Almost two years ago, the Snell Foundation began working on a new standard for motorsports helmets. Known as SA2010, the standard has a number of significant changes from SA2005. Far and away the biggest change relates to how the helmets are tested for impact and subsequently passed/rejected by the foundation. That effectively means that the new SA2010 is incompatible with the established SA2005. Given that incompatibility, it's entirely possible that your SA2005-labeled helmet may not meet the new standard. Depending on the rules of your chosen series, sanction, or track you may have to buy a new helmet.

Going one step further, since SA2005 and SA2010 are not compatible, meeting SA2010 requirements will not automatically qualify a helmet to be produced and distributed with SA2005 labeling. Any SA2010 helmet distributed with SA2005 labeling must also have met requirements in SA2005 testing.

When the new standard was introduced, we here at Circle Track knew it would be important for our readers to understand the methodology behind the test and why now might just be the perfect time to upgrade that brain bucket of yours. Remember a helmet should be replaced immediately if damaged, and at least every five years based on wear and tear. Next to your belts, helmets are the most important piece of safety equipment in your racing program.

The Basics
Before we delve into the new standard itself let's have a brief review of how to select the proper helmet. Snell has come up with a nifty little way to help you find a good helmet. It's as easy as remembering the four S's: Size, Strap, Straight, and Snell.

Size: Try on several different helmets before you purchase one. The best way to gauge comfort level and fit is through comparison. The helmet should fit comfortably all the way around your head. Additional pads can be used to make it snug.

Strap: Pay attention to the chin strap. Make sure that the chin strap fits under your chin snugly and comfortably. The helmet should not shift on your head.

Straight: Know how a helmet should fit. A helmet is meant to be worn low on the forehead, just above your eyebrows. Your cheeks should also be pushed up slightly to ensure a snug fit. However, it should not hurt or be painful. Look into a mirror or have a friend help you determine the proper fit.

Snell: Look for Snell certification, SA2010 or SAH2010. Snell Standards are the most stringent in the world, exceeding those set by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

The Big Three
Over the usable lifetime of a helmet, it will only really be needed for about 2 to 4 milliseconds, yet having the right equipment to protect your head is paramount to surviving those milliseconds. Therefore, it's important to know the differences between helmet ratings. In and around motorsports you'll often see three different alphanumeric designations for Snell ratings; SA, M, and K. The SA standard is designed for competitive auto racing, while the M standard is for motorcycling and other motorsports. The K standard accommodates helmets used in karting.

There are three major differences between them:

• The SA standard requires a flammability test while the M and K standards do not.
• The SA and K standards allow for a narrower visual field than M standard (Some SA- and K-certified helmets may not be street legal).
• The SA and K standards include a rollbar multi impact test while the M standard does not.

Without a doubt if you're climbing into any type of race car, you must have an SA-rated helmet. Refer back to Circle Track's Feb. '08 issue (page 56), when we set the M-rated helmet on fire, and you'll know why.