Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
December 14, 2009
Photos By: Patrick Hill, The Manufacturer

Driving Suits
Important things to remember about driving suits (as well as all safety equipment) are to purchase the proper equipment for the rules you will be racing under and to make sure the product fits you properly. For instance, if you race at a strict NHRA-based dragstrip and your Mustang has a blower on it, technically you should be wearing at least a single-layer racing jacket. If you're more of a corner-carver and plan to run at an SCCA event, then you'll need a two-layer suit as a minimum (most drag racing venues have a single-layer minimum).

As a general rule of thumb, most drag racers wear a separate jacket and pants due to the long down time between runs. The separate configuration allows quick removal of the jacket between runs, while performing maintenance, or just sitting in the trailer waiting to be called to your lanes. When it comes to road racing, a one-piece jumpsuit-style suit is more popular because you're usually in the car longer (say, a 20- or 30-minute sprint).

Every company has different sew patterns for its suits, so one company's suit might fit and another company's suit in the same size might not. As much as the world is a mail-order environment these days, it's best to visit a dealer in your area or buy from a traveling dealer often found at events so you can try the suits on before buying.

A two-piece jacket and pants setup allows mixing and matching of sizes for the best fit if you have a specific build issue (e.g., short legs with a stocky torso). You should also wear the racing pants higher than you would normally wear a pair of your favorite jeans. The jacket should overlap the pants at least 5 inches for fire protection.

Remember what we said earlier-don't be cheap when it comes to your safety. Buy the best you can afford, preferably multi-layer with superior flame-retardant properties.

SFI Suit Spec TPP Time to 2nd-Degree Burns
3.2A/1 = 6 3 Seconds
3.2A/3 =14 7 Seconds
3.2A/5 =19 10 Seconds
3.2A/10 =38 19 Seconds
More info online:

A good helmet will not only protect your head from the impact of a crash, but will also fit properly and protect your face and scalp from fire. We know that most people will not go out and buy a driving suit, gloves, shoes, and more to go to the dragstrip twice a year, but you should at the very least purchase a properly rated helmet that fits you correctly. An SA-2005-rated helmet is the best safety equipment you can buy, and frankly, should be your first safety equipment purchase.

There are a few different helmet types, and you need to know what the proper helmet is for your use. The most basic of helmets is an open-faced design. You can get an open-faced helmet in SA-2005 rating, but the open-face design should only be used in a completely enclosed cockpit (production car with the windows up).

You must use a full-face helmet if you have a race-prepared car without side glass, your sanctioning body requires you run with your windows down, or you have a roadster/convertible. Full-face helmets are available in several styles with many options (tear-offs for dirt use, tinted visors for daytime racing, and so on), and are available in SA-2005 and M-2005 ratings.