To demonstrate the correct method of measuring for a new racing suit, we asked Sprint Car drivers JoJo Helberg and Alissa Geving to help us with some photos to illustrate the measurement process. Photos 1-4 cover measurements for a standard suit while photos 5-12 are what you'll need to do for a custom-made suit.
In either case, you'll also need to provide your height which is easy to get an accurate measurement of. Without shoes on, stand against a wall, place a ruler on top of your head and make a mark with a pencil on the wall then measure the distance to the floor. Weight is important as well. Don't guess on this one, or put the weight you think you are going to be after that crash diet or the few weeks of brutal workouts you have been meaning to do at the gym. Get on an accurate scale and use your real weight.
8 Natural Waist: This is...
8 Natural Waist: This is the measurement of your natural waist circumference taken across the navel and level across your back not your waist at the beltline.
9 Shoulders: This is the...
9 Shoulders: This is the measurement across the back of your shoulders from the top of the sleeve.
10 Rise: This measured from...
10 Rise: This measured from the front to the back of the waist through the crotch.
Now that you have accurate measurements you can select the new racing suit of your choice that meets design and most importantly the safety requirements for your type of racing. We highly recommend a minimum of SFI 3.2A/5 Certification (SFI-5) when selecting a racing suit. We also highly recommend that you wear a fire-resistant base layer under your racing suit for added protection. This is especially important if you select a single-layer suit with an SFI 3.2A/1 certification (SFI-1) as these suits offer minimal protection. Many of today's choices of fire-resistant underwear feature fabrics that wick away moisture from the body and help to keep the driver cooler while providing enhanced protection from injury.
Got My Measurements, Now What?
Now it's time to buy your suit. While there are numerous different fire- retardant materials on the market, three that are often seen in the motorsports industry are fire-retardant cottons, Nomex, and Carbon-X. All of those FR materials perform admirably when tested and in many cases you will find that manufacturers offer suits made from several different materials or a combination of multiple materials. Here's a step by step guide to selecting a firesuit.
Step 1: Determine your budget
A quality SFI 3.2A/5 two-layer firesuit starts just under $300 and can exceed $1,000 if you go the custom route. When figuring out what to spend remember Bill Simpson's words, "One day in the hospital is 5 grand and a good suit will last you 3-4 years." As a side note a really good quality suit will run you about $450, divide that over four years and you've got a little over a C-note per year.
Step 2: Contact the manufacturers directly
Once your measurements have been taken, it is very important to refer to the sizing chart specifically provided by the manufacturer to ensure that you purchase a suit that will fit you correctly. Sizing charts can vary significantly from brand to brand so be sure to use the correct chart from your chosen brand when ordering your race suit.
Tell them your ideal budget, the type of cars you race, your height, weight, and so on. They will be happy to talk with you and their technical people can suggest which suit best fits your application and price range. Do not forget to ask about TPP ratings. By simply asking you might find a little bonus. For example, in order to receive an SFI rating of 3.2A/5 you must achieve at least a TPP rating of 19. The key word there is "at least." It's not unheard of for a firesuit manufacturer to exceed the minimum rating and that's bonus fire protection.
Step 3: Go shopping and look at the suits
This may seem time consuming but it's important to look at different suits. Ideally, you do this at an event or a storefront where you can compare different manufacturers side by side. Turn the suits inside out and compare them, seam to seam. Look for a three needle stitch with overlap in the critical areas such as the crotch. Remember if the car is on its side or roof you're moving in ways you don't normally move just to get out. Think about the consequences of having the crotch of your cheaply made suit split open while you're trying to wiggle out of a burning car. Not a pretty thought I assure you.
11 Thigh: This measurement...
11 Thigh: This measurement is taken 2 inches below the crotch.
12 Hip: This measurement...
12 Hip: This measurement is taken at the widest circumference around the hips.
13 This SFI Rated 3.2A/5...
13 This SFI Rated 3.2A/5 suit aptly named the Velocity 5 comes from newcomer Velocity Racewear and retails for $279.99.
Once you've determined that the stitching is three needle and high quality, try it on! While that sounds painfully obvious, I know guys who have bought suits without trying them on only to be disappointed in the fit when they get to the track. Squat down, move your arms and legs in a variety of positions. Who cares if you look stupid, remember that you're feeling for movement in a worst case scenario, getting out of a burning car fast!
Finally, remember the only way to increase the TPP rating is to add layers. You've got two choices here, thin layers of high-tech material add cost but deliver max comfort, thicker layers of lower-tech material add protection without more cost but increase bulk. That's why you need to try it on. What is comfortable on me may not feel good at all to you.
So you followed our instructions and now you've got a brand-new SFI 3.2A/5 rated double-layer firesuit that fits perfectly. Nice work, but you're not done. Perhaps the most important part of owning a firesuit is its care. That's right I said care. We understand that not everybody's budget allows them to spend an unlimited amount of dough on a firesuit. But regardless of what you spent on your suit, treat it like it was a $2,000 custom-made, top-of-the-line price tag. Don't crawl under your car while wearing your suit. Check with the manufacturer of your suit for its recommended care instructions and then follow them! Your suit will last far longer and perform much better, giving you plenty of protection on your way to the winner's circle.
The difference between surviving a fire in your race car is your firesuit. choose the right one.