In keeping with our priority on safety, let's look at what is new in helmet designs for 2006. It is evident that the companies that manufacture racing helmets have been busy improving the products and adding accessories that could be very useful. We cannot stress enough the value of a quality helmet. These companies represent many years of experience servicing the racing marketplace and have refined their designs. When considering what level of helmet to buy, or whether or not your old helmet will do the job when it counts, ask the well-worn question: "How much is your head worth?"

We'll let the companies speak for themselves about their products. Be sure to check the companies' Web sites or contact a manufacturer's representative or retail outlet for more information.

Arai Helmets

GP-5w The GP-5w is another representation of Arai's pursuit of a comprehensive combination of comfort and functionality in an attractive package while masking the hidden energy management systems within.

The GP-5w is largely based on its big brother, the GP-5 (PED), while taking some cues from the GP-5k model. The eyeport of the GP-5w has been enlarged to 90 mm (approximately 3.5 inches), as compared to the 72 mm (approximately 2.75 inches), and should be heavily favored by sedan or rally drivers. Some open-wheel drivers have also expressed interest in a larger eyeport.

The GP-5w is constructed of Arai's exclusive SCLC (Super Complex Laminate Construction) shell technology. This helps offset the added weight of the larger shield. As a result, the helmet maintains a low overall weight. The cheek pads are removable, washable, and replaceable, which allows more frequent and thorough cleaning and/or replacement for a more personalized fit for those with a narrower or broader facial structure than anticipated with the stock pad dimensions.

The exterior and interior shape and design are nearly identical to those found on the GP-5 (PED), but due to the larger eyeport opening, the GP-5w uses a new and exclusive shield. However, the shield hardware and tear-offs are identical to those used on the GP-5 and GP-5k. The GP-5w is predrilled for installation of the HANS(r) Device. There is also a special seat for the HANS(r) posts molded into the shell. The helmet incorporates two large intake ducts and the same two exhaust vent ducts found on the GP-5 (PED). This vent system will allow for excellent airflow in open-wheeled cars, as well as allow for improved airflow within the confines of a sedan or closed cockpit.

The interior fit is snug, allowing the smallest helmet to be worn comfortably. Combined with its legendary comfort and fit, Arai concentrates on balance and a lower center of gravity. The way the weight of the helmet is distributed is far more important than the overall weight. How the weight is carried on your head is important, and the fit must distribute the weight of the helmet more evenly over and around your head. A helmet that is more evenly balanced and carries more of its weight down low will seem lighter and cause less fatigue.