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Getting Kitted Out

Some of you have asked me what I’ve done about racewear, and how much I’ve paid.

The Lottery winner miracle still hasn’t happened, yet, and so I’m still on a tight budget.  This has meant a compromise between buying top-quality brand new kit for safety, and taking the second-hand gamble to get stuff cheaper.

I went to the NEC National Motorsport Show early in the year, with the aim of trying on things like a race suit so I had an idea of size, and hopefully grabbing some bargains.

The ‘bargain’ thing didn’t really happen.  Instead, after going in with the idea to buy a budget 2 layer race suit, I made the mistake of trying on a good quality 3 layer suit on one of the stands…

The quality oozed through in every aspect of the suit, and even the feel.  The suit I instantly fell in love with was up for an absolute bargain of £300 – but this was way over my budget, and by some miracle I managed to resist the temptation to buy it.

What I did decide, was that I was going to spend more money on a 3 layer suit rather than a 2 layer suit.  There is a simple reason for this: if you wear a 3 layer suit, it becomes optional to have nomex underwear.  That will save £100+ straight away.

Whilst a nomex race suit IS important for safety, it’s not providing you with active protection like bike leathers do.  Unless you catch fire – and then you want every penny you have invested in it!

I’d been watching and bidding on loads of suits on Ebay, and just missed out on one before it ended unsold.  I emailed the seller to see if the suit wa still for sale – it wasn’t, but as it turned out he did have a few others for sale.

After a brief flurry of emails, and finding out exactly who this ‘Martin Byford’ fellow was, we agreed a price of £120 for one of his old suits.  It’s a 3 layer Sabelt suit.

My fiancée made the final choice between two suits, because she said one of them ‘felt lucky’.  As it turned out, it’s the suit that Martin Byford won the Renault Clio Cup with in 2007! 

Sabelt 3 layer suit, modelled by my beautiful fiancée!

The downside is I look like I’ve just fell out of the Clio Cup – the upside is that this should terrify fellow open-wheeled racers!  I need to look into getting patches to cover up the worst of the sponsors…

I did pick up some cheap Sparco gloves from the NEC show – I figured gloves will wear, so best to buy these new.  I can also upgrade to better ones when I have more cash.  They did keep my hands warm driving on Winter roads, though!  £40 from Demon Tweeks.

I won a pair of fairly tatty OMP boots from Ebay for around £25.

It doesn’t seem all that clear whether boots and gloves have to conform to regulations, but I made sure all my kit meets the 2000-8856 standard, just to be sure.

I’m considering borrowing Glenn Hays helmet (if it fits!).  It does irritate me having to buy a car helmet.  I really should be upgrading my bike helmet, as that is getting old, now, but of course motorcycle helmets don’t meet car regulations!

As an aside, the reason for this is firstly that car helmets must have nomex lining, and also because a car helmet has to be able to withstand multiple impacts such as smacking against a roll cage on every corner.  A bike helmet is built to withstand one big impact and is then scrap.

Hedtec and V2 do good quality helmets for around the £150 mark, so I’ll be getting one of these for now, if needed.  If you’re interested, I’m also looking at around £3-400 for the latest AGV bike lid, but bear in mind I’ll be wearing thsi every day and travelling much faster!

I had my beady eye on balaclavas next.

I was going to spend as little as possible here, but thinking about it, decided to shell out for a 2 layer one.  The more expensive ones also have an extra cooling function which may well be made up nonsense.  I do get hot, however, so figure I may as well go for it.  £40 to £50 should get a Sparco one with ‘X-Cool’ coating.

Looking on Ebay, I found one for £15 that had ‘only been worn once’, put my bid in, and won it!

So, the running total so far, for some top quality kit at bargain prices:

  • Sabelt 3 Layer Race Suit: £120
  • Sparco gloves: £40 (bought new!)
  • OMP boots: £25
  • Sparco 2 layer balaclava: £15

The bad news is both Formula Vee racers are still in bits, due to other aspects of life getting in the way, and my debut at Rockingham International is off.  It’s a setback, but it’s only that.  I could have made the extra effort but it would mean jumping straight onto the track with championship contenders when I’ve never even sat in the car before… So I’m planning on at least one test to get the feel of the car first.