While helmets have been around since the beginning of auto racing, full face helmets are a relatively new phenomena, having only come around since the late 1960’s. With the advent of full-face helmets came the visor. Visors or face-shields, are clear pieces of plexiglass that cover the open area of the helmet. In addition to keeping wind and rain out of a driver’s eyes in open cockpits, they also shield the driver’s face from fire, and can be tinted for racing in sunlight. Each form of auto racing has their own quirks when it comes to face-shields. Face-shields are designed to snap closed, and they all feature holes for the connection to the helmet, holes to keep the visor closed, and handles to help open the visor. This week we will look at IndyCar face shields.
IndyCar, like many other classes of auto racing is open cockpit. While there are windshields that protect the driver from harm, the face-shield is still a critical part of the helmet. These face-shields were the only thing keeping a driver from injury from debris. They tend to show a lot of use. This Johnny Unser face-shield was used during the 1996 Indy 500. It has a lot of wear and Johnny has autographed it with “INDY-1996” inscribed. It should be noted that he started 16th, and finished 33rd due to a transmission issue. This Jaques Lazier Menards face-shield was used in the 2003 Indy 500, where he started 20th, and finished 29th, due to a wreck with the 99 of Richie Hearn on lap 62. It features a tear away, commonly used among open cockpit race car face-shields. Next week, the face-shield discussion continues with other kinds of face shields.