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The Differences of Motorcycle, Car Racing, and Kart Helmets - Fast Racer

What is the differences of Motorcycle, Car Racing, and Kart Helmets

By Matt Lambert at Right Motorsport


In the world of motorsports, safety is paramount. Whether you're tearing up the track in a high-speed race car, manoeuvring through tight corners on a karting circuit, or cruising down the highway on a motorcycle, having the right helmet is crucial for protecting your head in the event of an accident.

However, not all helmets are created equal, and understanding the differences between motorcycle, car racing, and kart helmets is essential for ensuring maximum safety and performance.

This is why Fast Racer has created this article to highlight these key differences and keep you in the loop. 

Helmet Certifications

One of the most significant distinctions between motorcycle, car racing, and kart helmets lies in their certifications. Car racing helmets, typically used in events like Formula 1 and NASCAR, often adhere to strict safety standards set by organizations like the Snell Memorial Foundation.

These standards, such as FIA 8859-2015, FIA 8860-2018, Snell SA202 and (upcoming) Snell SA2025, ensure that circuit racing helmets meet rigorous criteria for impact protection, fire resistance, and overall performance.

On the other hand, motorcycle helmets are subject to different certification standards, such as the UN ECE 22.05, US DOT, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 (FMVSS 218) and/or Snell M2020. While some overlap exists between car racing and motorcycle helmet standards, motorcycle helmets face additional challenges, such as addressing sliding abrasions and providing adequate ventilation for riders.

In karting, helmets are only required to be certified to a lower degree of standard, such as the FIA / Snell CMR2016 or Snell K2020. This is due to the lower speeds involved in karting and that they are not required to be fireproof.

If you plan on competing in an officially registered motorsport event, be sure to check the event regulations which will clearly show the required certification for your helmet. In most motorsport events, you will not be allowed to race without having a correctly certified helmet. 


While all three types of helmets serve the primary purpose of protecting the head during high-speed activities, one of the key differences separating racing car, bike and kart helmets are their ability to withstand fire.

As part of the certification process, car racing helmets must achieve a full fireproof rating whilst remaining comfortable, lightweight, and cost-effective. They do this by utilising layers of protecting foam, Nomex fabric linings and an outer carbon or fiberglass shell.

As drivers can become trapped in their cars, the helmets must be able to endure close proximity to fire. Motorbike and karting helmets therefore do not require this same standard. In most cases, bike riders are thrown from their vehicles in an accident, reducing the risk of fire.

Bike and karting helmets will only have low levels of fireproofing and are not usually suitable for circuit racing, even when worn in combination with a fire-retardant balaclava.

Kart helmets, used in go-kart racing, also prioritize impact protection but may not require the same level of fire resistance as auto racing helmets. Similarly to bike riders, kart drivers either fall out of their karts or are easily able to evacuate the vicinity of a fire. The internal lining of kart helmets is usually made of soft, moisture-wicking materials to keep the wearer comfortable during long races. The padding is strategically placed to provide cushioning in key impact zones while ensuring a snug and secure fit for the driver. 

Eye Port or Visor Size

Another crucial aspect to consider when comparing helmet types is the size and design of the eye port.

In car racing helmets, the visor offers a wide field of vision, crucial for maintaining situational awareness at high speeds. These visors are designed to withstand debris impact and provide protection from wind and other environmental factors.

On appearance, karting helmets can look almost identical to car racing versions, and this is usually due to having the same visor size requirements. Both karting and car racing require minimal vertical view and superior horizontal viewing.

In contrast, motorcycle helmets often feature higher and larger eye ports, allowing riders to have a broader field of view and better visibility on the road. As bike riders spend most of their time looking up, the visors must accommodate this. 

Shell Materials: Balancing Protection and Performance

In addition to certifications and design features, the materials used in constructing helmets play a significant role in their overall performance.

Car racing helmets shells are often crafted from advanced materials like carbon fiber or fiberglass composite, which offer an optimal blend of strength and lightweight properties. These materials are crucial for providing maximum protection to drivers while minimizing fatigue during long races.

Kart helmets shells are often crafted from the same materials as the car racing helmets while there manufacturing prioritizing affordability over impact resistance, leading manufacturers to utilize materials like polycarbonate or high-density plastics. While these materials may not offer the same level of performance as carbon fiber and are heavier, they still provide adequate protection for kart racers without breaking the bank.

Motorcycle helmets, facing unique challenges such as impact absorption and abrasion resistance, often incorporate a combination of materials to ensure comprehensive protection. From polycarbonate shells to multi-layered impact-absorbing liners, motorcycle helmets are engineered to withstand a wide range of impacts and environmental conditions encountered on the road. 

Head and Neck Restraints

The provision for head and neck restraints is another critical consideration when choosing a helmet.

In car racing, helmets are designed to accommodate devices like the HANS (Head and Neck Safety) device, which helps prevent excessive head movement during crashes, reducing the risk of neck and spinal injuries. These devices are essential for protecting drivers in high-speed collisions and are often mandatory in professional racing leagues.

In contrast, motorcycle and karting helmets do not typically incorporate provisions for head and neck restraints.

Motorbike riders adopt a different posture when racing and require more flexibility in their head movements while navigating traffic and corners. 

Aerodynamics and Ventilation

In addition to providing protection, helmets must also optimize comfort and performance for the wearer. Car racing helmets are meticulously designed to minimize aerodynamic drag while maximizing airflow to keep drivers cool and focused during high-speed races. These helmets often feature strategically placed vents and airflow channels to channel air through the helmet, reducing heat buildup and maintaining optimal comfort levels.

Kart helmets, while not subject to the same extreme speeds as their car racing counterparts, still prioritize ventilation and aerodynamics to enhance performance on the track. By incorporating airflow vents and aerodynamic features into their designs, kart helmets ensure that drivers remain comfortable and focused, even during intense racing conditions.

Motorcycle helmets face additional challenges when it comes to aerodynamics and ventilation, as riders are exposed to the elements and must contend with factors like wind noise and buffeting. As a result, motorcycle helmet designs often feature aerodynamic shapes, adjustable vents, and noise-reducing technologies to provide a comfortable and distraction-free riding experience. 

Conclusion: Choosing the Right Helmet for Your Needs

In conclusion, while motorcycle, car racing, and kart helmets share the common goal of protecting the head, they are each tailored to meet the specific demands of their respective motorsport disciplines.



Car Racing Helmet

Kart Helmet

Motorcycle Helmet

Helmet Certification(s)

Snell SA2020 (current)

Snell SA2025 (upcoming)

FIA 8859-2015

FIA 8860-2018    

Snell K2020 (current)

Snell K2025 (upcoming)

Snell-FIA CMR-2016 (for youth drivers)

UN ECE 22.05

Snell M2020


Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 (FMVSS 218)

Fireproof / Flame Retardant Required




Eye Port or Visor Size

Minimal vertical view and superior horizontal viewing.

Minimal vertical view and superior horizontal viewing.

Higher and larger eye ports (broader field of view)

Shell Materials

Carbon Fiber or fiberglass composite shells for strength and lightweight

Carbon Fiber or fiberglass composite shells for strength and lightweight

Carbon Fiber, fiberglass, or polycarbonate shells, multi-layered impact-absorbing liners

Provision to install FHR, Hans Device




 Picture 1: Key Takeaways For Choosing the Right Helmet for Your Needs.


Whether you're tearing up the track in a high-speed race car, navigating tight corners on a karting circuit, or cruising down the open road on a motorcycle, selecting the right helmet is essential for maximizing safety and performance.

By considering factors such as certifications, materials, design features, aerodynamics, and ventilation, you can choose a helmet that not only provides superior protection but also enhances comfort and performance in your chosen motorsport activity.

In a nutshell, a car racing helmet can be used as a go-kart helmet but not the other way around due to the fireproof requirements for driving race cars. Also, a Motorcycle helmet should not be used as a car racing helmet for the same reason while it also not the best option for karting. Lastly, a car racing helmet and a kart helmet should not be used for riding motorcycles.

Remember, investing in a high-quality helmet is an investment in your safety and enjoyment on the track or the road. So, choose wisely and ride or race with confidence, knowing that you're properly protected every step of the way.

By incorporating these insights into your decision-making process, you can ensure that you're adequately protected every time you take to the road or the racetrack.

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