defence against serious injury in the event of an accident or car failure. It’s designed to save our life if we need it to. So for all this talk of getting a good price on your purchases, don’t lose sight of the fact that you can’t afford to compromise on quality, whatever your budget. I’ve deliberately not talked about second-hand kit in this article, because I believe that you should never buy second-hand gear.
Taking that into account, I would strongly recommend setting yourself a budget and sticking to it. If you manage to get a great discount on your purchases, then make up the difference by opting for a higher spec of safety wear. For example if you’ve saved £200 on your suit, gloves and boots, look at spending £200 more than you originally budgeted on your helmet or FHR.
If you’re embarking on your first year in motorsport, I would set a budget of £1,500 for all your racewear. Again, you could probably spend less than this if you went for the lowest-spec items, but I advise you never to skrimp on safety. Some factors may demand that you budget more, for example if your series requires pit-to-car radio then you will need a more expensive spec of helmet, but the vast majority of first-timers should be looking to kit themselves out for somewhere in this range.
A full set of racewear, including helmet and FHR: £1,500
So now that you’ve passed your test and kitted yourself out, it’s time to go racing! Every series will have different requirements and different costs, but the categories of cost will be similar across all types of Championship. The final article in this series will look at what costs you need to be aware of when starting out in motorsport, as not all of them are obvious.