Traditionally Rally Helmets are open faced. They were usually chosen for use in closed cockpit rally cars, as wearing them usually feels less enclosed and less restricted in terms of vision, when compared to a full face helmet. You're also not out in the open airflow, so needing a full face helmet with visor isn't required. Rally helmets these days are often supplied fitted with an integral intercom headset, in the old days however, you always had to buy a headset and install it into your helmet yourself!
The choices of Rally Helmets these days is quite large, we'll try to breakdown the makes and models, to help you come to a decision of which is right for you, however, you really are best to get to a stockist, like us at MSAR in London and receive a professional fitting and reassurance that your new Rally Helmet is comfortable and fits your shape if head well.
We'll start with Open Face helmets, the cheapest on the market like the Sparco Club J1 and the OMP Star model are a popular choice for those partaking in Trackdays and Non-Competitive forms of performance driving and they can be fitted with Intercom Headsets, but they are NOT suitable for Rallying, as their ECE Approval is not sufficient under the MSA and FIA Regulations for Competitive Motorsport. So you're price range for a proper Rally Helmet, without an intercom, kicks in at the £225 pound mark, but rather than an injection moulded plastic helmet shell, you do receive a more rigorously tested helmet with a composite shell, which is hand made, with the obvious extra cost in labour and materials. There are some cheap Chinese open face models on the market around the £100 mark, but we steer clear of these.
At the starting point of £227 we have the Bell Mag 1 helmet, this is a popular model and is extremely well finished, as you'd expect from Bell Helmets! We then have an array of models from Sparco, Stilo, more from Bell and Arai. The full range of, non-intercom models stretches from £227.42 through to the superb Bell HP9 Carbon Fibre helmet costing £1606.50+vat.
Within this range we have the Sparco RJ-3 composite model in white and the Sparco RJ-9 Carbon Fibre model, Stilo just have their entry level, Trophy DES Jet model, with and without HANS clips, although our tip there is to buy them separately and save yourself over £35!!
Bell Helmets have 2 more models between the entry level and top professional models we've already mentioned above, these are the Bell Mag 9 in white and the the superb Bell Mag 9 Carbon at £694.95+vat.
The last helmet we currently offer in the Open Face 'Rally Helmet' non-intercom group is the superb Arai GP-Jet 3 model, this is possibly the best value for money out of all of them, albeit at a mere £399.95+vat!
Ok so now you ask which should I buy?! Well it comes down to your budget, your size and shape of head and the intercom you want to use, if indeed you do?!
The first piece of advice we'd have is, IF you want to use an intercom, one of the biggest advantages gained by crews in the car over the last 25 years is the addition of the full earcup. Anyone using an intercom with full ear cups will find it easier to hear their driver or co-driver more easily! Using a cheaper open face, non-intercom helmet without full ear cups fitted and then deciding to fit a traditional headset, will definitely be at a disadvantage, even more so if the car is particularly noisy in the habitacle!
So the advice is to try and afford a helmet with ear cups factory fitted, however IF you are definitely going to use an intercom, we would suggest buying the helmet with the full headset pre-fitted, this avoids any messing about and a small risk of damaging your helmet whilst fitting the headset.
The other main issue is do you use a Terraphone intercom, a Stilo Intercom, on from Rosso, OMP, Bell, Sparco etc? Well one would think that within Brand products is the only way to go, it's not a bad way to go, however there are, for example intercom amplifiers from Bell and Sparco, that are made by Rosso and the Rosso equivalent model is actually cheaper! The other more pressing issue, especially for those who drive or co-drive in multiple cars, is the compatibility between brands and ranges within brands...
As it happens Peltor Intercoms, a brand purchased a few years ago by 3M, has largely disappeared, however various other brands still produce intercoms and accessories with 'Peltor Compatible' Nexus plugs. Here's where some difficulties come into play and that's because the two main types of compatibility are 'Peltor Compatible' or 'Stilo Compatible', this seems easy, however both use Nexus Plugs, but fit them the other way round to each other and they are wired differently because of this! Confused, you might well be!
Peltor always fitted a 'Female Nexus' socket on the cable coming out of their intercom amplifiers, always a 'Female'. This would of course plug into a 'Male Nexus' plug hanging down from their helmets.
Stilo use a 'Male Nexus' plug on the end of their amplifier cables, this plugs into an integral 'Female Nexus' typically mounted on the side of Stilo WRC spec helmets.
Whilst on the subject of Stilo, they also have an economy intercom amplifier and range of corresponding items available, this includes the Trophy Jet DES Rally Helmet, Trophy Intercom and Trophy Practice Headsets. These items work well together, but cannot be adapted or used with the higher spec range of 'Stilo WRC' intercom equipped helmets, Headsets, Amplifiers or Practice Headsets.
The great thing about 'Peltor Compatible' Rally Helmets and Intercoms and 'Stilo Compatible' Rally Helmets and Intercoms, is that there are many adaptors and conversion components to allow the products to be used together...
We do hope this data will be of use to you, it's a hard one to get your head round, but does seem to become fairly obvious fairly quickly!
If you want as short a statement as possible with regarding open Face Rally Helmets, predominantly aimed at the Clubman end of the market, as it's where most people are, here goes!
Buy a Snell SA2015 model, with integral ear cups as an absolute minimum. If you are to use an intercom, buy a Snell 2015 model with an 'Full Earcup Headset' factory fitted and ensure it is a 'Peltor Compatible' or 'Stilo/Stilo Compatible' helmet.
Based on these guidelines we'd buy these highlighted with a Red Star* below, we've listed them all for you though (in price order);
Rally Helmet without headset, but with 'Earcups' fitted:
Sparco Pro RJ-3 Helmet * (Best Value for Money)
Bell Mag 9 Pro Helmet * (Best Clubman choice, if it can be afforded & You want to use an intercom later)
Arai GP-Jet 3 Helmet * (Best non-Carbon Helmet if not needing an intercom)
Bell HP 9 Carbon Helmet
Rally Helmet with Integral Headset and 'Earcups' fitted:
Bell Mag 9 Pro Rally Helmet * (Best Value for money, if affordable - Peltor Compatible)
Stilo Trophy DES Plus Helmet * (Best Value for money, if affordable - Stilo Compatible)
Sparco Sky RJ-7i Carbon Helmet
Sparco Prime RJ-9i Supercarbon Helmet
Bell HP 9 Carbon Intercom Helmet * (Best Value for money FIA 8860 Model)
Obviously you can use most helmets for Rallying and many full face helmets with open peaks are available to choose from, along with many full face models, with and without headsets etc. The same rules apply with regards to the intercoms and headsets, just bear in mind that Racing helmets for track use, don't have earphones, track racers have to use ear bud type headset speakers, these are the rules!
I think if we can we'll look at some blogs for specific helmets and what can be used with them in terms of intercoms, accessories and adaptors etc? Let us know if there's a helmet you're considering and you're keen to know what intercoms are compatible etc, we'll start with that and work our way through them all!
OK that's if for now, there's so much more we could say, hopefully some pointers for you! You can always e-mail or ring us anytime for any help, an honest opinion or to book in for a professional fitting and to take a look at some of these fantastic helmets in the flesh!