1. Why do you need a harness?
A good Race Harness is one of the most vital safety components of any race car. It doesn’t matter if you’re a drifter or a drag racer a quality certified, correctly installed and well looked after harness can and will save your life. In a crash, the sudden change in speed and direction can put massive force on the occupant’s body, causing injury or even death. The role of a harness in a crash is to prevent the mass of your body from moving within the seat and car. The wide straps of a racing harness spread the force across the driver’s hips, shoulders and chest, some of the strongest parts of the body. A quality certified Harness is an item that no driver should ever have to use, but, if you need it, you will be glad you have it.
2. What sort of harness do you need?
This depends on many things; what level of racing you’re doing and what level of certification is required by the sanctioning body for your planned events. When it comes to popular known aftermarket race harnesses you basically have a choice of 4 point or 5/6 point. 4 Points are commonly used in street cars that occasionally go to the track and the driver wants a bit more security and safety over the factory 3 point lap sash belt. The good thing about 4 point harnesses is they will work with many factory race style seats, GTR Skyline seats for instance as they don’t have a crotch belt/ belts needing to go through the seat to the floor. Under the Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS) a 4 point Harness is good for entry level events such as single sprints, gymkhanas and open fun day style driving events though once you move into a more serious race situation a 5/6 Harness is required. We highly recommend a 6 point Harness for anyone who is serious about safety and have a dedicated track car and suitable seat (such as our new FIA harnesses). This is due to an effect called “submarining” which is where the waist of the occupant moves downwards underneath the belts (see link to video). With a 4 point harness this puts the buckle of the harness right over the soft and vital organs; this can be fatal in a crash. There a 4 point models out there that claim to have an “anti-submarining” design though we are yet to see any proof or crash test results to back this up.
3. FIA Vs SFI?
Again this really depends what your sanctioning body requires, many speedway and off road classes require a lever action SFI buckle as it has been found that water and dirt can hamper with the cam lock buckle used on FIA certified harnesses. CAMS however recognise both FIA and SFI Harnesses, our personal opinion is that the spring loaded cam lock buckles are far easier and quicker to use in a circuit/ drift car situation. When it comes to the rest of the harness both certifications are as safe as each other, the only benefit with the FIA harnesses are the use by dates. In 1998 the FIA introduced new harness Standards 8853/98 and 8854/98, which stipulated that the validity of a harness expires five years after the year of manufacture. After much testing by the Institute of Australian Motorsport Safety CAMs declared that for national events and under a FIA harness 8853/98 and 8854/98 can be extended 5 years past the use by date on the harnesses meaning you can get up to ten years life out of a harness provided you keep them clean, well maintained and they aren’t damaged. A SFI certified harness on the other hand only have a 2year validity, after this they must be returned to the manufacturer to be re certified as many of the manufactures are USA based this is a costly exercise making the initially more expensive FIA certified harnesses a better option in most cases.
Proper installation is critical; if your harness is not installed correctly it will not function as designed and can cause serious injury or death. Thoroughly read the instructions from the Harness Manufacture and align with the technical requirements for your sanctioning body. We highly recommend that you seek advice and or get a professional to install your harness if you are not competent nor fully understand the requirements of the manufacture and your sanctioning body. The CAMS manual schedule I (link) covers the basic harness requirements for most circuit and rally racing including attachment points, mounting hardware, reinforcements and angles allowed for Harnesses. Please pay special attention to the angles of your harness; I have scrutineered many cars that have gotten the angles wrong especially street based cars using harness eyelets on factory rear seat belt holes. Extra special attention is required to when using a frontal head restraint device. Cams schedule J (link) also has a section on Harness mounting to a transversal member, which is our preferred method of installing a harness.
Most of you are aware that there are a lot of fake harnesses on the market, many sanctioning bodies, organisations and manufactures have issued statements and advise on fakes, but they are getting harder to spot. The only advice we can give is to only buy from a reputable shop or dealer. Companies like us spend a lot of time and money working with suppliers and manufacturers to make sure we can get you the best products for the best prices (like our new FIA approved 6 point harnesses). If you see a good brand seatbelt at a really cheap price, sometimes even too cheap for one but wait there is a pair don’t buy, out of all the fake things on the market these days the last thing you want to buy are fake harnesses. Some of the ways to spot fakes other than two good to be true prices is average looking logos, inconsistent stitching, mismatched certification tags and dodgy descriptions. Here is a link to a video from the Fake Britten series where an episode covers fake Harnesses, about half way through is a crash test where the mounting clip fails. I have also added a link to a recent drift crash captured by full boost watch the video closely you can see the Harness fail, this was later confirmed as a ebay special.
If that’s not enough to make you think twice about buying fake harnesses you probably really shouldn’t be getting into motor sport.