How To Properly Install A Racing Seat For Optimal Safety & Comfort

Not long ago, we chatted with Ivan Korda about improving his track-only Miata with a proper, fixed-back seat. To put it mildly, he was having some difficulty remaining upright during hard cornering and braking, not to mention simply fitting inside the car. At 6’2″ and 210 pounds, someone of Korda’s size isn’t exactly who the Mazda men had in mind when designing the NB Miata, and his sore shoulders, bruised knees, and growing penchant for profanity were all evidence of that. To fit the right fit for Korda, we brought on the wise and experienced Brian Oleshak of Racetech USA, who guided us through the seat selection process. Through that, we selected the ideal seat for Korda’s budget, intentions, and frame in Part One of this article. Now we need to address how to properly install the racing seat chosen.

After settling on Racetech’s RT4100 seat, Oleshak suggested a shop not too far from Korda’s house that could help with the installation. Possien-Hall Motorsport Development run several cars in the MX-5 Cup and provide support for a fleet of MX-5 drivers in American Endurance Racing, SCCA, NASA, and other club racing events. Simply put, they’re well-acquainted with mounting a seat safely inside the cramped confines of a Miata’s cabin.

Seeing so many pristine MX-5 Cups around, Korda knew he was in the right hands.

Tackling a Few Hurdles

As soon as he arrived, Korda and Blake West immediately set off trying to mount the seat in a fashion that would suit Korda’s elongated torso. The dimensions of the new Racetech RT4100 worked with his frame, but getting the seat low enough to keep his helmet from touching the roof wasn’t simple. Korda did not want to begin hacking into his car for the right fitment, so they had to resort to a different approach.

West and Christopher Johnston examining the new seat.

Brian Oleshak of Racetech USA supplied the RT4100 with brackets that require a completely flat surface to fasten to. This is where they ran into their first hurdle, or, if you like, their first hump. The OEM seat mounts—four large humps protruding from the floor—kept West from accomplishing his first aim. “I like to always make a bracket that fits to the factory location in case it needs to be removed in the future,” he explained.

Unfortunately, Korda’s helmeted head still remained a bit too high in the cabin; just grazing the roof. “Since he’s so tall, it was never easy to get him into the car, so we had to try and lower the seat and move it back as far as possible,” he noted. “So, we scrapped the brackets I came up with, and then plasma-cut the rear mounts off,” he continued. Fortunately, Korda’s height forced the seat so far back in the cabin that the front mounts could remain intact.

West removing the factory seat mounts.

A few custom touches were needed to get the relatively wide seat into the very narrow confines of the cabin. “We mounted a couple brackets made 3/16″ steel underneath the floor,” Blake elaborated. That was enough to keep the seat level and secure, but the protruding transmission tunnel was preventing the brackets from fitting. For the most in stability, the flared base of the brackets point away from the seat. However, they mounted the inner bracket so that the flare pointed underneath the seat to fit within the room left by the transmission tunnel. In a space as cramped as a second-generation Miata’s interior, a little improvisation was necessary.

Turning the bracket’s lip away from the transmission allowed West and Korda to shoehorn the new seat in.

Once in place, they were able to fine-tune the position of the seat. Though it is a fixed unit and lacks sliders (not advised in a competition car), a series of mounting holes on the brackets allowed Korda to find the position that left him most comfortable. If a friend wants to drive, or if he grows again—though the stiff suspension would make shrinking more likely—he can quickly remove the four mounting bolts and adjust.

Now, Korda sits roughly 4″ lower than he did in the factory unit on sliders, which leaves him with a reassuring 3/4″ of space between the roof and the top of his helmet. To remain snugly in the seat and avoid bouncing out, he grabbed a Racetech five-point harness setup. The shoulder belts mounted to the Track Dog rollbar, and the lap belts mounted to the factory seatbelt mounts on the transmission tunnel and the frame rail.

With his shoulders held firmly in place by the Racetech harnesses mounted to the roll bar, he has 3/4″ of space between his helmet and the roof.

“The harness comes with eyelids and quick disconnects, which saves you the hassle of drilling the holes for yourself,” Korda added. West then fortified the eyelids a set of cotter pins. Only one custom touch was needed when mounting the harnesses. Because the seat was mounted so far back, the crotch/sub belt required some drilling to relocate the eyelid. After drilling a hole in the floor, he used the supplied nut and washer, as well as another mounting plate underneath the floor, to secure the new lap belt.

The accompanying eyelids made installation simple.

They had discussed mounting the back of the seat to the car, but mainly for reasons of time, they skipped it. The stiffness offered by the seat and the mounts were already more than satisfactory. “If you shake the seat, you shake the whole car,” West added proudly. With a fairly simple installation finished and it getting dark out, Korda loaded the car back onto his trailer and headed back to Memphis.

On Track Evaluation

With a track day scheduled at Memphis International Raceway the following week, Korda had plenty to look forward to. The only thing soothing his pre-race jitters was the knowledge he’d be sitting safe and secure the following day, though the prospect of better times and bruise-free knees meant Korda had a tricky time sleeping soundly the night before the event.

Korda is particular person, so he was both eager and apprehensive before his first outing with the new seat. He desperately wanted the RT4100 to fit his frame comfortably, and he wasn’t completely convinced until out on the circuit. Judging by the cheery voice with which he started out our post-race conversation, I wagered he’d enjoyed himself.

“I didn’t even notice the HANS after a few laps,” Korda began. The Racetech 2″ harness straps slotted perfectly into the HANS’ channels. Additionally, the widened lap belts ensured his hips weren’t cut into, even under hard braking and cornering. The comfort in pit lane was motivating, and the change in mindset on track was immediately apparent.

“Not only did I feel comfortable, but the support it offered was incredible. It was a relief not to have to stabilize myself; it was so much easier to focus on what was coming at me,” he continued. “I could heel-toe perfectly every time, whereas the old seat made my feet slide around in the footwell. This helped me roll more speed into corners, brake later, and put together more consistent laps.”

Even at full lean, Korda’s torso and thighs were kept upright, secure, and off the door panels.

Simply put, a good seat heightens driver sensitivity. “You can feel everything much better in this seat due to its rigidity. Speaking of, the seat doesn’t flex even though we didn’t mount it to the rollbar. The seat isn’t swaying any more, and that meant I wasn’t fretting at all. My knees aren’t bruised either!” he chuckled.

He wasn’t complaining too much, however, since he’d improved upon his personal best by a significant margin that day. Around the 1.8-mile circuit in the new seat, a confident Korda snagged a time of 1:21—0.6 seconds better than ever before. “That wasn’t bad, especially considering the track was damp and not in the best shape; there’s a few more seconds there on a dry track, without a doubt,” he asserted.Interms of the cost of the seat versus improvement in lap times, the purchase well paid for itself.

Not only did he leave with his head held higher than it usually is, he left knowing that there’s plenty of untapped potential in his new setup. To leave the track without physical discomfort or a damaged car is an afternoon well spent—and to leave feeling eager to return is more than most can ask for.

 

 

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About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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