The 10 Best Auto Racing Helmets

By Winding Road Staff

January 12, 2018

Note: This is our updated 2018 buyer's guide.

Whether you are road racing, doing a track day, running autocross or participating in High Performance Driver Education, you need a helmet. But it can be confusing when it comes to actually buying one. There are a lot of choices and sometimes the differences aren’t obvious.

To give you some help, we recently reviewed 56 helmets from Bell, Simpson, Stilo, Black Armor, HJC, Roux, Schuberth, GForce, Arai, Zamp and Oreca. That isn't every helmet on the market, but it is close.

We found when testing factors like features, style, weight, fit and price that there were models that stood out. We’ve picked 10 helmets that cover a range of prices and are the ones we would start with when shopping. You may find that a given helmet doesn’t have ideal fit or is missing a feature that is critical for you, but at least you have a way to make your selection process more focused.

As a refresher in factors you need to consider when buying a helmet, you may want to read our Helmet Buyers Guide: http://www.windingroad.com/articles/blogs/buyers-guide-helmets/

You can buy any of these auto racing helmets in our helmet superstore.

All the helmets in the top 10 list below are HANS compatible and Snell SA 2015 rated.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, our 2018 best racing helmets for this season:

10. HJC AR-10 III

HJC AR-10 III

$329

About 3.7 lb.

The HJC AR-10 III is a very nicely finished helmet that is offered at an attractive price. The helmet shape and padding make it suitable for many people. The big thing is that many entry-level helmets seem to have odd shapes that make them uncomfortable for most drivers, but HJC has actually paid attention to real head shapes (they've targeted the mid-oval head shape, which covers a lot of ground). Available in white and matte black. Shop all HJC helmets.

9. Black Armor Circuit Pro Composite 

Black Armor Circuit Pro Composite 

$399

About 3.6 lb.

Helmet fit is among the most important things, especially if you are in the car for long periods (e.g. ChampCar or WRL). Black Armor helmets typically fit round headshapes well. In addition, the Black Armor Composite has a removable interior, which allows us to adjust pad thickness to dial in fit, within limits, to your particular head shape and size. This is a high-end feature, but the Black Armor Composite doesn't command a high-end price. In addtion, the Black Armor Composite can be adapted for communications and hydration connections with Black Armor's ModPod options.  Available in silver or white. Shop all Black Armor helmets.

8. HJC HX-10 III Carbon Fiber

HJC HX-10 III Carbon Fiber

$799

About 3.3 lb.

HJC does it again, with an entry-level carbon fiber helmet that challenges the fit and finish of helmets at twice the price. But the big thing is that the HX-10 actually has the weight benefits you'd expect from carbon fiber, unlike some other entry-level carbon helmets that weight as much or more than similarly priced composite helmets. The HX-10 III has HJC's sensible shell shape and can be adapted to different race conditions with HJC's various shields. Shop all HJC helmets.

 

7. Arai GP5W  

Arai GP5W  

$809

About 3.4 lb.

Warning! Don’t try an Arai helmet unless you can live with the price point. Several of our testers (and many customers) found the Arai shape and padding more comfortable than any other and didn't want to go back to their previous helmets. You mileage may vary, of course, but consider yourself warned. The GP5W gets you that Arai fit along with a large eyeport. Shop all Arai helmets.

6. Stilo ST5 GT Composite

Stilo ST5 GT Composite

$912

About 3.3 lb.

The Stilo ST5 offers the widest range of optional features in this price range or even higher prices (except for other Stilos). The ST5 can be configured with a built-in radio connector and mic (usable with ear buds or with built in headphones), a hydration port and top air (side air is also possible but then you can’t have both comms and hydration). There is an optional eject bladder for safety workers to use to remove the helmet. Most testers liked the distinctive shell shape which is wrapped in an attactive finish. And Stilo offers a wide range of full and half visors, plus a peak visor. The ST5 is designed for closed cockpit cars and has a medium eyeport. Shop all Stilo helmets.

5. Bell M8 Carbon

Bell M8 Carbon

$949

About 3.2 lb.

The Bell M8 Carbon blends legendary Bell quality with a lightweight carbon fiber shell at an attractive price. Bell has added some secret sauce, too, in the form of super soft interior padding. Honestly, the padding feels a lot like flannel pajamas wrapped around a down comforter -- amazing! While we like to note that the Bell shell shape isn't for everyone, the new padding material helps the M8 work for more drivers than ever.  Shop all Bell helmets.

4. Bell GP.3 Carbon

Bell GP.3 Carbon

$999

About 3.1 lb.

If you want a carbon helmet for open cockpit cars -- note the duckbill -- Bell has an excellent choice in the GP.3. The GP.3 comes in at a respectably low weight (not a given with carbon fiber helmets that have to pass the Snell tests as we found in our testing). And, like the M8, it features Bell's "pajama soft" padding. Shop all Bell helmets.

3. Stilo ST5 GT 8860

Stilo ST5 GT 8860

$2799

About 3.1 lb.

The ST5 GT 8860 offers everything we love about the ST5 GT composite: optional comms port/mic, hydration port, forced air, and high comfort. It adds FIA 8860 certification and subtracts some weight. Plus the snazzy Stilo design looks especially cool in a carbon weave. That shape is one that almost all drivers find acceptably comfortable. Shop all Stilo helmets.

2. Schuberth SF2 Pro 8860

Schuberth SF2 Pro 8860

$4795

About 2.5 lb.

Only one helmet can be the lightest, and this is it. Schuberth used to be offered only as a custom helmet, but is now available from stock. Schuberth claims exceptional aerodynamics, and given that their helmets are used by Hulkenberg and Perez, they might know a thing or two about that. Shop all Schuberth helmets.

1. Stilo ST5 GT Zero 8860

Stilo ST5 GT Zero 8860

 

$4995

About 2.9 lb.

If you want it all, this is probably the helmet to have. The feature list is impressive: Communications standard, with headphones optional; Optional hydration port; Optional forced air; Optional eject bladder; FIA 8860 rated and yet among the lightest helmets we've tested; Comfortable for many users; Wide array of visors and peaks; Wide eyeport.; Aerodynamics kit included. Shop all Stilo helmets.

Noteworthy Specialty Helmets

Stilo Trophy Plus DES Composite

Stilo Trophy Plus DES Composite

$648

About 3.08 lb.

This is normally thought of as a rally helmet, but we also recommend it for HPDE and track day use. The open face and built-in mic make it ideal for student-instructor communications. HPDE and rally helmets must meet some special requirements. First you need a helmet set up for communications because electronic driver to co-driver/instructor communication is absolutely essential. Second, you want an open-face helmet in case the electronic system breaks down mid-stage (this can be handy for transits, too). Trust us, in a rally or race car you pretty much can't shout your way past a closed-face helmet. Shop all Stilo helmets.

 

Stilo ST5 CMR

Stilo ST5 CMR

$549

About 2.9 lb.

If your child is into karting (what kid in his/her right mind wouldn't be?), you want them well protected. The great thing about the Stilo ST5 CMR is that it combines Stilo quality with light weight. With karts easily able to pull 2G, this helmet can be like shaving 2 lb. from your kid's neck. They'll thank you later. Shop all Stilo helmets.