Competition Seat Standards Guide 

The choice of competition seats can be rather bewildering with the various FIA Standards, FIA 8862-2009, recently introduced FIA 8855-2021, and FIA 8855-1999. We have put together this guide to make the choice a bit simpler. 

FIA 8862-2009 

FIA 8862-2009  is the very highest seat safety standard approved by the FIA

The aim of this standard is to provide objective performance requirements for advanced racing seats, which are considerably in excess of FIA8855-1999. The standard ensures improved strength and support during rear impacts together with more extensive support to the pelvis, shoulder, and head during side impacts. The seat mounts are to be approved as part of the seat system and must therefore, be able to carry the loads prescribed by this standard without excessive deformation. Certain FIA Championships may permit use of bespoke brackets in which case the requirements for these brackets are defined in the relevant FIA Technical Regulations. 

Testing

The test method for the 8862-2009 standard differs significantly from that of the older 8855-1999 standard. The standard is quasi-static, meaning the seat is fixed and the loads are applied by hydraulic rams to the head, shoulder, and pelvis areas of the seat simultaneously. There are both lateral and rearwards tests where the seat must withstand. 

It is difficult to compare the two standards accurately except to say that the 8862 standard is much more rigorous and simulates an impact of approximately 70G ( to put that in context Romain Grosjean crash at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix was reported as 67G ) 

Three consecutive tests with forces of between 32 kN (approx. 3.3 metric tons) and 60 kN (approx. 6.1 metric tons) :

1. Lateral load test: 1 x 32 kN (approx. 3.3 metric tons) (Around 300% increase in overall loading compared with FIA 8855 in the pelvic, shoulder and head areas of the racing shell).

2. Rearward load test (against direction of travel): 1 x 35 kN (Around 200% increase in load)

3. Crush test: 2 x 30 kN (approx. 3.3 metric tons)

The seat must absorb 1 kJ of energy – the lateral load at the shoulder area must not exceed 30 kN and the seat shell must not deform any more than 200 mm inwardly.

Safety 

Fire protection: Fire protection improved to 75 mm/min under ISO 3795

The other point to note is that seats meeting the new FIA standard are required to use stiff, energy absorbing foam in the head, shoulder, and pelvis areas, improving safety for the occupant.

Homologated 8862-2009 seats will be issued with a 10-year FIA validity. 

Which competitors will be required to use FIA8862-2009 seats?

FIA world championships (GT3, WRC, S2000, Rally 2 WRX and ERC) The seats can be used for lower championships if the extra protection is desired. 

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FIA 8855-2021

The introduction of the new FIA 8855-2021 approval brought in to replace the FIA 8855-1999 has increased safety and is much closer to the very highest FIA 8862-2009 approval but at much reduced cost which results in bringing a high level of protection to a much bigger audience. This approval gives a level of safety and strength from the shell which is now capable of withstanding high-speed impacts of up to 42G. The advances in manufacturing technology mean these are a fraction of the cost of the higher FIA 8862-2009 approval making it more affordable for the entry level teams and drivers. All FIA 8855-2021 approved seats come with a 10-year life, again reducing costs by having a longer validity. 

The FIA has delivered this update to the 8855-1999 seat standard used in closed-cockpit cars, which will significantly improve the safety of the most popular motor sport seat in the world. With support from R&D technology company D2H Advanced Technologies, the new FIA Standard 8855-2021 requires seats to be much stronger than the original Standard that was issued over 20 years ago. 

Testing

Strength is judged on the ability of the seat shell to withstand an impact both to the rear and laterally, in this case protecting a competitor in the event of an accident up to 42G. The FIA Safety Department conducted quasi-static tests where forces are applied to critical areas of the seat shell by controlled loading arms, to simulate the stresses of a high-speed impact. This work was discussed and agreed with the FIA’s Industry Working Group, which is made of motor sport suppliers and equipment manufacturers who help to develop future FIA standards and regulations. The total forces inflicted on the seats are around two tonnes to core areas that are crucial to crash safety: lumbar, centre of the back and head/neck, and to the sides, including the hips/pelvis region, shoulder and to the side of the head. The new approval is applied to the seat and the mounting frame so to comply with the standard the seat mounts will need to have the same FIA8855-2021 approval.  

Homologated 8855-2021 seats will be issued with a 10-year FIA validity compared to the five-year lifespan under the 8855-1999 standard, a major achievement for improved safety affordability . Technical regulations mandating 8855-2021 seats will be updated with enough notice once the implementation is approved by the World Motor Sport Council. Competitors that use 8855-1999 can now upgrade their seat to 8855-2021 standard.

Which competitors will be required to use FIA8855-2021 seats? The FIA has determined a provisional roadmap for the introduction of this new seat standard. FIA8855-2021 seats are now accepted universally but are only mandated in some motorsport classes this year. For International FIA events the new seat standard will be implemented first into higher tier Rally and Cross-Country, whilst at a national level it is the decision of the local governing body (such as Motorsport UK) to determine how and when they will roll-out any new regulations. 

The FIA8855-1999 standard has not been withdrawn and the FIA, along with domestic governing bodies, are aware that certain design requirements of FIA8855-2021 seats will mean that it is not possible to mandate them in every model of competition car. 

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FIA 8855-1999

This older FIA standard will stay in use for now ( it will likely continue as some older car interiors will not allow use of the  FIA 8855-2021 approved seats due to space constraints etc ). If the car will take the newer FIA approved seats it is recommended to use these as your safety will be considerably increased and the car will be future proofed against any future regulation changes. The 10-year life also makes their use more attractive. 

Rally 

Motorsport UK have given an extended life for stage rallying seats homologated to the FIA 8855-1999 standard. They are granted a two-year extension at the end of their initial five-year life (it has recently been announced that this has now been extended to 3 years from label expiry for certain seats due to COVID-19 pandemic). 

How will this affect my seats? To find out when your seats will be valid until, you will need to look at the FIA homologation label. All seats manufactured since 1 January 2012 will have an FIA homologation label overlapped by the FIA hologram in the top-left corner.

There are two variations of the FIA 8855-1999 homologation label; some will show a manufacture date(month/year) and some will show a ‘not valid after’ date (year only). Examples of these homologation labels are shown below.

To work out the validity of an 8855-1999 standard seat with a label which shows a manufacture date, add seven years to the year shown on the label. For example, a label that shows a manufacture date of May 2012 will be valid until 31 May 2019. A seat with a manufacture date on the label will always be valid until the end of the month seven years from the date printed. To work out the validity of an 8855-1999 standard seat with a label which shows a ‘not valid after’ date, add two years to the year shown on the label. For example, a label that shows a not valid after date of 2018 will be valid until 31 December 2020. A seat with a ‘not valid after’ date on the label will always be valid until 31 December two years from the date printed on the homologation label.

Circuit Racing 

The rules for some but not all Motorsport UK circuit racing classes mean the seat expiry date does not always apply. We would recommend checking your regulations if you are unsure. If you plan to carry on using a seat past the expiry date, we suggest looking at the maintenance section below. If you buy a car with an expired seat already fitted, we will also suggest paying close attention to the seat fit section. If the car has new panels or suspension on one side, perhaps the accident section is worth reading!

GUIDANCE: SEAT INSTALLATION

The seat safety system comprises the seat and its mountings; this is one of the most critical safety systems within the vehicle as any failure here will reduce effectiveness of other items such as harnesses and your Frontal Head Restraint (FHR). Accident data and statistics show it is more common for the seat mountings to fail than the seat itself, therefore it is vital that the seat is mounted correctly.

Regulations give a specification for the mounting of the seat directly to the bodyshell/chassis in section K2.2.1 to K2.2.3 of the Motorsport UK Yearbook. These regulations apply for either a base mounted seat where the seat is bolted directly to the bodyshell/chassis, or a side mounted seat where the seat supports are bolted to the bodyshell/chassis and the seat is bolted to the supports. They require the seat to be attached via a minimum of four mounting points using bolts of at least 8mm diameter. Each of these mounting points is to be reinforced by counter plates above and below the bodyshell/chassis, effectively sandwiching the vehicle structure (this is shown in drawing 32 in Section K in the Motorsport UK Yearbook). These counter plates must be at least 40cm2 per mounting and must be a minimum thickness of either 3mm for steel or 5mm for light alloy.

There is also an option within FIA Appendix J regulations for mounting seats to a transverse cross member. The transverse cross member of either square or tube section with end plates is bolted to a counter plate at each end; the counter plate is welded to the transmission tunnel and the bodyshell outer rails. The seat supports are then bolted through M8 inserts in the cross member. Note that if a tubular cross member is used then a U-shaped extruded section must be welded to the tube to provide a flat surface for the support to sit on. In addition to these methods, for vehicles originating as Series Production Cars the manufacturer’s original seat mounting points may be used. There is also the ability for manufacturers of FIA-homologated cars to detail a method of mounting within the homologation.

For seats homologated to the FIA 8862-2010 standard, the supports are homologated with the seat and these specific homologated supports must be used for the seat homologation to be valid.

Seat fit

An important consideration when choosing your seat is to ensure it fits your body size and shape, as seats come in several different sizes and fits. If the seat is too big for the occupant, he or she could come out of the seat in an incident, and likewise if the seat is too small the occupant may not be able to be seated securely. The shoulder harness holes should be aligned with the occupant’s shoulders. If the harness holes are below the shoulders, when pulling the harness tight the occupant’s spine will be compressed which can lead to serious spinal injuries in an accident. If the harness holes are too high the harness shoulder straps will interact with the seat and not securely restrain the occupant. This will also adversely affect the effectiveness of an FHR device. The seat padding is an important part of the seat’s safety as it ensures the occupant is securely located in the seat and protected in an accident. If the foam is removed to allow a larger person to fit in a smaller seat, then the effectiveness of this protection is reduced. Likewise, if too much foam is used to accommodate a smaller occupant.

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Maintenance

With the extended validity of some seat homologations, it is important that as the competitor you take responsibility for the care and maintenance of your equipment. 

Seats should only be mounted in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and Motorsport UK or FIA regulations. Do not modify the seat shell in any way as this will invalidate the homologation; remember this includes the seat supports for those homologated to FIA 8862-2010.

Regular checks and maintenance should be performed during the life of the seat to ensure it remains in good condition.

The seat itself should be checked regularly for damage; a solidly mounted seat with a correctly restrained driver can be subject to some extreme forces during regular stage rally use, for example. Therefore, even if the seat has not been involved in any accidents it could still suffer damage through the normal wear and tear of competition. Stresses in the fabrication of the seat can show as cracks or lighter coloured stress lines in fibreglass or carbon. Composite shelled seats are often left untrimmed at the rear, so they can be checked easily for cracking and damage; particular attention should be paid to high stressed areas such as the lower part of the back rest and around the support mounting areas. It is also sensible to pull on the shell and look for any excessive flex in the seat and movement in the fixings.

Steel framed seats can be harder to check unless the covers are removable, but any damage visible on the outside of the seat will be an indicator of potentially more serious damage inside.

The seat supports should be checked regularly for security, ensuring the bolts remain tightened to the manufacturer’s recommended torque. They should also be checked visually for any cracking, distortion, or corrosion. Pay particular attention to ensure the bolt holes have not become ovalized, and for supports with multiple bolt holes/slots for adjustment, check for cracking between the holes. The mounting points on the bodyshell/chassis should also be regularly checked for any cracking or corrosion.

Accidents

It is important that if your vehicle is involved in an accident, you do not simply assume that your seat system will be OK to use again. What appears to be a minor impact can put huge loadings through the seat and its mountings. Following an accident your seat and its mountings should be carefully inspected for damage; the manufacturer should be able to advise you. If there is any damage to the seat or supports, the best policy is to replace it. It worked the first time it might not second time around!

Conclusion

A seat system is not an ‘fit and forget’ piece of equipment and it is your responsibility to ensure it is installed and maintained correctly. Remember that no matter how good your seat is, it is only going to be effective if it is installed correctly, so as such careful consideration should be given to the mounting points and supports as to the seat itself. 

We hope this makes the selection of a suitable seat much easier but as always if you need help or advice choosing the correct motorsport seat, we are here happy to help by phone or e-mail


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