A properly fitting racing seat not only protects you in the event of a crash, but it also
Chassis specialists often talk about how everything done with the chassis and suspension should be done to maximize the size and adhesion of the four contact patches of the tires pressed against the racetrack. And they are right. Those four small patches of rubber are the only things connecting your race car to the track.
It's practically the same thing with your racing seat. Along with the steering wheel and the pedals, the seat is one of the few ways you can feel what the race car is doing. A good driver races as much by feel as he does by sight, and if you can't feel what the car is doing you may be missing out on a very valuable competitive tool. After all, they don't call it "seat of the pants" driving for nothing.
Recently, we had the opportunity to stop by the Joe Gibbs Racing Nationwide Series race shop while driver Tommy Cloce was being fitted for a test session in one of the JGR NASCAR Camping World East race cars. Cloce is the 2009 Joe Gibbs Driven Racing Oil ASA Member Track National Champion (say that three times fast!), and one of the perks of winning the ASA championship is the opportunity to test with the Gibbs race team.
Unlike Tommy, most of us will never have the opportunity to drive a test session with a NASCAR Sprint Cup organization, but anyone who straps into a race car can benefit from a good working environment. Many people think of the racing seat only as a safety device-and that is definitely its primary purpose-but it is also important in two other aspects. The first, as we've already mentioned, is to give a physical sense of how the car is reacting. Is the rear end sliding around? Are the tires spinning on turn exit? That sort of thing. And the second is to hold you securely in place so you can concentrate on driving and not maintaining your body position through the turns.
Fortunately, all three things work hand-in-hand, and none are mutually exclusive of the other. In other words, a good, safe seat fits snugly enough to hold you in place even in high-g turns and can also transmit clues about how the car is behaving directly to you.
ASA national champion Tommy Cloce goes through a seat fitting for a test with Joe Gibbs Ra
Since Cloce was flying to Mooresville, NC, from his home in Potsdam, NY, for a one-day test, there was no time for a custom seat. Team crew chief Mike Sibley spoke with Cloce via phone and got some critical measurements like height, weight, chest and hip size and found the seat in the JGR inventory that most closely fit the bill. By the time Cloce arrived, the ButlerBuilt aluminum racing seat was already installed in the car, but that was far from the end of the story.
"We want to make sure Tommy is comfortable in the car so that he can drive to the best of his abilities, but our main priority is to make sure he is as safe as possible," Sibley says. "The first thing we'll do is try to locate the seat, pedals, and steering wheel to make him as comfortable as possible. The seat mounting tabs are slotted so that we can move the seat a few inches, but not much more. And we knew that Tommy is a tall guy, so we've already slid the pedals back as far as we can. He'll actually be the tallest driver who has ever been in this particular car, so it may require us to move a few things around to get it right for him."
When mounting your seat, Sibley recommends laying it back on a bit of an angle. This is not only safer but usually more comfortable for the driver rather than sitting straight up. Taller drivers may often need the seat reclined at more of an angle to lower the head. The head must be low enough that it can't come into contact with the halo bar during a wreck. Rollbar padding isn't enough to guarantee a driver won't get a head injury-the only way to do that is to make sure his head can't smack a bar during a bad wreck.