Well, quite simply, very little! FHR stands for ‘frontal head restraint’ – and from now on is the name you’re probably going to see used most often when referring to the device that used to be known as a HANS (head and neck support). HANS is now a trademarked term – so only certain manufacturers are allowed to use it. It’s really the same thing as asking “what’s the difference between a Hoover and a vacuum cleaner?”
Are some FHR Devices better than others?
This is a common question that we get from customers, and the answer is that it really depends on what you mean by ‘better’! All FHR devices are designed to offer the same level of protection in the event of an incident – however, some weigh less than others (and it probably won’t surprise you to hear that these tend to be the more expensive models in terms of construction)! In a professional racing environment where weight is more of an issue than budget, this means that important savings can be made – whilst clubman competitors are offered the same level of protection at a more affordable price.
The key is really to ensure that all the components of your FHR device (or any safety-related system for that matter) consist of genuine products. Purchasing from Demon Tweeks ensures this – whilst of course meaning that you reap the benefits of the decades of experience we have at our disposal to help you make your choice. Any questions you have can, of course, be directed to our expert Sales Team – the majority of whom are themselves competitive racers.
Why do I need an FHR Device?
Once you understand the benefits that an FHR device can bring to you, the question you’ll probably be asking yourself is actually ‘why would I not buy one?’! Quite simply, these things save lives.
If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an incident during a race and you are not wearing an FHR device, then your harness is likely going to do its job and stop your body from moving forward. But think about what your head will be doing whilst all of those G-forces are resolved. Whilst your body itself is arrested by your harness, without an FHR, there is nothing to stop your head from snapping forward – which can place immense strain on your neck. Add to this the fact that your head is already being made heavier than normal by the added weight of your helmet, and you have a recipe for trouble. This type of impact can cause Basilar skull fractures – a very specific type of fracture that is often associated with motorsport. Unfortunately, these types of fractures can be fatal in some cases, and have claimed the lives of many top competitors over the years – Roland Ratzenberger and Dale Earnhardt Senior to name just two.
An FHR device provides a means by which your head will be stopped from traveling forward in the event of sudden deceleration – taking the strain away from your neck and dissipating it in a controlled manner. This provides an excellent defence against the type of skull fractures that have claimed so many lives over the years – which is why FHR devices are now mandatory in the vast majority of racing series.
In addition to this, the MSA (now Motorsport UK) announced that, as of 2016, all forms of circuit racing, stage rallying, hill climbs and sprints (with exceptions for certain historic vehicles or classes) are required to use an FHR device.
FIA-approved FHR Devices
As with any critical piece of safety equipment, the FIA has laid out regulations regarding the use of FHR devices. The latest of these is FIA 8858-2010. For information about regulations concerning FHR-specific harnesses, please see the section of this blog post entitled ‘FHR-Compatible Harnesses’.
How many degrees of recline do I need?
You may have noticed that FHR devices are available in a number of different ‘reclines’. This is important where your comfort is concerned – so we advise that ideally you should pay a visit to our Superstore in Wrexham and have one of our expert sales staff show you the range to let you try on a few options. Obviously, this isn’t always possible – and the world isn’t exactly bursting at the seams with Motorsport Superstores full of FHR devices – so below we’ve included a rough guide that will tell you which angle will most likely suit the type of racing that you are doing.
If you compete in multiple formulae, then you might be interested in the Simpson Hybrid devices. These FHR devices are not angle specific and allow the driver to be comfortable at any angle – no matter what type of car you are in.
Ten Degree Recline
FHR devices with a ten degree recline are the most upright on the market. Whilst some circuit racing competitors may find that this very upright seating position suits them, more often than not, ten degree FHRs are purchased by rally competitors – where an upright position is very common – especially amongst co-drivers.
If you are looking for a ten degree FHR device, then we would recommend a model such as the Stand21 Hi-Tec Series FHR Device, or the adjustable HANS model mentioned above. Also worth considering is the Simpson Hybrid range – which has gained widespread popularity in rally and saloon racing – where side impact protection for the head can be severely lacking when compared to a single seater. The Simpson Hybrid range is described in further detail below – but essentially, what it does is to provide much greater support to the head during a side impact than a conventional FHR device would, through a clever (and FIA-approved) system of straps around your chest. By design, the Simpson Hybrid device sidesteps the whole issue of a recline angle – and as such, they are suitable for all types of use.
Twenty Degree Recline
Twenty degree FHR devices tend to be our top sellers. This angle suits the majority of people who are competing in saloon, sports car, or historic racing. Because of the angle’s popularity, you will find that the majority of FHR devices tend to be available with it as an option. Popular choices in this fitment include the HANS III, Schroth SHR EVO, and at the very top end of the market, the elite level Stand21 Ultimate Series.
Thirty Degree Recline
If you drive a single-seater race car, then the likelihood is that you will be best suited by a thirty degree FHR device, due to its slightly shallower angle. Popular sellers in this category include the Stand21 Hi-Tec Series and Hans Pro Ultra Lite FHR devices.
Forty Degree Recline
Forty degree FHR devices are the shallowest angle on the market. These models tend to be ideal for use in single-seater racers such as F1 and F2 cars – where the seating position is extremely reclined. As such, it tends to be the case that the models available are towards the top end of the market. Options include the Stand 21 Hi-Tec Series or the Schroth Pro.
Please note: all angles depicted here are for illustrative purposes only and are not necessarily drawn to scale.
What is a hybrid FHR device?
Rather than using the established over-the-shoulder harness method of securing the head, a new breed of FHR Systems from Simpson Motorsport uses an innovative series of straps around the torso to provide protection, not only in the fore and aft directions, but also against side impacts – where the head is most likely to be forced left or right. This is of particular interest to drivers of saloon and rally cars – where side impact protection for the head is often limited when compared to a single-seater formula car.
FHR-Specific Seats and Harnesses
If you’ve spent any time browsing our website, you’ve probably noticed that some race harnesses are advertised as being FHR specific. Whilst these models can offer certain advantages to the FHR user, they are by no means essential.
In the case of FHR-specific harnesses, what you are actually getting is a harness that is narrower (2″ rather than the usual 3″) in the area where it passes over the FHR device. This is helpful, in that it often makes it easier to fit the FHR correctly – but you must remember that such harnesses are only allowed when used with an FHR System. These are by no means a required fitment, but rather something that you may want to consider if you’re building an FHR-specific setup in your car. Assuming that it is set up correctly, a 3″ harness will be perfectly safe for use with an FHR device – it’s simply that 2″ FHR-specific models make that correct set up easier to achieve.
“These are by no means a required fitment, but rather something that you may want to consider if you’re building an FHR-specific setup in your car”
FHR specific seats – such as the Recaro Pro Racer SP-G HANS are simply seats which have been designed with frontal head restraint systems in mind. Whilst this again ensures that any interaction between the seat and FHR device is optimised, it is not something which is necessary for the use of such a system – and in fact, more or less any seat which features harness holes is compatible with FHR use.