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Since I know there are several real racers here who I assume have invested in suits, does anyone have any recommendations or preferences they'd like to share? I've read some of the old threads and beyond the obvious "buy as much as you can comfortably afford" and making sure it has the right certifications, I'd really like insights into what brands and actual models people prefer and what people have invested in themselves. For reference, this would be used in pretty temperate climates (Bay Area). I tend to avoid a lot of track days in the summer at places like Thunderhill when it can be over 100 degrees and do more of my events from November to May, when ambient temps are 50-80 degrees. Sparco? OMP? The number of choices even within one brand is larger than I thought and borderline overwhelming.
 

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I have an Alpine Star suit and I'm pretty happy with it. I forgot the model name, but it is around $600-700 new. Assuming you are looking at suits with the same fire rating, you are paying for comfort and fit as the price goes up. Fabrics will get lighter and thinner for the same amount of protection. Biggest thing is comfort. If you go the mail order route, then make sure you understand the return and exchange policy. Once you get around the $1000 mark, I would go custom. They aren't that much more than the $1000 suits and you get one tailored to fit your every measurement. Sometime in the future I want to get a custom suit and I will probably order it from Design 500. I currently use Design 500 CarbonX long underwear and head sock with my Alpine suit.

http://www.design500.com

They have a large variety of fabrics and colors and the prices start out very reasonable. Just to give you an idea of all the measurements they take check out this order form.

http://www.racing-stuff.com/Men'sMeasFront.pdf
 

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First off, don't let any body sell you a suit that's "cooler" than another. Because the point of a fireproof suit is to insulate, and that goes both ways -- outside flames won't burn you, and your body heat ain't getting out either. I've had $300 mail order suits and $1000 shiny Sparco and they both get hot. One just "looks" cooler than the other.

The best thing I bought was a suit cooler -- basically a shirt with 50' of tubing stitched in, connected to an ice chest. It pumps cold water and makes it bearable until the ice all melts in 30 minutes.

As far as comfort goes, once you are in your Nomex underwear and suit, balaclava, gloves, HANS, helmet, ear plugs in, visor down and cinched into the 6 point harness, and connected to your suit cooler and radio... there is no comfort. Forget scratching your itchy scalp !

So, pick a flame rating that suits your needs and buy one that you don't mind being seen in.
 

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What about 1 vs. 2 vs. 3-layer suits? Think I've seen 2 and 3 layer suits with the same rating, so are more layers safer?
 

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My recommendation depends on your size. If you are "a standard size", then you can get a great suit for ~$1000 (e.g., OMP, Sparco, AlpineStars, etc). If you can't find one that fits you well, then my recommendation is to get a custom suit. I am tall and thin, and I could never find a standard size suit to fit. I recently ordered a custom-fitted suit from Stand21. It's absolutely fabulous, a perfect fit and much more comfortable fabric than any other brand suit I have worn. I ordered an ST3000 HSC, which came it at ~$2500 with the options I selected. I chose 2-layer, because it gets damn hot in SE Texas.
 

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2-3 layer suits only. don't bother with a 1 layer. try to find the nearest suit retailer and try them on.
 

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I have no experience with racing suits but...

What about 1 vs. 2 vs. 3-layer suits? Think I've seen 2 and 3 layer suits with the same rating, so are more layers safer?
Not sure about racing suits, but I've fought a few fires (and in the act of so doing, I've been kissed by a few too). I've had 1, 2, and 3 layer headsocks. In firefighting, you don't have a helmet covering your ears, so they're the pointiest protrusion in the headsock area, and thus see the most heat (they compress the thermal protection covering them, making it less resistant.

My experiences:
1 layer : Trivially allows steam burns if the sock gets even remotely wet.
2 layer : Good compromise... has to get pretty saturated or pretty close to flame before you notice any discomfort.
3 layer : Hot as all getout even when you're NOT near a fire, and pretty much stays that way unless you blatantly stick your head into flames.

I know this is about a different piece of equipment with a few different kinds of layers on it than a headsock, but hopefully this adds some insight into performance/comfort when the suit is actually doing what it was made for.
 

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Hey guys, any updated opinions on this? Looks like I might have the opportunity to buy my first suit. I was looking at the LeMons crap package, but will I be sorry I didn't spend a few hundred dollars more for something better?
 

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Without question Sparco Superleggera or Extrema. They are so light, thin and cool (temperature wise) as to be almost laughable.

I have the Superleggera (Extrema wasn't released yet). It's so thin that the LeMons tech inspector almost rejected it the first time I tried to use it (even though it's FIA 2000 approved). The suit is so lightweight and airy that the last time I raced open wheel on a cool cloudy morning I got cold / chilly while driving the car! That's really kind of unheard of. In fact, later on, I switched to my other, more standard, suit purely for some warmth.

The Extrema is a newer, and even more costly, suit, but it's lighter / cooler still than the Superleggera. They're both legitimately awesome pieces of gear. Pricey, but worth every penny to me for the heat management.
 

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Thanks. That one looks cool (not temperature wise) but I wasn't planning on spending that much. That Superleggera is online at $1800. At this moment, that would probably be closer to my entire safety gear budget.
 

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I have an Alpinestars SP and I can tell you it runs smaller from what their sizing chart would indicate.
Good idea to get to a local shop to try the suits on first. Mine is a bit tight in the nuts, but I'm all done having children, so I'll live with it for now.
Next suit will be a lighter one as Frank suggested.
 

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Jet,

check this out:
RACE SUIT RENTAL | HOME

Saw it in the GRM magazine. Thought it might help for a one-time event.

I recently scored an Alpinestars as well. SP Suit for about $400.

I know Sabelt new suits are worth investing as well starting at $500 for a 3-layer.

What's your suit budget?
 

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Thanks. I was browsing through suits under $1,000 so I don't think a custom one is in my budget. I don't need it right away, but I might have an opportunity to buy one for work as a promotional thing, just to stand around in an air conditioned building. However, I'd certainly plan to take it to the track as well outside of work.

Those Alpinestars are just good looking suits, and that rental deal might be a good way to try some stuff out prior to pulling the trigger on one down the road.
 

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Get a 2 layer in Nomex (not proban), and add a layer of underwear if your tolerance for heat allows it.

I use an OMP First 2. $600. Not much to look at, but very durable.

I bought a package from a local guy for $1000. I think it was money well spent, because now he feels obligated to answer ever inane racing related question I come up with. Find whoever your local equivalent to this is, and buy the brand they stock.
Armadillo Racing | On Track With All Your Racing Needs
 

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I use a Sparco 3-layer, plus full Nomex underwear, balaclava, etc., and I race in the [email protected]$# Middle East. Without a cool shirt. I also have a karting suit, which is very light and mostly for abrasion resistance. Both are hot...

AlpineStars, Stand21, and OMP are all fine. I suggest the following:

1. Go for maximum protection, meaning 3-layer;
2. Use full underwear, including Nomex socks;
3. Make sure the SFI rating is current;
4. Get a cool shirt if you need it;
5. Make sure it fits properly with the underwear on and/or cool shirt.
6. If you wear patches, as opposed to embroidery, make sure to use the proper thread to sew it on.

Have fun,

Stephen
 
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