FIA Approvals for Auto Racing Equipment Made Simple
The FIA - Federation Internationale de l'Automobile - recently released new regulations regarding safety standards for racing equipment like suits, gloves, helmets, and other items. These standards are updated periodically to ensure that racing is as safe as possible. But many racers, or aspiring racers, don't full understand what these are for, and what they mean, so this guide is here to help simplify things and tell you exactly what you should know before buying your next helmet, suit, or harness. And if you have any other questions, contact us in our website or message us in our Facebook page.
How do I know if a piece of equipment, like a helmet or bucket seat is safe to use for racing? The long story short is it depends on what racing you will be doing. And in 4-wheel categories, equipment is usually categorized as auto racing or karting. For auto racing, you should look for markings for FIA homologation or FIA approval. In some race series, Snell (for helmets) and SFI (for other gear) homologation are also allowed. For karting, you should look for CIK homologation.
What is the FIA and why do they matter? The FIA - Federation Internationale de l'Automobile - is the governing body for motorsports around the world, including Formula 1, Formula E, World Rally Championship, World Endurance Championship, and most other international championship series. Under their mission to promote safety in driving - and racing - they have a series of standards that all safety equipment must follow in order to be allowed for use in their sanctioned events.
The FIA also issues standards for racing equipment, for both auto racing (FIA homologation) and karting (CIK homologation). Their standards are used in almost all race series around the world, except for predominantly US-based motorsport like NASCAR and the NHRA drag racing series.
In the Philippines, the FIA is represented by the AAP - Automobile Association of the Philippines. Most major events are wither sanctioned or observed by the AAP to help ensure that events are safe and run well.
What is SFI and SNELL? The SFI Foundation is a US-based non-profit that issues safety standards for racing equipment, as well as does testing and certification. Their standards are followed mostly by US-based events, such as NASCAR, NHRA, USAC and more.
The Snell Foundation is also a US-based non-profit, focusing on safety standards for racing helmets, as well as does testing and certification. Like SFI, they are used mostly in US-based events.
What is the difference between FIA and SFI approval for race wear, harnesses, seats and and FHR (frontal head restraint)? The FIA and SFI use different standards for race wear and FHR (Frontal Head Restraint), and are not interchangeable. While the FIA has one standard for its gear, SFI has various levels of protection.
What race wear have FIA or SFI standards? Basically any piece of clothing that you wear for auto racing has FIA standards. Racing suits, gloves, shoes, underwear (including balaclava), helmets, and FHR (Frontal Head Restraint) are all important parts of your safety gear and require homologation to be used in competition.
What is the difference between FIA and Snell approval for helmets? Similar to race wear, harnesses and seats, the United States follows different standards for head and neck protection as does the rest of the world. The FIA and Snell use different standards, and are not interchangeable.
Should I buy FIA or Snell/SFI for my gear? In general, we recommend you buy an FIA homologated product. In most cases, the racing you will be doing will be local, and even if you went international, only the USA requires SFI/Snell. Buying an FIA approved item may save you from having to buy new gear in case you move from the grassroots level to the professional ranks, or if you go racing abroad (most likely in Asia).
In the Philippines, most races are sanctioned or observed by the AAP - Automobile Association of the Philippines - which is an affiliate of the FIA, which means most races in the Philippines follow FIA standards and not Snell or SFI. However, many race series - especially in the grassroots levels - do allow SFI certified racewear, harnesses and seats, as well as Snell helmets, so it is best to check with the organizers before deciding on what equipment to buy.
Do my racing suit, gloves, shoes and underwear expire? I depends on which standard your gear is homologated with - 8856-2000 or 8856-2018. Race wear with the 8856-2000 certification do not have expiry dates, but the FIA requires all race wear to indicate their production year. However, scrutineers have the right to fail a suit if it is not in good condition or has damage, like rips, tears, and busted seams. It is important to note that race wear manufactured under the 8856-2000 standard will no longer be allowed in FIA-sanctioned competitions starting 2029. Newer Race wear are manufactured under the 8856-2018 standard. These expire ten (10) years after the date of manufacture, indicated in a tag that says "Not valid after 20XX," where 20XX is 10 years after date of manufacture. Scrutineers, however, still retain the right to fail a suit if it is not in good condition or has damage, like rips, tears, and busted seams.
What safety standards are applicable for racing helmets? There are two current helmet standards - 8859-2015 and 8860-2015. For most drivers, you only need to have an 8859-2015 helmet. You are only required to use an 8860-2015 homologated helmet if you ware racing in Formula 1.
Helmets with the older 8859-2010 and 8860-2010 standard are still valid for competition until 2028. If you have an even older helmet, with the 8858-2010 standard, they will be allowed in competition only until 2023.
When does my helmet expire? FIA helmets with the 8859-2016 and 8860-2015 certifications do not have an expiry date. However, it is required that their production year be specified in a tag on the product. In some FIA-sanctioned events, scrutineers may be empowered to refuse the use of a helmet based on condition, such as chips, cracks, or other damage. Modifying or drilling holes in your helmet can also lead to scrutineers disallowing your helmet. Helmets with the 8859-2010 and 8860-2010 standard are still valid for competition until 2028 and have no expiry. Helmets with the 8858-2010 certification will be allowed by the FIA for competition use until 2023. It is recommended, however that you replace your helmet every five years. Also, if you helmet has been dropped from a height of 50cm or more, it is recommended that you replace it. Similarly, if you have suffered an accident while racing, it is recommended that it be replaced.
What is FHR (Frontal Head Restraint), and do they have safety standards? A Frontal Head Restraint (FHR) is a vital piece of safety equipment that has grown in use since its introduction in the 1980s. This piece of equipment is worn around the collar and is fixed by the racing harness. It prevents what is called basilar skull fracture, which is an injury sustained during a frontal collision, resulting in serious injury or even death.
FHRs use the 8858-2010 standard (same as the older helmets). This is the latest standard for FHRs at this time. Frontal Head Restraints are known sometimes as HANS devices.
When does my Frontal Head Restrain (FHR) expire? There are no expiry dates for Frontal Head Restraints (FHR) under the FIA 8858-2010 standard. However, it is recommended that you replace your device every five years, if it shows signs of damage, or if it was used in the event of an accident. If the tethers show signs of fraying or damage, they can be replaced.
Do race harnesses have standards? There are two FIA standards for race harnesses - 8853-1998 and 8853-2016 standard for harnesses. If you are using a Frontal Head Restraint (FHR), you must use a harness with the 8853-2018 standard, as it is the type that is designed for use with FHR. It is also recommended that you use a harness with 2" shoulder belts, which fit securely on the shoulder rests of your FHR. Harnesses with 3" belts will not fit properly over your FHR. When does my race harness expire? Harnesses only have a usable life of five (5) years from the date of manufacture. On each belt there is tag that says "Not valid after 20XX," where 20XX is 5 years after the date of manufacture.
However, all harnesses manufactured after 2017 follow the 8853-2018 standard, and when the last batch of 8853-1998 harnesses expire in 2022, they will not be allowed for FIA-sanctioned competition.
Do race seats have standards? There are two accepted FIA standards for race seats: 8855-1999 and 8862-2009. When does my race seat expire? Race seats have a usable life of ten (10) years from the date of manufacture. On each belt there is tag that says "Not valid after 20XX," where 20XX is 10 years after the date of manufacture.
Are there any other items that require FIA homologation?
Other items that have FIA homologation include window nets, seat mounts (not including slide rails), quick release steering wheel hubs, helmet visors, mechanic suits, fire extinguisher systems, roll cage designs and materials, roll cage padding, tow hooks and battery switches.