FHR’s, or “HANS (Head and Neck Support) Devices” as they are commonly known, are becoming mandatory for most forms of motorsport. This guide shows the types available, and their rough costs, to let you make an informed decision.
What are the Options?
There are two key types of FHR’s, a traditional “Horse-shoe” arrangement that is worn around the neck, and a newer “Hybrid” style which is worn as a harness around the body.
A "HANS” example of the traditional
design is shown to the right.
There are three main manufacturers for traditional style FHR’s:
“HANS” – the originators of the devices
“Schroth” – A German company, more famous for their harnesses
“Stand21” – A French company involved in a variety of motorsport equipment.
All these devices work in a similar manner, they are worn over the shoulder, under your race harness. The tethers have buckles on the end which connect to posts on your helmet.
In the event of a frontal accident, the device effectively becomes part of your body – the tethers preventing your helmet from moving too far forward. This significantly reduces neck injuries.
The devices generally come in 2 widths (Medium & Large), and have a different angle depending on the seating position of the car. A typical saloon car seating position for most competitors will require a 20 degree device. Someone competing in a single seater racing car may require a 30-40 degree device. There are some “Adjustable” devices on the market which allow you to change the angle, however I would recommend looking at the hybrids as a better alternative.
Finally, there are more expensive versions of all these devices available. They are generally made from lighter materials or are of a thinner construction. They all perform similarly, it is a matter of how much you value the difference.
The Hybrid devices are made by Simpson in the US (Who now own HANS).
These are worn as a harness and the device uses straps to secure to your body.
These devices offer additional protection over the traditional HANS device, offering some protection for a side impact. They come in five different sizes, depending on the build of the competitor. They do not have an “Angle”, but the tethers need adjusting to suit the driving position.
The downside with a Hybrid is the cost, whilst the cheapest HANS devices have an RSP around £240, a Simpson Hybrid has an RSP around £625.
These are fitted to your helmet and allow the attachment of the tethers from either the traditional devices or the hybrids. There are 3 styles available:
1. The most common are the type of posts shown to the right.
You will notice the allen bolt in the centre of the post, this is the distinguishing feature of these posts.
To connect the tethers to the helmet, you line the buckle of the tether up with the shaped part of the centre element. You then push in towards the helmet and slide the tether until it is fixed. You will normally hear a loud click at this point.
2. The old version of these posts are shown on the left.
The distinguishing feature of these posts are the flat-head bolt attaching the posts to the helmet. These posts work in a similar manner to those shown above.
3. Finally, there is a Quick Release option.
These require a change of tether to most devices. Instead of a buckle, the tether has a small plate with a hole in it. The hole is secured by a Pip-Pin which can be released by pulling on some strings.
These connections are only recommended if you may struggle to exit a vehicle with your helmet attached to your device, normally when people have mobility issues.
The MSA don’t allow you to fit posts to a helmet that was not designed for them, though the post manufacturers do guide you on how to locate the holes if you buy the enhanced kit.
Most FIA approved harnesses will work with all FHR devices (Traditional or Hybrid). If using a traditional 3” harnesses, they may curl up the inside of the device.
The “Wings” on the outside of recent devices need to be on the outside of the harness, this prevents the harness slipping off. There are a new range of FHR specific harnesses on the market which are a 2” width over the shoulders. These are highly recommended when the harnesses will only be used in competition, therefore with an FHR device. However, if the vehicle will be used without a FHR device, they should not be installed. Harnesses marketed as HANS specific are fine for use with the Hybrid range (they are usually marked 'For FHR Use Only').
My Personal Recommendations
First of all, I recognise money does come into play when considering safety. I realise some will consider buying used. Please ensure they come with FIA labels (Some come with SFI which are not valid in UK motorsport), and yes – there are some fakes out there!
My prime recommendation is always to focus on your helmet, this is the most important piece of equipment. Always go for the helmet that fits you the best, and if you have a choice, the lightest option.
Secondly, where possible I recommend the Simpson Hybrid if budgets allow. These devices offer protection above the traditional HANS devices – but the cost is prohibitive for some, and there are 5 sizes to choose from, and you have to adjust them.
Don’t believe the rumours that Hybrids are the best for everyone - they are not. Take Kris Meeke and Paul Nagel when they competed together in the World Rally Championship, Kris wore a Hybrid, Paul wore a traditional style device.
If budgets are tight, I would suggest a mid-level Helmet and a HANS Sport 3. These devices are a relatively comfortable and light device, at a sensible price. My best seller for a reason.
If budgets are really tight, I offer a budget Helmet and Hans device package starting at £450, but I reiterate again – my priority would always be to get a good fitting helmet.
Before your first event, get used to connecting the Hans device to the Helmet. If possible practice while sat in your competition car, or even in front of the telly if needed. The posts can be moved if you are struggling to locate the tether buckle onto the posts – please ask for a demonstration.
When in the car, I would suggest getting a routine.
- Put on HANS
- Put on Helmet
- Connect HANS to helmet
- Loosely fit harness
- Push HANS back as far as it will go, squaring it up.
- Tighten the harnesses down onto the device.
Finally, the best piece of advice I would give anyone – be aware of others who may be wearing HANS. If they are rejoining the track, it is likely their vision will be impaired. Consider this when approaching them.
I hope you found this guide useful. Rob Brook
MS UK Licenced Clerk of the Course & Competitor