In most forms of UK motorsport it is now compulsory to use a frontal head restraint or FHR device. Head restraints aren’t the most glamorous of items but play a vital role in competitor safety in the unfortunate event of a frontal crash.
There are two main types of frontal head restraints available on the market and are designed by different manufactures to an FIA homologated safety test. These devices are designed to stop the head thrusting forward too far which causes a severe whiplash back, and it is this rearwards movement that actually breaks your neck. It’s important to note that FHR devices aren’t designed to prevent damage from a side impact and even though some can provide a level of assistance – it’s important to use a seat with ‘wings’ or side head restraint for adequate protection. These are currently not mandatory.
Whichever frontal head restraint you choose, the principle of operation will be the same. It will attach to your helmet via posts that are mounted with a required 6mm bolt and attach via a tether to the FHR device. This base sits around your shoulder area and will allow the belts to pass over a HANS device, holding it firmly in place. It’s important that the belts are firmly on top of the FHR as during an impact the belts are what holds it in place.
The HANS (Head and neck support) device is a U shaped device that sits on your shoulders and over your chest and wraps around the rear of your neck. This makes removal while still attached to your helmet possible, although this can be difficult in some cars. There are a number of brands available in the marketplace, but Stand 21 have incorporated a number of comfort changes that are not available on other brands.
The HANS device sits under the harnesses and has a tether that connects to the HANS posts on your helmets HANS posts. This tether slides between the locators on the rear of the device allow for full head movement from side to side to allow excellent vision in the inevitable sideways motions caused by the speeds of motorsport, it is perfectly adequate for all forms of motorsport including the excessive movements found in rallying and drifting.
The HANS device is located on your body by the racing harnesses of the car. While there are dedicated HANS harnesses available with a narrower two-inch shoulder strap, Stand 21 actually recommends a three-inch harness as the more harness you have on your device the better. You do not require a specific HANS harness for use with HANS devices. The geometry of the harnesses is important for the operation of the HANS in an accident, but full, and recommended fitting instructions are sold with the device to aid you in setting the harnesses and seat.
The design of all the Stand 21 models (excluding the Hi-Tec), have ergonomic chest yolks which fit around your collarbone making them more comfortable to use. The chest yolks also have soft Nomex pads that further increase the comfort levels, and if you which also available as an extra are pads that are filled with air that can be pumped up to give the ultimate comfort levels.
The Stand 21 HANS system come in two size options Medium and Large, which are generally be determined by the size of the user’s neck – up to 18 inch is medium, and 18 inch plus is large. The device also comes in different angles to suit specific driver and car seating options: 10 degree – For an excessively upright seating position, 20 degree – For all regular saloon race and rally car use, 30 degree – For single seater use, 40 degree – For an almost lying down seating position (normally only used in F1)
There are different models which are priced according to the materials used in its construction. The more you pay for the relevant device the lighter it becomes. This becomes a consideration for racing purposes where the overall weight and a driver and equipment becomes important. Other than this you never feel the weight of a device as it rests on your shoulders.
Pros: Can be removed in a car, Much more cost-effective for the same protection
Cons: Raises seat belt height, Possibly more intrusive to some drivers
Simpson Hybrid FHR Devices
The Simpson Hybrid – the Hybrid FHR device is the latest and only device that has broken away from the original HANS design to offer the same protection but achieved in a different package. It is arguably a more discreet option and is worn on your body and fastened by a buckle at the front, with the helmet connecting tethers fixed to the unit that sits on the top of the back below your neck. The Hybrid allows you to easily remove your helmet for road sections and keep the device attached to your body, removing it altogether would require you to step out of the car. However, it is possible to fit a quick release tether kit that, with a pull of two release cords will, with complete ease, allow the uncoupling of the tethers from the helmet much faster and easier.
As with a HANS device, the Simpson Hybrid fits under the seat belt straps, but these are not required to hold its position. The securing of the Simpson Hybrid is with the chest straps, the size of these need to be chosen carefully to suit the size of your chest. The tether system allows for full head rotation, and the second set of straps allows for a certain amount of side impact protection but is in no way as beneficial as a seat with wrap around wings.
Unlike a HANS, the Hybrid FHR sits discreetly behind the neck and is a lot less noticeable when being worn. It also sits lower, thus not increasing the height of the seatbelts above your shoulders.
The Simpson Hybrid frontal head restraint is available in five different sizes: XS, S, M, L and XL. The sizing is generally determined by the measurement of your chest below the pectoral muscles.
Available in two different models, the Hybrid Sport being the most popular on cost, and the Carbon offering a lighter weight alternative.
Pros: Comfortable to wear. One device suits all seating positions. Not locked position by harnesses.
Cons: More than twice the cost of the cheapest HANS. Not easy to remove in a car.