We were recently given the chance to test the new Phenom SS helmet from Impact Racing. In summary, it may well be the best helmet available for track day use — the kind of application for which most TURNology readers buy helmets.
According to Impact Racing, the Phenom SS helmet line is a result of more than 40 years of research and development experience, including wind-tunnel testing. Using a proprietary Carbon-Kevlar composition, the shells offer greater strength at a lighter weight than helmets manufactured from traditional fiberglass composites. And, at a cost considerably lower than a pure carbon-fiber helmet.
The Phenom SS is also one item in a completely new line of racing gear offered by Impact.
Equally at home inside a closed car or in an open wheeler, the Phenom SS includes a wide, peripheral eye-opening. This comes in very handy when you’re relatively new to driving and keeping an eye on your mirrors for faster cars approaching. You can do so with the Phenom SS without turning your head.
As speed increases the forces increase as well. Steering gets heavier and you find yourself pushing on the brake pedal harder. All in all, it’s quite a workout, and it can get pretty warm inside some helmets. To keep you cool, the Phenom SS utilizes multiple exterior vents to increase air circulation inside the helmet. The interior has channels to not only cool the driver, but additional channels route air towards the shield, which reduces the chance of it fogging.
And, once you get your helmet nice and sweaty, it’s good to know that the Phenom SS has removable, washable padding. All interior seams are removed from areas where greater pressure is exerted on the head, while padding can be repositioned for a more comfortable, customized fit.
If you’re looking to get into long-distance races, it’s good to know that the Phenom SS helmet has been designed to accommodate a drink tube and an intercom system.
And while there are less expensive helmets on the market, oftentimes these helmets will have a limited useful-life as they carry only a Snell 2010 rating. The Phenom SS carries the latest Snell SA 2015 and is also meets FIA 8859-2015.
We had a few more questions about the Phenom SS, so we sat down with Ben O’Connor, vice president of sales for Impact Racing.
TO: The new Phenom SS line was designed to meet the requirements of the new Snell SA2015 as well as FIA 8859-2015 ratings. Why is having an FIA-approved helmet important?
Ben O’Connor: It isn’t unless your sanctioning body requires it. The myth is that somehow an FIA-homologated helmet is somehow safer than a Snell-compliant helmet. While this is arguably true in the case of the 8860-series homologation for helmets costing thousands of dollars, it is not the case for the FIA 8859-2015 standard specified by the majority of sanctioning bodies.
The myth is that somehow an FIA-homologated helmet is somehow safer than a Snell-compliant helmet.
It used to be there were different requirements between the Snell standard and the FIA standard, which led to the argument that somehow one standard was safer than another. True, some of the standards were in conflict. Where one standard was good in one area, but it sacrificed performance in another, and vice versa.
With the introduction of the Snell SA2015 and 8859-2015 standards, the requirements in many of the conflicting areas were standardized, somewhat. The result is we now have helmets that can more easily meet both standards while providing arguably better overall performance. I would feel equally safe wearing a helmet that met either standard.
TO: What does the Phenom offer that other helmets in your line don’t?
Ben O’Connor: The helmet is of course [as alluded to above] both Snell SA2015 and FIA 8859-2015 homologated, so it can be run in the majority of sanctioning bodies across the globe. Like our Draft and Vapor series, the Phenom shell is also constructed of a carbon/kevlar composition to be lightweight. We also incorporated a new shield latching feature that provides a better seal as the load of the shield, when closed, is spread evenly across the shield. The new latch is also very easy to use.
TO: What would you select as the three most important features of the helmet and why?
Ben O’Connor: Obviously the helmet’s ability to prevent injury due to impacts, but weight is another important factor most oftentimes overlooked. Most secondary injuries related to head trauma have to do with head “whippage” (think “shaken baby syndrome”). You want as light of a helmet as you can afford. For youth drivers, this is even more important as the neck muscles haven’t fully developed yet.
Another is fit and comfort. Wearing a helmet should be a transparent experience [as possible]. If you are distracted due to discomfort, you are not giving your driving 100-percent attention. The best injury prevention is avoiding an accident to begin with.
We will double-down on Ben’s advice there. We found the Phenom SS extremely comfortable to wear as there were no pressure points — no areas that felt as if the helmet were pushing harder on our head than another part. We loved the wide eye-ports as we could spot upcoming traffic without having to turn our heads. The repositionable padding — which we actually didn’t need to reposition — fit great straight from the box. We also found the ventilation system very effective, as we can fog up a visor on a 100-degree day in Phoenix.
On a scale of 10, we’d rate it a 9.9, as it is slightly (but ever so slightly) heavier than pure carbon-fiber helmets we’ve worn in the past. But then, they cost twice as much and that would pay for at least two or three more days on the track. So we give the Phenom SS two big racing glove thumbs up.
The Phenom SS helmet is available through most racing retailers, as well as through Impact Racing directly. It’s available only in flat black (you’re going to paint it anyway, so why add the cost of a smooth coating?), sizes XS to XXL (including the new, smaller shell M/L size). The Phenom SS has HANS clips pre-installed, which can easily be removed and replaced with the FHR post of your choice.