Innovative Front Head Restraints For Any Racer From Stand 21

Stand 21’s top-of-the-line Front Head Restraint is worn by several current Formula 1 drivers, and its Club Series 3 is ideal for amateur racers at a price that’s right.

Photo: Stand 21

Like the crash helmets, seatbelts and fire-retardant race suits that came before, the head and neck restraint has become de rigueur across all forms of auto racing. Today, regardless of whether the use of a head and neck restraint is compulsory, a professional driver wouldn’t think about strapping into the cockpit without one, any more than they would go without their gloves. And it’s for a good reason: They save lives.

Over the years, safety equipment has been created to answer the needs of the time. Early on, drivers were thrown around and even ejected from their cars upon impact, and that gave rise to seatbelts. In the late 1960s through the ’70s, fire was a prevalent danger, which coincided with significant advancements in fire-retardant apparel of which Stand 21 was at the forefront. By the mid 1980s, drivers were safely ensconced in their cockpits and fires of the kind that engulfed a car were rare.

Now a new form of lethal injury was becoming increasingly prevalent: basilar skull fractures.

Patrick Jacquemart died of such an injury during a sports car race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 1983. It was then that his teammate, Jim Downing, approached his brother-in-law, Dr. Robert Hubbard, a biomechanical engineer who had worked on crash test dummies for General Motors, for help on developing a device to reduce the risk of such an injury. It took nearly a decade, but the pair eventually created the head and neck support known now as the HANS Device.

Adoption of the device was slow among professional drivers, and the original cost of a HANS was high. It took a string of fatalities among some of the biggest names in the sport, including Formula 1 driver Roland Ratzenberger in 1994 and NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt in 2001, to accelerate the mandatory use of head and neck restraint systems across many forms of motorsports.

The HANS Device was not the only system that complied with new requirements mandated by national and international sanctioning bodies, but it was certainly ubiquitous. Downing and Hubbard set up a company called HDI that would retain the patents to the HANS and, by 2002, the FIA mandated that at least two other companies be allowed to produce and sell the HANS Device outside of North America under license, which were duly awarded to Stand 21 and Schroth.

Stand 21’s founder and current CEO, Yves Morizot, was close to Downing and Hubbard during the early days of the HANS Device’s development, having been one of the early manufacturers, and since the granting of the license, Stand 21 has continued to produce HANS Devices. However, the patent on HANS expired at the beginning of 2019, meaning that other companies are now free to produce their own version.

Lewis Hamilton won the 2019 German Grand Prix pole wearing the new Stand 21 Featherlite FHR.

In response to the patent expiration, the FIA adopted a new universal nomenclature for the devices, calling them Front Head Restraints.

Stand 21 has now branched out to develop five unique variants, producing more than 10,000 units per year under the banner “FHR Engineered by Stand 21.” Of the five models, two are currently available for sale in the U.S.: the Ultimate (soon to be replaced by the Featherlite) and the Club Series 3. Both meet the latest, stringent requirements of the FIA standard 8858-2010 and the SFI Spec 38.1.

Coming soon is the new, range-topping Stand 21 Featherlite. At just 350 grams (12.3 ounces), the Featherlite is the most advanced FHR that Stand 21 has ever produced.

The Ultimate is Formula 1-level quality in terms of material advancements, weight and fit, while the Club Series 3 still meets the highest standards, albeit at a slightly higher weight. The tradeoff is a very reasonable suggested retail price of $379 for Club Series 3.

“We have evolved our manufacturing process to reduce the cost without any sacrifices in the standards of our FHR series,” says Morizot. “At the current price, there is no excuse for any racer at any level – amateur, club, or even weekend track-day drivers – to not use an FHR. Compared to the overall cost of racing, $379 is a small investment, and one that could save your life. At this cost, our primary purpose is to make high-quality safety equipment available to everyone.”

With the licensing of the HANS Device expired, there could many other manufacturers coming into the market who will keep pricing in check. However, Morizot emphasizes that drivers shouldn’t buy just any device off the internet. “If the fit isn’t correct, the device won’t work as intended,” he cautions, noting that this applies to Stand 21’s device as well. “Please consult with us at Stand 21 before purchasing a device to make sure that the FHR fits as it should,” he recommends.

A complete list of approved Front Head Restraints is available at fia.com/safetyequipment and at sfifoundation.com/protectivegearrestraints.

The Club Series 3 (top image) is Stand 21’s entry level FHR for the U.S. market and offers high-end ergonomics at an affordable price. Handmade in France using thermoplastic-injected resin reinforced with carbon fiber, the Club Series 3 weighs only 640 grams, or about the same weight as the original HANS. The Club Series 3 comes with black padding, a sliding tether, and a protective bag. Suggested retail price is $379. shopstand21.com/fhr