Vehicle Driving Suits

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A race car driver’s suit, is a protective outer layer of clothing, which is fire resistant. Driving suits are made from a combination of different materials, which allow them to be fire resistant. There are two categories in which driving suits are rated: the SFI rating and the Thermal Protective Performance, or TPP. NASCAR requires a minimum of a 1-layer suit with underwear or a SFI 3.2A/5 without underwear. See the SFI and TPP rating chart below.

SFI Rating TPP Value Time to 2nd Degree Burn
3.2A/1 6 3 Seconds
3.2A/3 14 7 Seconds
3.2A/5 19 10 Seconds
3.2A/10 38 19 Seconds
3.2A/15 60 30 Seconds
3.2A/20 80 40 Seconds

There are five well-known materials on the market that are used in the making of a fire resistant driving suit: Proban, Carbon-X, Nomex, Kevlar, and PBI.

Proban is a low-cost product that is treated to cotton fabric. This product is not used commonly because like most cotton fabrics, the material gets thinner with washing; making it having to be replaced often.

Carbon-X is fairly new on the market and provides excellent fire resistants. It is a pre-burned polyacrylonitrile fiber which limits the color to black only. This material is used in suits, balaclavas and underwear.

DuPont created the most widely used product for racing suits, call Nomex. Nomex offers excellent protection from fires, and is available in a wide variety of colors. Nomex is available in both woven and knit fabrics and most suits are made using multiple layers of Nomex.

Kevlar is a very tough material that is most commonly used for making bullet-resistant vests, but is also very strong and resisting fire. Kevlar is a very expensive product and is hard to work with so it is used mainly in premium driving suits.

PBI will not melt or burn in the air and is as comfortable as cotton. It is superior to Nomex in the fact that Nomex does melt, and becomes brittle. PBI however does not stretch very well, so it is not used often in driving suits.

Many suits that are worn now have a combination of these products, making them very durable and very flame resistant.

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