Guide To FIA and SFI Clothing Requirements

Explore motorsports racing safety certification and what that means for drivers’ safety and the type of equipment they need.

Who is FIA in relation to Motorsport?

For those not in the know, FIA The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) is the governing body of World Motor Sport and the Federation of the world’s leading motoring organisations.  One of the FIA’s key objectives is to encourage and implement the adoption of common regulations for all forms of motorsports across the world. Basically – keeping drivers safe!

How to protect racing drivers when on the track

To protect the driver as much as possible following mandatory guidelines, professionals in the motorsport industry recommend a motorsport driver use a complete range of racing clothing across all layers worn. 

Drivers are required to wear flame-resistant underwear, and a balaclava must be worn under the helmet. Fire retardant foot socks are also essential, these garments can provide additional protection during fires. 

Driver’s shoes come under a lot of stress during the race, so they are designed to make them incredibly snug to the foot and as thin as possible so the foot won’t get caught or ‘hung ‘up’ when switching quickly between pedals. 

With racing shoes, design as much as material and manufacturing process is key. That is why sports shoes and race socks must be made using special adaptive technology.

What is an SFI rating?

The SFI Foundation, Inc. (SFI) is an organisation established to issue standards for the quality assurance of racing equipment.

Parts that carry an SFI approval are certified to be safe for racing. This means they are designed and tested to meet certain safety requirements.

SFI Ratings are determined by the results of several tests conducted on racing suits for fire retardant capabilities and Thermal Protective Performance. The standard for racing suits is 3.2A or 3.2A/1 and the standard for race underwear is 3.3.

SFI 3.2A, SFI 3.3 AND FIA 8856-2018

So how do these guys work together? Well, they don’t! They operate separately yet their mission is the same – to maximise racing safety, specifically drivers and vehicle safety using technology, science and testing. 

SFI 3.2A is used for fire-retardant apparel. FIA uses a code starting with 8856  followed by a date, which refers to the year that homologation was introduced.

What does homologate mean in motorsport?

In motorsports, including Formula 1,  homologation is the type of approval process through which a car, racing track, or a standardised part (including clothing and accessories worn by race drivers) is required to go for certification to race in a league or series.

The FIA 8856- standard applies to all fire retardant clothing and the latter part contains the year it was issued. The list comprises race suits, racing underwear, gloves and shoes. The International Sporting Code states that drivers must wear “long underwear” as well as other fire-resistant clothing that is homologated to FIA standards.

Starting with fire-resistant suits made of super-light materials and flame-retardant functional underwear.  Other racing essentials such as race underwear, race socks, shoes with great grip and SFI gloves with an enhanced grip should also be worn and should adhere to the standards. 

What does this mean for FIA Clothing Requirements?

The FIA form that racewear producers and manufacturers had to follow to achieve the 8856-2018 certification covers a wide range of protection standards. Racewear manufacturers have to follow a whopping 50-page document to achieve this.

As with all FIA’s big changes, there is a steady introduction and application of any new homologation. Racewear complying with this new standard guarantees an extra level of fire safety. Don’t panic though! This doesn’t mean you need to rush out and buy all new racewear. 

The length of time that any item of racewear will be suitable for use in FIA-sanctioned competition will be a decade. So, if your race suit was manufactured in 2020, the expiry date would be the end of 2030, but if you are wanting to update your racewear essentials – take a look at our base layers and accessories.

New to the world of motorsport and not sure what kit you need? Check out our Top 3 Pieces of Racewear Used By Motorsport Racing Drivers for inspiration.