So we’ve just got ourselves a racing kart, and are eagerly excited to get out on the race track! But we need to get our race gear organised, so we’re going to dive into the essentials every race bag should have:
The most important factor when it comes to racing as this provides the safety to your number 1 tool: your brain! When it comes to racing, there is a lot of different helmets that vary in price, but this is one area I wouldn’t skimp on pricing. When looking at the top brands, you tend to see Arai & Bell as the market leaders, closely followed by Stilo. I personally have used a Bell Racing helmet for the last decade and the comfort and light weight make this a must have in any race bag. A lot of Formula 1 & Supercars drivers use Bell and if I were advising people which way to look this is it for me! Arai provide a few in their range, with the children’s sizing having a slightly larger opening for the visor which I think is fantastic for kids to give them more awareness.
When looking at motorcycle brands, these tend to be half the pricing of Arai, Bell & Stilo but after some incidents I’ve seen these look pretty beaten up afterwards. Parents and drivers should be aware that after a major accident, a helmet should be replaced (if you have landed on your head after a roll over) as helmets are only designed to take one large impact.
An integral part of our race equipment is our suit. When it comes to pricing vs quality there is less variance than a helmet in overall protection and performance. From time to time, drivers can get thrown from a kart and I have no doubt a higher technology race suit will provide more protection, but it is rare for suits to be torn open even with cheaper versions. The racing suit is a good opportunity to showcase your sponsors and brands on and is your number 1 tool when it comes to sponsorship and branding. You’ll see drivers and teams have suits showcasing their sponsors which in return may get a monetary benefit or products. For kids who tend to grow out of things very quickly, I wouldn’t recommend spending a lot of money to begin with, as they tend to run around and play games at racing circuits so it’s like anything…. Kids will damage their equipment.
There’s so many brands on the market, Alpinestars, OMP, HRX, ORG, FreeM who all sell top end suits that definitely stand out from the pack. If you’re looking to try get commercial benefits, I would look at one of the above. When I first started, I just used a secondhand suit to get me started until I grew out of it. As my dad would always say, “it’s not the race suit that makes you fast!”
This is an important factor when it comes to grip over safety. Most gloves are quite thin and have similar protection. Motocross gloves has knuckle protectors whereas karting typically doesn’t. So, you want to look at a glove that is lightweight and has a good grip to hold the wheel for the duration of your race. I
have used multiple brands in my time (Aplinestars, Adidas, Sparco & Minus273). Some drivers have chosen to go to a car racing glove (which has nomex material and is fireproof) these offer more comfort due to the material but come at an added expense. Another thing to keep in mind is when it rains, and the type of glove you have. I would recommend using a pair of dishwashing gloves (yes the $5 dishwashing gloves from the supermarket) to place over the top of your gloves as these are waterproof and give you the best grip when the steering wheel is wet.
When it comes to racing boots, I have found that its more the comfort of walking around the pit area over what you feel when you’re driving. So, in that case, kids who are growing out of shoes every 3-6 months and kick things around the pits, you don’t need the flashiest boots in my opinion. Again, the leading brands are: Alpinestars, Sparco, OMP, Puma and Adidas. Get something that you’re comfortable in, can grow into if they’re young and you’re away. To get by in the wet conditions, I have previously used some scuba diving boots that are zip up. These are generally over the ankle so are suitable and they keep the water from getting to your socks, which on a cold day is miserable! People may even look to wrap a plastic bag over their feet and tape around the edges to stop water from entering their shoes.
Now depending on how abrasive a circuit is, you will find around 80% of drivers using a rib protector to handle the bumps & g-forces that are extracted through the seat when cornering. Drivers who don’t use a rib protector may come in bruised and battered from the seat bolts, lip of the seat or even where the seat
stays attach (in some cases). There is a whole variety of protection included when it comes to the different style of protectors, but I would advise for drivers to look at one that has some sort of carbon reinforcement. This takes the full brunt of the g-force which you don’t then feel in your ribs. From experience, when you have bruised ribs, it isn’t a joy to drive and your performance on track is hindered as you’re sucking in the deep breaths each corner. My go-to is the Bengio brand. Having never used a rib vest when I was racing full time, to then in serious pain after a long layoff, I was advised to try the Bengio protector. Ever since, I use it every time I drive now and pain free. Other leading brands are Tillet, P1 & Greyhound. Especially for kids who don’t have much meat around their rib cage, it’s a must! Try stick away from just the foam protectors
as they don’t offer the support of the carbon fibre. If you need extra protection, add some additional foam / rubber to your seat to fill in any additional gap between driver & seat.
More accustomed to the cadets & junior categories as they don’t have the muscle strength to hold their neck upright when cornering with the added weight of a helmet on their head. It’s also a great safety measure where some countries make it mandatory for the cadet categories. When I began, I just used a
foam filled neck brace, but in hindsight this didn’t offer the same level of support as what the new style motocross braces do. Leatt is a leading brand in this area as it offers support to the neck and down to your back in case of a major incident. The only issue I have with these braces which offer the additional
support, is the driver can’t tend to turn their head when driving. Which to begin with is a great thing so they can concentrate on where they are driving, but as they become more experienced a slight glance over the shoulder is required to see where your competition is.
A lot of people overlook an additional visor in their race bag, but having a clear visor is a great tool for early mornings when the sun hasn’t completely risen. It could be raining, and the tinted visor is too dark in the conditions or you may have a night race where a clear visor is mandatory. Always good to have one
hidden in your bag!
Mr Sheen is a good tool to keep your visor & helmet in top shape to clean away any oil or dirt you’ve encountered in your sessions. Some rainex is a nice addition as you can spray this onto your visor leading into a race when it’s raining so the visor doesn’t fog up and the rain doesn’t stay on the visor.