Choosing A Head And Neck Restraint Device
On my way back from VIR I stopped by OG Racing showroom in Sterling VA to look at seats and head and neck restraints.
I found 4 seats that did not fit me, but that is subject for another topic.
Head and neck restraints. There are three competing systems:
- Simpson Hybrid
I was able to try all three and in different sizes. Trackside vendors typically only have one or two of those in very limited sizes, but OG Racing store had everything I asked for.
Simpson Hybrid: this is the one that does not require a harness to work. Supposedly. According to Eric (?) at OG Racing there was no certification/verification/testing of this, it is purely a marketing claim. When I tried the device I could move it quite a bit up and down, and without harnesses your back will detach from the seat in a crash therefore the device is likely to be able to move.
I wanted to get the Hybrid initially because I often am a passenger in cars with 3 point belts only, but after trying one I was not convinced I should get it. Also, the device goes between your back and the seat which can create issues with seat fitment/comfort.
The next one I tried was Necksgen. The primary difference from Hans is that Necksgen essentially uses two points to contact the body and in the middle your upper body/shoulders are pressed into padding which does not touch the fiberglass/plastic, whereas Hans is contoured to essentially press on your body along most of its length. I had one session with a Hans and its presence was noticeable, this is why I wanted to try Necksgen.
In a test fit Necksgen seemed OK but I have a communicator attached to my helmet most of the time and I kept hitting the device's fiberglass/plastic body when I turned my head to look into mirrors. It was not horrible but definitely concerning. I was also feeling a pressure point on the bottom of the device "legs".
Then I tried Hans. I started with one of the original design that is taller and square, unlike Hans version 2 which is not as tall and kind of semi-circular. To my surprise I did not feel a specific pressure point like I had when I wore one earlier, maybe the previous time the Hans came with no padding? Hans does have padding and if it fits you properly I think the padding does a good job of distributing the pressure to the point where there are no distinct pressure points, unlike Necksgen. Also I noticed that I could turn my head without hitting the communicator on the Hans. However, the back of the device contacted the seat and the more I would try to sit further back the worse it would be. Essentially the first generation Hans imposed a certain distance between the back of the helmet and the seat, and I preferred a noticeably smaller distance. (The fact that my seat is mounted too upright was not helping.)
After that I tried Hans version 2, I believe that was a Hans Sport 2. The second generation has the back of the device only about half as tall as the first generation. The issue of Hans pushing my head away from the seat virtually went away. I think I could still put the Hans into the seat if I really tried but my natural position and motion were no longer constrained.
Hans version 2 was as good as version 1 in terms of communicator to Hans clearance.
The other cool thing you can do is get the adjustable Hans. This is what I ended up buying. In the default position Hans adjustable is equivalent to a Hans Sport 2 at 20 degree layback, but you can change the angle from at least 10 to 30 degrees in 5 degree increments. For now I am sticking with the 20 degree default but since I know I have high standards for fitting into seats it's good to have the ability to tweak the Hans.
Adjustability is a $150 premium. Hans Sport 2 is $650 I believe, the adjustable model is $800.
I did not try various carbon fiber versions. To my knowledge there is no adjustable carbon fiber version (yet?).
I ended up going with Quick Click anchors because I think even the standard "quick release" anchors are too much of a pain to deal with, because they require an impressive amount of sideways force at exactly the right spot to either put on or take off.
So far I have one weekend running with my Hans. First thing I want to say is knowledge that I have all of the safety equipment I can (and should) have is extremely calming. I have had a halo seat for most of 2012 and the fact that I did not have a head/neck restraint was always bugging me. No more.
The Hans is almost unnoticeable when driving HPDE. I feel it engage just as I hit the helmet on the halo looking in either side mirror. It really does not compromise visibility much at all. However, when backing up in the paddock it stops me from moving my head to where I want to move it, which I am not actually sure where that is but that is the only time I noticed Hans constraining movement significantly. I wonder whether it will matter in wheel to wheel racing. In reality though, once the car has a roll cage you can stick mirrors on the roll cage wherever you want therefore I do not expect Hans to be a problem.
I felt a bit of fatigue once and I ran at least one or two 40-minute outings (two sessions back to back). But this needs more track time before I can pass judgment.
Getting the Hans off does not require much time. Getting it on does, somewhat. Besides the obvious time it takes to get the device over the neck, you need to have both shoulder belts over the device before tightening anything (it is impossible to pull a shoulder belt from under yourself if your other side is tightened). I definitely need 10 minutes to get in the car now.
Overall I am very pleased with the purchase. It is $800 well spent. My biggest concern was buying the wrong device and after trying all of them I know that I made the right decision. Having the adjustable Hans also means I do not need to worry as much about seat fitment. Thank you OG Racing for having everything I wanted to try in stock.
I should probably add that "trying" means I had my race car in the parking lot and I tried all of the devices in my car, in my seat, with my belts, with my helmet and my communicator attached to the helmet where it always is. And I have 3 inch belts. The entire visit took me about 5 hours, but I also bought a pair of shoes, two pairs of gloves and examined all halo seats they had.