Auto Racing Head & Neck Restraint Comparison
Choosing a Head and Neck Restraint can be a slightly difficult task. Price and comfort are usually the top factors most racers are concerned with.
While still very expensive, most Head and Neck Restraints have seen recent pricing decreases. Despite the initial cost, a well cared for Head and Neck Restraint can provide driver protection for multiple years and will retain reasonable resale value. Simpson Race Products states, "unless it saves your life in a major wreck you may never have to replace your HANS Device." Drivers that do not compete in the same race, may be able to share a device to further reduce costs. The purchase of additional hardware for that particular device, allows multiple drivers to install the hardware on their individual helmet and share 1 common device. If sharing, confirm that all drivers fit into the sizing guidelines of that particular device, based on neck or chest measurements.
All certified Head and Neck Restraints intended for auto racing, must be submitted and pass rigid testing performed by the SFI Foundation. Once testing is passed, an SFI 38.1 designation is established. Most manufacturers do not release detailed testing data to the public or their dealers, but certification is very difficult to obtain, as devices must meet 70 G's of impact. There are many devices that never came to market because they could not meet minimum testing guidelines and most current SFI 38.1 certified devices have had to make engineering and material changes numerous times before passing.
Many industry experts are now referring to Head and Neck Restraints (HNR) as Frontal Head Restraints (FHR). The reason for this updated terminology is most devices do not have the side or lateral head restraint capabilities as once thought. The optimum protection of the device enacts during a frontal or angular collision (+/- 30 degrees left or right). There is now a movement to recommend that racers utilize addition side protection in the cockpit, such as full containment seats and/or side nets, in order to compliment and assist the HANS (head and neck restraint) or FHR (frontal head restraint) during a collision. Trevor Ashline of Simpson Race Products, engineer and inventor of the Hybrid Series, is also stressing the use of 6 or 7 point seat belt systems. Ashline's research concludes, "You can lower the neck load by containing the pelvis".
As of 2019, the following companies manufacture SFI approved Head and Neck Restraints:
• Simpson Race Products.
• Simpson Race Products also owns and manufactures the HANS Device.
• Zamp's Z Tech.
• Schroth (not sold by RaceDaySafety.com).
• Impact Race Products (not sold by RaceDaySafety.com).
The following comparison guidelines are based on the author's personal experience and feedback from fellow racers and customers.
HANS DEVICE is the original and most popular HNR/FHR in worldwide auto racing. A proven product, the HANS Device has undoubtedly saved many racer's lives. The HANS Device is worn by racers in practically every form of automobile, truck or boat racing.
HOW IT'S MADE The HANS is constructed from either an injection molded carbon resin or from carbon fiber. The carbon fiber models, HANS Pro Ultra, are a few ounces lighter, but hundreds of dollars more expensive. Racers who are on a modest budget and/or compete in relatively short distance races should not notice the slight weight increase of the injection molded models such as the HANS Sport 2 or HANS III.
HOW IT'S WORN Slipped onto the neck from behind, The HANS rests on the top of the shoulders and the front "yoke" section continues downward on the upper chest. Each shoulder harness belt is located on top of the device to secure it to the driver. The rear section of the device contains the tether, which attaches to the helmet. Many drivers are able to install the HANS on themselves while in the cockpit, while some drivers prefer to install the HANS on themselves and attach the hardware to their helmets before entering the car. Removal of the device while still in the cockpit seems to be an easier task than the install.
HANS HARDWARE 2 types to choose from: Post Anchor or Quick Click. With the Post Anchors, think IndyCar or F1, the tether hardware needs to be aligned with the helmet hardware in 1 specific location to attach and release. Some master this with ease, others, particularly with gloved hands, can find it cumbersome. The Post Anchor is definitely more popular with racers who compete in races that exceed 30 minutes in duration. Drag racers, short track racers, mud truck racers, etc. tend to favor the Quick Click Anchors. The Quick Clicks are simpler to attach and disconnect, with the bright orange tethers, racers can easily pull to disconnect the HANS from the helmet.
IS THE HANS FOR YOU? Many racers think so, even with new product competition, the HANS is probably more popular than all the competitors combined. Larger drivers in race cars with small window openings (ex. dirt late models), may find entry and exit difficult with the device installed. Drivers that use seats with a 0 degree or 10 degree incline will find that the back of the device will push you forward an additional couple of degrees. Drivers who have previously broken a collarbone used to find that the HANS placed additional pressure on that area, but current padding seems to be much better and not as much of an issue. Previous rumors of a shoulder harness slipping off of the device have been attributed to improperly mounted or improperly tightened seat belts. Some drivers have converted to 2 inch shoulder harnesses, which do lay neatly into the channel of the device. 3 inch shoulder harness belts are still completely compatible, as a matter of fact, all Head and Neck Restraints are SFI tested with a 3 inch belt.
Simpson's HYBRID SERIES is formerly known as Safety Solutions. Developed by engineer, Trevor Ashline, who now holds a position with Simpson Race Products.
HOW IT'S MADE Specific models are available in either the carbon fiber Hybrid Pro or an injected composite. The Hybrid Sport injected composite devices are less expensive with a slight increase in overall weight. A series of belts surround the upper back, upper chest, shoulders and also locate the "hard" section of the device, which contains the helmet attachment tether. Recent modifications to the Hybrid Series have deleted the SAS (Seat Belt Anchoring System), although this option can still be added if desired. The option includes 2 additional straps that protrude downward and are installed into the seatbelt hardware at the common connection point of the Camlock or Latch and Link System.
HOW IT'S WORN The Hybrid, either in the Carbon Fiber or Injected versions, are installed on the driver similar to a backpack. Once slipped over the torso, a center latch secures the device at the lower chest area. The "hard" section of this device rests against the lower neck and rear shoulder area. This "hard section contains the tether which attaches to each side of the helmet. Drivers will need to put these devices on, before getting into the race car as well as removing the entire device once exiting the vehicle.
HYBRID HARDWARE 2 types to choose from, the D Rings or the M6 Quick Release Anchors. The D-Rings are by far, the most popular, due to simplicity of use and price point. For $25, additional drivers can share a Hybrid device by purchasing additional D-Ring anchors. Both set of anchors attach and detach the device to the helmet by pulling on the tethers and loading (or unloading) the device hardware into the helmet hardware.
IS THE HYBRID FOR YOU? Especially popular with drag racers, dirt oval racers and off road racers, although the Hybrid Series devices are well suited for most any form of auto racing, particularly drivers who do not like any type of equipment around their necks and on the majority of their shoulders and upper chest. Trevor Ashline states that the Hybrids test the best for angular impacts with the addition of the SAS (Seat Belt Anchoring System) option. Putting the device on can be a little cumbersome at first, but once you get the hang of it, becomes second nature. An advantage of this device is it's already located on the body while in the seat, so strapping on the seat belts seems to be an easier process. A disadvantage is the straps around the back of the device can slightly catch on any object (mirrors, window net latch plate, head support) when climbing into (or out of) race car window openings. Drivers who race cars with functioning doors will usually not find this to be a problem.
NECKSGEN Has been redesigned, retested and introduced as the NecksGen Rev. This company originally manufactured the DefNder and the NecksGen, but legal issues with a competitor forced a discontinuation of the original designs.
HOW IT'S MADE The Necksgen Rev is constructed from a DuPont carbon fiber composite. High density padding is installed at the bottom to separate the "hard" part of the device from the driver's shoulders. A sliding tether system is installed to the device with hardware ends that attach to the driver's helmet.
HOW IT'S WORN The smallest Head and Neck Restraint currently available. Built with no frontal "yoke" section and no high "back" section, allows most drivers to easily install and remove while in the cockpit. Slipped onto the neck from behind, The Rev rests on the top of the shoulders, the frontal padding will cover a portion of the extreme upper chest. Each shoulder harness belt is located on top of the device to secure it to the driver.
NECKSGEN REV HARDWARE Simplistic Rev Hardware seems easy to attach and remove the device from the helmet. The hardware connection is somewhat similar to attaching a downsized passenger car seatbelt. Disconnecting the device from the helmet is performed by pulling the short red tethers. While pulling on the red quick release tether, the driver may need to use their free hand to lightly assist the disconnection process.
IS THE NECKSGEN REV FOR YOU? Drivers that prefer a smaller piece of equipment on their shoulders, with hardware that is simple to operate, are usually very satisfied with the Rev's performance. With no frontal yoke, the shoulder harness belts will be in contact with the majority of a driver's chest with this device. The Rev is wider than other devices (ex. size Large measures 14 inches wide, size Medium 13 inches wide), so if using a full containment seat with head supports, check the clearance. The Rev's device to helmet connection hardware may be the easiest of all, to attach and detach.
The NecksGen Rev2 Lite. Necksgen took the standard Rev and lightened it up, weighing in at only 1.2 pounds. The addition of rubber grip friction pads on the belt channels and higher belt guides help keep the device firmly underneath the shoulder harness.
Leatt MRX PRO No longer in production.
Z Tech New, updated designs coming for 2019.
HOW IT'S MADE Constructed from a glass reinforced nylon. A sliding Kevlar tethers connect the helmet to the restraint. The Z Tech has multiple sizing adjustment options, so multiple fasteners connect various sections. Padding is included underneath chest and shoulder parts. The Z Tech weighs around 2.3 pounds, which is slightly heavier than other devices, but like most race products, extreme lightweight equals more expensive.
HOW IT'S WORN Slipped onto the neck from behind, The Z Tech rests on the top of the shoulders and the front "yoke" section continues downward on the upper chest. The front yoke section can be adjusted in angle and length. Each shoulder harness belt is located on top of the device to secure it to the driver. The rear section of the device that contains the tether which attaches to the helmet, can be adjusted in width. All adjustments need to be made before using the device in competition.
Z TECH HARDWARE The hardware on the tether is a spring clip mechanism, once placed on the helmet post, it will lock in. Release requires pushing a small stud on the spring clip slightly upwards and removing the clip from the helmet post. Some will easily master this as a one handed operation while others may find the attachment much easier than the removal.
IS THE Z TECH FOR YOU? The ability to the adjust the Z Tech may be very attractive to some racers who like to fine tune their equipment for maximum comfort. The helmet connection hardware does not come with any type of quick release tethers. The fasteners will need to be checked periodically for tightness. The price point of this device allows more racers to afford an SFI 38.1 restraint. If you are currently using a carbon fiber HANS and you like it, the Z Tech probably is not for you.
Why purchase a Head and Neck restraint?
Many race car drivers may never need a head and neck restraint. Even if they are currently wearing one, the head and neck restraint may never be put to test. Auto racing is a sport of the unknown, disaster is potentially waiting at every corner, no one knows where, when and if it will strike. Being prepared for that critical moment in time may prevent injury or even save your life.
Why are Head and Neck restraints so expensive?
Engineering, testing, materials and insurances all contribute. Although, to put in perspective, most composite models are less expensive than a set of race tires. Many customers have reported to us that they were able to sell their used head and neck restraints for 95% the cost of buying new, a much better return than selling used race tires!