SFI/FIA Certification


SFI/FIA/SNELL Certification Information

If you’re shopping for safety equipment you probably have noticed that most it is either FIA, SFI or SNELL(Helmets only) certified. These certifications all have a similar purpose, but come from three different organizations. If you are racing anywhere in the world in a professionally sanctioned auto racing event, one of the three certifications will likely be required. The purpose of the certification is to make sure the required safety equipment meets the minimum performance requirements for the type of racing which you are competing. The following is a brief description of the differences in the organizations.


SFI Foundation

The SFI Foundation is a US based foundation that is the most common required spec for the USA. SFI has specifications for everything from drivers gear to hard parts that are tested and given a certification number. The certification number is different for all apparel and parts which changes based on the level of certification. 3.2a Auto Racing Drivers Suits: A driver’s suit can have 1 of 4 certifications depending on the amount of protection it offers from 3.2a/1 for the least amount of protection to 3.2a/20 for the maximum amount of protection. The certification requirements for apparel vary from sanctioning bodies, so check your rules to make sure you’re getting the proper certification for your intended use. 3.3 Drivers accessories: All drivers wear other than the racing suit has an SFI certification, like the suit there are multiple certifications depending on the level of protection. The minimum is 3.3/1 and the maximum is 3.3/20, so again check your rules to make sure you’re getting the proper certification for your intended use.16.1 Driver Restraints/Seat Belts: Some of the SFI certifications are dated and must be replaced after a specified amount of use. Auto racing seat belts carry a certification that expires 2 years from date of purchase which is marked on a punch label sewn to the belts. Some sanctioning bodies deviate from the approved specification, so check the rule book or with a tech advisor for clarification. 31.1 Auto Racing Helmet: The SFI rating for helmets is getting more common, but is not the standard in most racing series. If considering purchasing a Helmet with an SFI spec only, check with the sanctions tech advisor or rule book before purchasing. Helmets ratings are often misunderstood, even by the most experienced tech officials. This was an overview of the most common SFI certifications, click here to download the complete list of the SFI specifications and certification numbers.


FIA(Federation International De L’Automobile)

The FIA is the European standard for safety equipment certifications. Many US based sanctions will accept FIA standards and auto racing and kart racing apparel. It’s not uncommon for racing apparel to be certified by both the FIA and SFI, but many times its one or the other. The testing processes are similar, but not the same. The FIA uses a certification number(called homologation number) for apparel, restraints and car parts. 8856-2000 Auto racing protective apparel: All apparel items are covered by the 8856 spec. Most FIA approved apparel is similar to multi-layer SFI approved products. Example, a suit with the lowest SFI 3.2a/1 would not be FIA approved, but a SFI 3.2a/5 suit would be in most cases. The testing process differs between the 2 organizations, so the results do not always match. 8859, 8860 Auto Racing Helmets: The FIA helmet is becoming more common and the 8860-2010 is the only rating accepted in some of the top level racing series in the US. The helmet rating is likely the most misunderstood spec by tech advisors, so make sure you get an FIA spec helmet pre-approved by the sanctioning body before purchasing. This was an overview of the most common FIA certifications, click here to download the list of FIA specifications for safety equipment, or here for the complete specifications for protective clothing.


The SNELL Foundation

Since its founding in 1957, the Snell Memorial Foundation has independently tested manufacturer's helmets. Its first safety standards for protective headgear were issued for auto racing in 1959. Subsequently, other specific helmet standards from motorcycling to skateboarding and auto racing have been issued. These standards address performance, not specific materials or design. Periodically the Foundation upgrades its specifications on performance characteristics of helmets to keep pace with advances in materials, helmet technology and design. SA or EA Rating: Most auto racing helmets carry the “SA” rating and most recently the EA rating which is then followed by the release date of the spec. If the helmet is not “SA or EA” rated, it is not intended for auto racing. SA rated helmets have been tested for impact protection and fire resistance based on scientific and real world reported data for most forms of auto racing. The EA rating began in 2016 and is intended for the highest levels of motorsports where very speeds have made an elevated level of protection necessary. Click here for the SNELL SA2015 Standard for Protective Headgear. Click here for SNELL's special note to helmet users.


The helmet specifications and expiration dates are one of the most commonly misunderstood by racers and racing organizations. In a nutshell, a helmet spec is good for 10 years with a new spec coming out every 5 years. What this means is, a helmet with a SNELL 2015 rating will be usable (assuming it’s in good condition) until December 31st 2025. The purchase date of your helmet has no bearing on how long it can be used. If an SA2015 helmet is purchased in 2020, it will still be usable until December 31st 2025. The oldest spec currently legal by most sanctioning bodies’ rules is a SA2010 which will be usable until December 31st 2020. The rules on what helmet specifications can be altered from year to year at the sanctioning bodies’ discretion, so it’s always the best practice to check with the sanctioning body and verify what’s allowed and what’s not.