Most race car drivers wear suits made of Nomex, a synthetic material produced by DuPont that is fireproof and retains its properties over time. Other suits are made of cotton treated with Proban, a chemical manufactured by Rhodia, or other substances. The most recognizable garment is a firefighter's suit, which is a one-piece jumpsuit adorned with the logo of the pilot and team sponsors. This suit is designed to save the driver's life in the event of a fire.
The most economical suits use fabrics that are a mix of organic yarns (usually cotton) and aramid yarn. However, due to the organic content, these suits can be affected by solar discoloration. To protect them, it is best to avoid UV rays. In addition to the racing suit, drivers also wear shoulder pads. These shoulder pads have SFI ratings that help the driver determine the right safety equipment based on race class, speed, and other factors.
Two-piece firefighter suits for endurance racing and suits for dirt track racing are also popular among those who don't fit a one-piece suit very well. In addition to the racing suit, drivers also need other safety equipment such as harnesses, armrests, HANS devices, and helmets. All of this equipment must be the right size to fit the driver's body shape and be able to do its job of protecting them in the event of a crash, rollover or fire. The debate between one-piece and two-piece racing suits and between SFI1 and SFI5 can also be part of the decision-making process when it comes to sanctioning body or track regulations. Racing suits often include piping on the edges for added resistance and a larger area to pull. Padded racing suits may also include piping.
Having a racing suit with both SFI and FIA certifications is an advantage if you plan to compete in different sanctioning bodies. When washing your racing suit, make sure all Velcro fasteners are connected and then allow it to air dry. The two-piece suit is popular with oval track runners or those who practice endurance races as you can open the zipper and take off your jacket while working on the car or waiting to return to the track. Today's racing firefighter suits have many features that improve comfort or add greater safety features. When choosing your racing suit, make sure it fits properly and is certified for your particular race class.