- If you want to race, you need a helmet. The choices — and price tags — can be intimidating, but they don’t have to be. We’re here to help you pick something safe, functional, and affordable.
- The Simpson Carbon Devil Ray will satisfy all your racing needs and it doesn’t hurt that it looks pretty cool, too.
Auto enthusiasts love cars for several reasons, but performance is usually chief among them. Whether it’s in an expensive super-car or a nimble budget hatchback, car lovers are eager to put them — and themselves — to the test. The law and general common sense dictate that drivers itching to cut loose take that exuberance onto the track (and off the streets), whether that be a parking-lot autocross or a professional racing circuit. Either way, you’ll need some safety gear, most important of which will be the helmet.
Apart from the car, the helmet will be the most important investment for any performance driving activities you may want to take part in. Even the most low-level, amateur just-for-fun autocross events held by local clubs usually require a helmet, and if you want to pursue your hobby to more challenging, high-speed venues (or compete!), you’ll want a lid that you can rely on.
There are a lot of helmets to choose from but fret not, we’re here to help. The helmets on this list are going to be the ones that get you started on your motorsport journey without the need for sponsorship money. As an automotive journalist who’s done his fair share of races and driven exotic super-cars, I know how important a good helmet can be not only for comfort but also for safety.
Something to keep in mind: There are several ratings that helmets are subjected to, but we focused on the Snell-certification since it’s the most recognized and comprehensive. Some even meet the super-strict Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) ratings needed to compete professionally. Either way, each pick should satisfy any requirements your track or car club demands and, most importantly, keep you safe.
Here are the best auto racing helmets you can buy:
- Best auto racing helmet overall: Simpson Carbon Devil Ray
- Best helmet for racers on a budget: Bell Sport Mag
- Best pro racing helmet: Stilo ST5
- Best youth racing helmet: Zamp RZ-42Y
- Best vintage style racing helmet: Conquer Open Face Rally
The best auto racing helmet overall
If you’re looking for a good closed-faced helmet that will follow you through your racing career, the Simpson Carbon Devil Ray is a solid all-rounder.
Simpson’s Carbon Devil Ray ticks a ton of boxes when it comes to a solid helmet, making it our overall pick. The Devil Ray is both Snell SA 2015-certified and FIA 8858-2010 compliant, meaning it’s ready to be your go-to from the amateur level all the way up to the big leagues.
In fact, the mileage of the Devil Ray is why we like it so much. On its own, the helmet will satisfy just about any safety requirements while being versatile enough to follow your progression across many disciplines, be it on the track, off-road racing, karting, or at the drag strip. Additional accessories help facilitate different needs like cooling ducts, radio communications, and visibility.
The carbon shell of the Devil Ray makes it light — less than 3 pounds for a medium size. It’s also got the mounts needed for head restraint systems designed to prevent further injuries due to head-thrashing. Lastly, it looks pretty darn cool.
At nearly $900 it’s not cheap, but those who are sure they’ll be making motorsport part of their life in a big way will be able to stretch that investment over time. For folks who aren’t looking to go pro but want a decent closed-faced helmet, the Composite Devil Ray is available for more than half the price. Constructed out of fiberglass, it weighs a little more than the Carbon.
Pros: Great multiuse helmet for any motorsport you choose to do
Cons: Pricey for a starter helmet (worth it as a long-term investment)
The best helmet for racers on a budget
Simple to pull on and take off, the Bell Mag Sport is the go-to lid for those who need an unobtrusive open-faced helmet.
Protecting your noggin isn’t an area you should skimp out on, but those looking to satisfy the mere requirement of having a helmet on a budget need to look no further than the Bell Sport Mag.
That’s not to mean the Sport Mag is bad — quite the contrary, in fact. The Sport Mag is built to stringent standards by a quality manufacturer and its $300 price tag sweetens the deal. That’s not an insubstantial chunk of change, but it’s going to be the best deal you’ll get on a helmet that you can count on.
That price-to-quality ratio is why there’s a good bet that you’re already familiar with the Sport Mag. Chances are, if you’ve been to a track or event without a helmet of your own and needed a "loaner lid," this was what was on hand.
The Sport Mag is a lightweight open-faced helmet that meets Snell certification requirements. Easy to slip on and off, the helmet has a thick padded interior that will feel snug around the cheek-pads but will rarely be overwhelming. That and the easy-to-use chin-strap will make sure the Sport Mag stays put while you’re in the thick of it. An extra $50 will make this helmet ready-to-go for HANS (Head And Neck Support) device compatibility.
Pros: Simple, no-frills helmet that doesn’t get in the way of driving fun
Cons: Open-face design might not be sufficient for events with higher safety requirements
The best pro racing helmet
If there’s a Ferrari of helmets, the Stilo ST5 is it.
If you’ve reached the point where you’ve got the skills and the cash to field your own car in some serious racing, the Stilo ST5 is the helmet you bring to show everyone you mean business. Worn by those from NASCAR to Formula 1, the ST5 range of helmets is a no-compromise piece of equipment that the professionals swear by.
The ST5 features superb visibility and comfort, thanks to a widened eye-port. Its lightness and contoured cheek-pads mean that any helmet in the ST5 range will be comfortable, regardless of the materials used. Airflow into the helmet is optimized with a series of vents, but air systems can be attached to keep you cool during some endurance-challenging races.
Along with breathing easily, a drinking system with easy quick-coupling is available so you can hydrate during your stint. The ST5 also comes wired with the electronics needed for radio communication and has integrated earmuffs that block out external noise, so chatter can be heard clearly.
Suiting up like the professionals don’t come cheap, though, so even the most bare-bones ST5 is going to be upward of $1,000. But if you’re buying the helmet version of a purpose-built Italian super-car, it’s nothing you can’t afford.
Pros: Everything you could ever want in a professional racing helmet
Cons: Priced for those who either have a sponsor or enough money to buy a racing team
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