The Race Gear You (And Your Team) Need to Go ChumpCar Racing
By Luciana D'Andretta
August 15, 2016
ChumpCar racing is great, but if you are like many ChumpCar drivers, road racing is something you don’t do every week. So, we’ve created this handy-dandy checklist of the best equipment for ChumpCar racing, so you and your ChumpCar team will arrive at the track ready to race, not ready to panic. We’ve mainly aimed at driver-related and crew-oriented gear (we assume your car is ready to pass tech).
The G-Force GF3 ($279.99) is our basic road racing helmet. Like all our helmets, the GF3 is SA2015 rated, so you could run it for up to 10 years. Unlike some entry-level helmets, the GF3 is actually shaped to fit the human head, not attempt to pinch it into submission. And G-Force includes special channels in the padding to help you slip your sunglasses on:
If you want something a little fancier, but without much financial damage, the Black Armor Circuit Pro 2 Composite helmet ($399.99) is a great choice. It is SA2015 certified, of course. But the really nifty thing is that Black Armor has made the helmet modular. You can add a communications port and a hydration port to the sides of the helmet, making it easier, safer and more reliable to connect your radio and drink bottle.
You'll need a fire-resistant drivers suit. Our basic suit is the Sparco Jade 2 ($270). It is SFI 3.2A/5 rated, which is what you'll need to pass technical inspection. The plain styling works well with sanctioning body and sponsor patches, including the nifty Winding Road Racing patch you'll almost certainly want to sew on:
The Jade 2 is a high quality suit, but it achieves its fire rating through fairly thick fabric. Which means it is heavy and toasty. If you want something more stylish and cooler, we recommend the Oreca V-Pro suit ($649). It achieves an SFI 3.2A/5 rating using only two layers, so it is lighter and more breathable than many other suits in this price range. Oreca builds prototype sports cars than win in endurance races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship, so they know a thing or two about technology and driver performance:
Head and Neck Restraint System
The Schroth SHR Flex ($575.00) is a great choice for ChumpCar drivers who often find that they are racing in different (and unfamiliar) cars at different times. The SHR Flex automatically adapts to the different seating positions in a variety cars, so you only need one head restraint device. That flexible system also makes it more comfortable for some drivers, especially women. And it has been tested for both 2” and 3” harnesses (naturally, since Schroth is a leading harness manufacturer).
You want a balaclava because you are going to perspire while driving. The balaclava is your first line of defense. Just take it off and hang it up to dry when you get out of the car. 4 hours later, slip it back on and you’ll be happier than if you didn’t use one. Trust us.
While OMP is a supplier to Formula One teams, that doesn’t stop them from delivering great value in many of their products. In this case, the OMP OS 40 nomex balaclava ($34.00) is inexpensive and made of a very soft and comfortable material. No need to irritate your delicate face (and you’ll want to look fresh for that podium ceremony).
Pro tip: buy two balaclavas to be sure yours is dry when you get back in the car for your second or third stint.
The Alpinestars Nomex Socks ($34.95) are FIA 8856-2000 and SFI 3.3 approved, so you’ll pass tech. They are comfortable, thanks to a soft Kevlar interweave and flat seams. And they’re reasonably priced.
Our basic shoe is the G-Force GF235 ($79.99). Made of a suede-like material, it is SFI certified and comes in three colors:
If you’d like something slightly fancier, we recommend the Winding Road Racing Turn 10 racing shoe ($149.99). It is SFI approved, with a Nomex interior under a leather outer. Our drivers wanted a high-quality, affordable shoe with a thin sole for pedal feel, so we built it ourselves:
Our basic glove is the G-Force G5 ($44.99). It is SFI 5 fire rated and very reasonably priced:
Some of us like just a little more design flair and prefer a thin, flexible glove. OMP’s OS60 ($69.99) fits the bill and is the go-to glove for some of our pro drivers who find that many of the fancier gloves bunch up too much. The OS60 is another OMP “best buy”. SFI 3.3/5 and FIA 8856-2000 rated:
You’ll be in the driver’s seat for up to two hours at a time. You’ve removed all the insulation in the car to lower weight. The track is hot. You really need a driver cooling system. The simple answer is an ice-based driver cooling system. It circulates icewater through tubes in a shirt that each driver wears. For endurance racing, you want the 19 Quart CoolShirt Club System All-In-One kit
You will also need at least two Cool Shirts ($144.00) (one for the exiting driver, one for the new driver):
Finally, in really hot climates, you may want a CoolShirt Cool-A-Clava
($99.00) to cool each driver’s head. Plugs into the same connectors as the Cool Shirt.
You may lose a little oil from all that high rpm operation. Many high-performance street cars use unusual oil weights that you may not find at the NAPA store 3 miles from the track. It is always good to have an extra quart on hand to top off your oil level:
Losing brake pressure because your fluid is overheated is also bad. Very bad, actually, because you’ll probably notice the problem as you are, say, trying to brake from 145 mph as you approach Turn 12 at COTA. You may want to change brake fluid to Castrol SRF
($74.95) with its higher boiling point:
You need a radio system so that the crew and the driver can communicate (sudden pit stops, tire problems, need to re-fuel, special instructions from race control, etc.). Our basic system is the Winding Road Racing Custom Communications System ($949.00). It has two radios, the wiring to hook up the in-car radio, a headset for the crew chief and the microphone and earbuds for one driver:
All you need to add for endurance racing is the helmet-mounted mic and earbuds for your additional drivers:
Pro tip: buy a long pole (collapsible) and put a distinctive flag or sign on it so that you can help your driver find your pit box and you can signal your driver to pit if the radio should fail.
Fuel Jugs Etc.
You will need 5 gallon jugs for refueling. For typical cars, this means you want 3 jugs, but you can do the math on your tank capacity. The basic answer is the VP Racing Motorsport Fuel Container ($41.95). Get them in red so you aren’t hassled at the gas station:
Pro tip: Read the rules about overflow catch pans. You will want to buy a spill tray so that any overflow is contained to avoid penalties. The details of the rules mean this is not a good last-minute purchase. You also need kitty litter, which is an easy last-minute item.
Your car needs a fire suppression system, which we assume you already have installed (click the link above if you don't). But, remember, your crew also needs a 10 lb. hand held extinguisher with a minimum UL 60 BC or ABC rating for refueling. You can get this at Lowe’s or Home Depot.
Car Safety Gear
Read the rules to understand what is required. Also, if your car isn’t new, check dates on seats, harnesses, and window nets and fire systems.
You need at least a transponder mount ($10.00). You can rent a transponder at the track. Here is the mount you need, which we would buy in advance since you will have plenty to do when you arrive at the track:
Battery Saver Jump Pack
Your battery may die because someone forgot the use the kill switch. For these situations, you want to be carrying a vehicle jump pack ($149.95):
Brake Bleeder Kit
You need to bleed your brakes after a pad replacement. You can use this brake bleeder kit ($18.00):
Tire Pressure Gauge
Setting tire pressures correctly ensures that your car has proper traction and handling. The thing is, the air in your tires is loaded with humidity and as a result your air pressure will change dramatically as you run laps and build heat in your tires. You’ll want to check and adjust pressures before and after each run to make sure pressure levels are correct and balanced (e.g. we run 4 lb lower cold on our left rear tire at Road America because the carousel really heats that tire up).
You need to check that your lug nuts are properly tightened. Most racers do this before every session. After all, the consequences of a wheel coming off are dire and the effort to see that they don’t is minor. We offer a small, inexpensive torque wrench ($34.95) along with a boxed set of the 6 most common metric and SAE sockets:
To change tires you need an impact wrench. We’ve used this one for the 25 Hours Of Thunderhill with no problems (29 pit stops and 29 tire changes):
Pro tip: remember to get the correct impact socket for your lug nuts (ideally a deep socket to ensure fit over racing studs).
You’ll need a floor jack for tire changes, too. If you don’t have one, Harbor Freight has a pretty nice, low cost option:
If you don’t have a compressor, you want an air tank to top off air pressure in your tires. Here is an easy solution: