Why? Don't I already have a suit?
Well, the thing is, karting gear is mostly designed to be skid resistant. The risk of fire is very small, and even if an engine blows up right next to your elbow it probably won't involve much fire. So as a result my gloves and suit are made of a type of rip-stop fabric and if I were to turn over onto my head and ejected at 40 MPH I'd be well protected from road rash (my shoes are fire shoes, however).
Fire suits are made from soft, delicate materials like nomex. These protect against fire very well, but if I were to slide along a road at a good clip they would get shredded to bits. Horses for courses.
Fire suits are also very expensive. My karting suit cost about $200. A three-layer SFI-approved and highly rated fire suit will be more like $1,500 to $2,000.
So I was pretty thrilled when I walked into the Infineon pro shop (Wine Country Motorsports) and saw a very nice Sparco three-layer suit in my size and on sale for $1,100.
It's a Sparco X-light, and it's got some very impressive features.
Firstly, it's very light, as the name implies. It's only a little heavier than my karting suit. Some of the other suits I tried on were just plain uncomfortable. Very heavy and warm. This is the lightest and the coolest one I could find.
It's also SFI 3.2A/5 rated. What this means is, each layer of the suit will last ten seconds under direct flame. So, being a three-layer suit, I will have thirty seconds to escape the burning car. Add another layer of nomex underwear and I've then got forty seconds. Tons of time. To be SFI rated the suit must also self-extinguish in less than 2 seconds. Now that's just plain impressive.
The other cool part of the suit is the "X-cool" treatment that Sparco gives it. It's a chemical treatment that helps keep you cool. It also releases a fresh minty aroma so you don't smell too bad after a race. Ain't technology great?
This is the single most expensive piece of clothing I own. And it's expendable.
But hey, it's got my name on it.