Kart Race Suit Buying Guide
Karting Suits are certified for world wide competition by the FIA/CIK. The term for this certification is "homologation" or "homologated". The FIA is the same organization that sanctions numerous forms of motorsports, including Formula 1. The CIK, translated from French, stands for International Commission of Karting. Many American and Canadian tracks do not require the certification on the suit and some well known USA based suppliers such as K1 Race Gear have decided to forego the extra cost of a CIK/FIA patch in order to provide a more affordable product to the racer. Check with your track or organization for their requirements before purchasing and considering a reputable, well known manufacturer to ensure you are getting quality product if CIK/FIA proof is not mandatory.
The outer layer of a karting suit is constructed from Nylon or Cordura type materials. These fabrics are preferred due to their resistance against tearing in the event of a crash, should the driver leave the vehicle and slide on the racing surface. The Nylon or Cordura fabrics are also extremely lightweight and have replaced the heavier leather uniforms that racers used in the past. Many karting suits have elasticized and/or vented fabrics implemented throughout to maximize flexibility and breathability. Interior layers generally consist of a cotton toweling type material to aid in absorbing sweat and providing a more comfortable material against the skin.
Kart Suit Level 1 or Kart Suit Level 2?
The FIA/CIK certifies or homlogates race suits which are rated in 2 separate levels. Simply explained, the Level 2 Karting Suit has more layers or thicker materials than the Level 1 Karting Suit, thus increasing the level of protection to the driver. Level 2 Suits, typically have more features: stretch panels, breathable mesh fabics and cutting edge designs, however are usually 2 to 3 times the cost of a Level 1 Suit. Most Alpinestars Kart Racing Suits are certified to CIK-FIA Level 2 homologation standards.
Fraudulent FIA-CIK Karting Suits
Like many garments that we now wear, kart suits are mainly manufactured in developing countries. Approved factories in these countries are producing top quality products, however, some unscrupulous factions have occasionally released counterfeit suits and counterfeit FIA patches. The counterfeit suits may contain inferior materials, inferior construction and have not been submitted or passed any type of testing. To avoid being ripped off, beware of online auctions of new race gear from private sellers and purchase your karting suit from a reputable racing store that sells name brand products that you have heard of, such as Alpinestars, OMP, Puma, Sparco, K1 RaceGear, etc.
Karting Suit Construction Technical Guidelines
The color coded picture highlights certain areas of the karting suit that the FIA/CIK has set forth construction and material standards. Applies to both Level 1 and Level 2 Kart Racing Suits. Level 1 Kart Suits will have a lower abrasion resistant requirement, Level 2 a higher abrasion resistant requirement.
White: The collar does not need to contain any type of abrasion resistant material, it only needs to be large enough to have the FIA homologation marking applied to certify approval.
Grey: All area coded in the grey color must be constructed from abrasion resistant type materials. No other materials are permitted in this boundary area.
Yellow: The yellow coding covers the sleeve attachment. Basically, the seamed or threaded area of the sleeve attachment must be covered or overlapped by an abrasion resistant material.
Red, Dark Green, Light Green, Dark Blue, Light Blue, Purple: All of these areas permit for up to 1/3 of each zone to use materials such as mesh or knit fabrics. The other 2/3 of each zone needs to fulfill Level 1 abrasion requirements.
Typically used by dirt and pavement oval racers. Built to resist abrasions should the driver come off of the kart and some jackets contain extra fabric in the back of the upper arm area to act as a heat shield due to the close proximity of the engine exhaust pipe. Most drivers pair the jacket with blue jeans, gloves, a helmet and a neck collar. There is no testing or certifications for kart racing jackets so it's suggested to purchase from an established name brand to avoid cheap imitations.