As I get deeper into the world of professional karting, I start to understand how much equipment a driver needs. After driving for a few hours (in total) at my nearest track, I decided to find out if I could take part in regional tournaments. To my delight, my track has a yearly championship that begins in a couple of months. So, it’s time for me to start purchasing some of the necessary equipment.
One of the first pieces of equipment that is required is a racing suit. Go-kart racing suits are essential because they provide professional drivers with much-needed protection. For example, before this week’s go-kart practice, I witnessed a pretty bad crash where one driver slid across the barriers. His suit was pretty damaged, but he wasn’t injured at all.
So, since I am in need of a suit, I started asking other drivers and karting friends, as well as several karting drivers online. I gathered tons of helpful information about what to look for in a racing suit, choosing the perfect one for your needs, and the best go-kart racing suits on the market. For starters, let’s find out the differences between go-kart suits.
What To Look For in a Go-Kart Racing Suit
The market has several go-kart racing suits. I was pretty overwhelmed to see suits on Amazon and some local stores that cost from as little as $50 up to $500. From what I gathered, there’s a variety of aspects that play a role in go-kart racing suits.
Before I take a deeper look at these aspects, I need to clarify that there’s no “best go-kart racing suit” on the market. One suit might be the best for me, while it might not suit you at all (no pun intended). That being said, let’s take a look at the different elements of a go-kart suit.
In order to take part in professional karting championships, you’ll need to own a certified go-kart racing suit. Your racing suit will need to be approved by the CIK FIA most of the time. The Commission Internationale de Karting (CIK) is part of the FIA (Federation de Internationale l’Automobile) and the governing body of the karting world. Its homologation guarantees that the suit is safe to wear, and it should keep you protected in case you crash.
Just like go-kart classes, there are different types of kart racing suits. Unlike the large array of go-kart categories, there are only two types of karting suits: those with a Level 1 certification and those with a Level 2 certification.
A go-kart racing suit can have a CIK FIA Level 1 or Level 2 homologation. Generally, a Level 1 certification is required for national events, while a Level 2 certification is needed for you to race karts internationally.
There’s also a third type, which is recreational suits. These aren’t certified by the CIK, but you can wear them if you’re racing at indoor tracks or go-karting recreationally.
The main difference between Level 1 and Level 2 certification is the material that they’re made from. Level 1 racing suits are made from layers of polyester and cotton, while Level 2 suits are made from one layer of thick material (more on that below), and layers of cotton. This makes them more abrasive and durable than their Level 1 counterparts.
It was surprising when I found out that go-kart racing suits aren’t made from the same material as regular racing suits, and karting suits can be made from three different materials.
Regular racing suits are made from Nomex, while go-kart racing suits are made from Cordura, poly-cotton, or Pyrovatex. These three materials have different properties that appeal to different types of racers.
Cordura is the material that’s usually found in professional karting suits. Most of the drivers on my track wear suits that are made from Cordura. Cordura is actually a mix of nylon and cotton. This adds a lot of additional properties, like abrasion resistance, meaning that even in the toughest of accidents (including ones that’ll get you flying out of your kart), you’ll be protected adequately.
That being said, Cordura is also the most expensive out of the three materials. That’s to be expected concerning the safety that it provides.
Poly-cotton is the most commonly found material in go-kart racing suits and is usually used for indoor racing suits. While many poly-cotton suits aren’t certified by the CIK, karting hobbyists choose them because of how comfortable they are. Poly-cotton is also reasonably strong and abrasive.
Pyrovatex is known for being a fire-resistant material. While you’ll hopefully not encounter a fire when you’re karting professionally, Pyrovatex will keep you safe. That being said, it’s mainly used for cheap, entry-level go-kart racing suits.
Go-kart racing suit sizes are usually overlooked. A couple of my friends bought their racing suits on impulse, only to return them back because they didn’t fit. The type of the suit and its material play a role in how the suit will fit.
That’s why manufacturers give specific measurements on every racing suit. All you’ll need to do is measure different parts of your body (it’s usually the chest, waist, hips, and neck), and pick the one that you think will fit you best.
But, you’ll need to keep in mind that different brands have different measurements. My friends bought an OMP and a Sparco suit, respectively. Because they both wear medium size, they thought that it would be the same for the suits, but the Sparco suit was too tight for my friend.
Generally speaking, as can be seen on the chart below, most kids in the Bambino and Cadet categories will be prompted to pick a size from 7X-Small up to Small. Teenagers and Adults, or Juniors and Seniors, can pick anywhere from 2X-Small up to 3X-Large.
Just like gloves and helmets , go-kart racing suits are a way to express your style. While most suits are either single-colored or feature a two-tone design, there are usually a variety of colors to choose from. So, you should look for something that fits your personality. And, don’t worry, the color and the type of racing suit won’t make you slower.
Go-kart racing suits have a variety of features. As you can imagine, cheaper suits targeting beginners have much fewer features than those used in the Karting World Championship.
Most racing suits that don’t have a certification from the CIK have a single layer of fabric (known as a single-layer shell) and don’t have a lot of features. On the other hand, Level 1 and Level 2 go-kart racing suits have a double or triple layer of fabric, which adds abrasion resistance and comfort.
The more professional suits also have mesh ventilation areas. Aeration is essential when it comes to professional karting. Championship races are long and exhausting, as former F1 driver Romain Grosjean has said. So, if the aeration is not adequate, the drivers can feel lightheaded or even lose consciousness.
Some more features include velcro belts and collars which make the suit tighter around the waist and neck, neck and shoulder padding for extra safety, and pockets where the driver can store anything they need.
Thankfully, I’ve not been in a big crash yet, and I’ll hopefully never be in one. That being said, go-karting can be pretty dangerous, and I believe that neglecting safety is not smart.
When it comes to the safety of go-kart racing suits, you’ll have to consider how serious you are about go-karting. Level 1 and Level 2 CIK certified suits offer much greater protection than uncertified suits. Depending on the surface you’re racing on, you might even need extra safety, like padding on different areas of the suit.
The price of go-kart racing suits can vary a lot, as I mentioned before. It’s a crucial aspect of race suits since you wouldn’t want to sacrifice the quality of a suit, but you also don’t want to spend a third of your monthly wage on one.
As you can imagine, a suit that’s made from Cordura and has a lot of safety features will cost much more than a poly-cotton one that’s made for indoor races. This is why you’ll need to find the best suit that combines quality and affordability.
That being said, I know that some of you are karting hobbyists while some other readers are professional karting drivers. I want to provide all of you with the best information about go-kart racing suits, so let’s find how you can choose the perfect go-kart racing suit.
How To Choose the Perfect Go-Kart Racing Suit
When it comes to choosing the perfect go-kart race suit, you’ll have to consider how serious you are about go-karting. One of the regulars at my local track has been karting for 15 years, and he told me that if I want to buy a racing suit, I need to ask myself the following two questions.
Are you racing recreationally or professionally?
This is by far the most critical question that you’ll need to answer. It’s a fact that karting is a sport with a wide range of participants. If you just spend an evening at your local track, you’ll see all types of drivers, from families to teenagers to professional racers. And, you might even witness the next F1 driver on the track.
And, since racing suits can bring a lot of benefits when it comes to karting, you’ll have to consider the level that you want to reach. Do you want to take part in the regional championship, or do you want to take a trip to the track once a month and race with your friends? Or, maybe you want to start the journey to the Karting World Championship, or even F1?
Regardless of your aspiration, you should consider what type of racing suit you’ll need. As a hobbyist, you won’t need to buy a suit that has a CIK certification or extra safety features. I’d even say that you don’t need a racing suit! But, if you’re ready to become a professional karting driver, you’ll have to purchase a suit that guarantees your safety and will allow you to participate in your target races.
How tight is your budget?
Unfortunately, go-karting isn’t a cheap hobby. You’ll initially need to make a big investment to get all the equipment and your personal go-kart. So, if you can barely manage to rent a kart for a race once a month, you shouldn’t be looking for a racing suit.
That being said, some of you might be able to buy a suit, but your budget is tight. Your best bet is to find discounts at local stores or wait for a big sale on Amazon or other online retailers. But, you’ll need to make sure that the suit type is adequate for your aspiration (i.e., don’t buy a Level 1 if you’re going to race in a worldwide championship because it might not be enough).
My best advice would be to find a suit that’s within your budget and has the features that you require.
Don’t Forget to Keep it Fun and Express Yourself
Go-karting is all about having fun. That’s why there are a plethora of racing suits with unique designs and colors. If you’re a minimalist like myself, you should look into plain single-colored designs, but if you’re into crazy designs and colors, you should definitely find one that expresses you the best. Your perfect suit has to be a perfect representation of your personality.
So, choosing the perfect go-kart racing suit can be tricky. You’ll have to find the perfect balance between style, price, and features according to your desires. At the end of the day, the suit that you choose will probably accompany you every time you enter a go-kart unless it gets ruined.
As I previously said, I asked as many racers as I could about the best go-kart racing suits. Most of them said that there’s no such thing or that their suit is the best. I did my best to find three of the best go-kart racing suits you can find online and at physical stores that were praised by the karting community.
My Top 3 Go-Kart Racing Suits
Before I go on with my selections, I need to mention a few things. My choices are according to my aspirations. So, I’ve included a couple of professional suits that I think are the best on the market right now, according to what I was told by professional drivers and my karting friends. That being said, due to the pandemic, the stock of most suits is limited, so I chose available ones. I also included one of my friends’ suits that I tried on recently.
Best Overall Karting Suit: Alpinestars KMX-5
The Alpinestars KMX-5 is by far the best go-kart racing suit on the market. It’s the most expensive of the three suits I mention, but it’s also the one that provides the best quality and features. It comes in a few different colors, and its design is minimalistic but elegant. Let’s go on with what makes this suit the best.
For starters, as you can imagine, the KMX-5 is CIK FIA Level 2 certified. So, if you’re looking for a racing suit that allows you to take part in any championship in the world, this is the one. You can also wear it no matter what go-kart class you’re in. Speaking of which, it comes in a vast array of sizes, so it can be worn by anyone, from kids in the Cadet class to adults in the Senior category.
The suit has a three-layer shell, which adds a lot of points to your safety. Some of its features include mesh panels at the legs, waist, and arms, which provide a lot of aeration. My favorite parts of this suit are the shoulder epaulets, which are very similar to F1 suits.
One of the drivers at my local track wears this race suit. He told me that it’s exceptionally comfortable and safe, stating that he has been in several crashes. As far as I saw, the KMX-5 looked like new, making me rank it as the best overall go-kart racing suit.
Best Value Karting Suit: OMP KS-3
The OMP KS-3 is very similar to the KMX-5 when it comes to its features. In my opinion, the KS-3 is more beautiful and cheaper than the KMX-5, which is why I think it’s the best value for both professional and recreational drivers.
Just like the KMX-5, the KS-3 is CIK FIA Level 2 certified. It’s also made from a single layer of Cordura, which is very durable. But, its abrasion resistance and comfort can’t be compared to the KMX-5’s triple-layered poly-cotton shell. This doesn’t take away the fact that the KS-3 is still one of the most durable go-kart racing suits on the market.
The suit comes in seven different color variations. Like the KMX-5, the OMP KS-3 has mesh panels at the thigh and shoulder areas. A key feature of this racing suit is its elasticity, which adds a lot of mobility.
That being said, I didn’t have the chance to try this one out in person. A good friend of mine told me that I should look no further than the OMP KS-3 for all the reasons mentioned above. That’s why it’s the best value when it comes to go-kart racing suits.
Best Affordable Karting Suit: RaceQuip SFI Suit
The RaceQuip SFI Suit is pretty good. I was lucky enough to borrow it from a friend for a couple of laps on the track. Before I tell you what I liked and didn’t like about the suit, let’s check some of its features.
Firstly, the suit is made from a single layer of Pyrovatex and isn’t certified for championships. But, considering that it costs less than $100, I didn’t expect to wear it in the Karting World Championship. It comes in three colors and features a very minimalistic and stylish design.
The suit has a few features that aren’t expected at that price point, like a velcro collar and belt and some elasticity on the waist and neck.
That being said, I had an amazing time with this suit. It was really comfortable, and I had tons of mobility. It was like not wearing a racing suit at all. Plus, it comes with two internal pockets, where you can put anything you like.
Overall, I’d have to say that it’s an excellent choice for the price, albeit not being able to use it for professional karting. So, it’s easily the best affordable go-kart racing suit for karting hobbyists.
That’s pretty much all I had to say about go-kart racing suits. Tons of aspects make up a good karting suit, so you should keep all of them in mind.
Stay tuned for more articles just like this one!
FAQs For Go-Kart Racing Suits
Are race suits necessary for karting?
The answer is yes and no. If you’re karting recreationally, you’re not obliged to wear one. But, if you want to take part in regional or worldwide championships, a race suit is required.
Are go-kart racing suits different from auto racing suits?
Yes, go-kart racing suits are different from auto racing suits. Most auto racing suits are made from Nomex, while go-kart racing suits are made from various materials that I mentioned above.
Why do professional go-kart drivers wear racing suits?
Professional drivers wear racing suits for safety reasons. Most go-kart racing suits are made from durable materials which can be life-saving in case of a crash.
What size racing suit do I need?
It depends on the brand. While you might wear a medium normally, a go-kart suit might be too tight or too loose, meaning that you’ll need a large or a small, respectively. Also, different brands have different measurements. As I mentioned above, you’ll need to measure parts of your body to find the perfect size for you.