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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Aluminum Race Seats

Unlike a decade or so ago, most of today's race cars have a purpose built race seat installed. The majority of these seats are constructed from aluminum or a molded composite material.

Virtually every Oval Track racer uses an aluminum race seat. From the dustiest, dimly lit, quarter mile oval, to the Cup racers on a Sunday afternoon, factory built aluminum seats are the preferred choice. A handful of the Cup teams have begun using seats of carbon fiber. Extremely lightweight and strong, but the carbon fiber seats are incredibly expensive, so it is doubtful their use will ever filter down to the regional and local level racers. Some entry level stock car divisions will still permit passenger car or plastic seats and probably a few fiberglass seats from the 70's and 80's are still being used. With the improved technology and relatively affordable cost of an aluminum race seat, passenger car, plastic or fiberglass seats should never be used for racing competition in 2012.

Road Race cars, particularly the closed cockpit divisions, are probably evenly split on their preference to use an aluminum or composite race seat. Many of the composite seats are FIA tested and approved, whereas, the aluminum seats are not. Although, the aluminum seats are not FIA approved, they are permitted by all the U.S. and Canadian road race sanctioning bodies (check your rulebook for your classification). A slight curve ball has been thrown by SCCA, NASA and others, as they have begun to require back braces on seats. The aluminum seats accept the back brace with no problem, but there is much debate as to whether the composite seats should be drilled and bolted to a back brace. In general, the composite seats have more padding installed, so they can be slightly more comfortable. The aluminum seats are available in a wider range of sizes and can be half the cost of the composite.

Aluminum race seats have seen increasing popularity in Drag Racing. From Top Fuel to Sportsman, many of the same manufacturers whose seats were concentrated in the oval track market, have been fabricating specialized seats for drag racing. Some aluminum seats are less than $200, so if you are using a molded plastic seat, safer, affordable options are available. Keep in mind, entry level drag race divisions are probably running speeds approaching 100 mph, your safety should be a priority.

In upcoming articles, more detail will be offered on construction, options, mounting and more!


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