If you tuned in to watch MotoGP free practice you would have noticed that a number of riders across all classes aren’t racing with their regular helmets. This is due to the fact that the FIM now requires all helmets to be homologated to a certain standard. The helmets which didn’t make the cut are KYT, Suomy & LS2. This doesn’t mean that they are inferior products, quite the contrary, it just means that they haven’t met the recently introduced safety standards.
What is homologation? It’s a set of guidelines which are used as the standard measurement for rider’s safety. There are a variety of different guidelines throughout the world with the most notable ones being ECE-R22.05, DOT, GB & SNELL. All of these approved safety ratings are granted after rigorous testing. The FIM has analyzed the characteristics & risks associated with professional motorbike racing and has made recommendations to unify all the other ratings under one single system.
Helmet manufacturers were given notice at the start of the year, however, the aforementioned brands weren’t able to sort out their issues in time and will no longer be permitted to be worn at race weekends until they meet the required criteria.
What happens now? Helmet manufacturers which did not meet the criteria will simply use a different model and rebrand it as its own. It doesn’t look very elegant and it’s not the best marketing exercise but it’s the only short-term fix. It’s unclear what sort of agreements were made behind closed doors. What is evident is that certain helmet manufacturers are now using rival helmets and passing them off as their own. Hopefully this situation can be sorted out quickly.
There is a similar precedent to this situation which took place at the beginning of the year in Formula 1. There were concerns that some drivers wouldn’t be allowed to take part in pre-season testing for the same reasons. Everything managed to sort itself out though and the different helmet manufacturers were able to meet the requirements in time.
Why has it taken so long for MotoGP to meet the requirments? This is a good question without a good answer. Only the helmet manufacturers know what goes on behind the scenes and the work & money involved in ‘getting with the times’. They must have planned for this worst case scenario and figured it into their budgets.
Is the FIM just being greedy? Helmet manufacturers which were allowed to be used are now deemed illegal. It does raise the question if this is just a big cash grab. Wherever rider safety is concerned, all should be done to ensure that it remains the number one priority. The FIM have more access to resources and data on crashes than any armchair critic could ever hope to have. If they say that certain helmets need to be safer then so be it.
It will be interesting to see how this situation pans out over the coming race weekends.