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Unread 08-22-2013, 10:34 AM
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Default Racing Seats at Vorshlag

One thing we often get asked by track and autocross drivers is: Does a racing seat really matter? Will it make me FASTER? The answer is - yes! A proper fixed-back racing seat not only saves some weight over the OEM seat, more importantly these connect your body to the chassis so you can "read" what is happening in your back and butt long before your eyes sense some unwanted yaw or change in attitude of the car.



A properly installed racing seat can also add several inches of headroom for tall folks, or raise the seating position for the vertically challenged. A composite fixed-back seat is also stronger in a crash, with less chance of the seat back breaking compared to a tilting OEM seat. Lastly, when coupled with a proper racing harness, a fixed back seat with ample lateral support keeps the mass of your torso, head and arms in place, connected to the seat - instead of your arms holding the upper half of your body in place with the steering wheel. Every racer that has their first experience driving with a proper racing seat says same thing, "The steering effort is SO much easier now! I can't believe I didn't do this sooner." As grip levels increase this effect becomes more pronounced.



Vorshlag has been installing fixed back and reclining racing seats into sports cars for many years, and we had customers asking us to supply seats for a while. So earlier in 2013 we decided to take the plunge and do a big buy-in with Cobra...



You can now find many of the Cobra seats and accessories we can supply on our website. Just click on "Products", then "Racing Seats", located here. We have a number of the popular Cobra seats added and in stock here at Vorshlag, including the popular Imola, Suzuka and Evolution.



We have installed Cobra seats into various cars including BMWs, Mustangs, Corvettes, Subarus and more. There are tricks and tips for each of these cars' installs, and almost none of the adapter brackets made in the aftermarket fit with every seat and every body type. The problems come with tall drivers (over 5'9") losing massive amounts of headroom with a racing seat, which only gets worse when you add a racing helmet, or if the car has a sunroof. It doesn't need to be this way - we know the tricks to getting your seat installed right.



Normally we will make custom chassis brackets, and add a low profile slider, if the car is a dual purpose street/track or street/autocross car. And often a car has more than one driver, which makes the adjustable slider a necessity. Not all sliders are equal - some brands of sliders hold up to the rigors of racing better than others. And they can be safe if you know what to look for. We've worked with a number of them and can guide you to the parts that will best meet your needs.

http://vorshlag.smugmug.com/Service/Race-Seat/

The gallery above shows a few custom seat bracket installations we have done. When a customer can bring their car to us we can make a perfect set-up, where the seat and driver are centered to the steering wheel, with the ideal seat height, angle, and fore-aft position. If you want racing harnesses, and a harness bar or roll bar to mount them to, we can supply those as well. Nobody makes one for your car? No worries - our team of in-house fabricators can scratch build one, just bring us your car. And for dual-purpose cars we will reinstall the OEM seat belts for safer street use (properly worn racing harness can make street driving difficult and may not be legal in your state).



We stock a number of racing seats - feel free to stop by and "take a seat" in some that are mounted on floor stands in our lobby. We also usually have one or more cars in our shop with racing seats. If you don't see what you need just give us a call or shoot us an e-mail.

Thanks,

Last edited by Fair!; 02-10-2018 at 06:35 PM.
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Unread 03-20-2017, 05:42 PM
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Default Re: Racing Seats at Vorshlag

It has been 4 years since I posted the above blurb about Cobra racing seats. We still love this brand, but the shipping costs make it difficult for us to sell Cobra.



Lately we have had great luck with Sparco seats and we have a better way to ship them, so we can actually get them here and to customers without adding 50% to the purchase price. It seems crazy, and it is, but the US distributors for Cobra and several other brands downright gouge us on shipping.

Below are a few Sparco models we now sell and use more often, and we usually have some in stock or mounted onto stands in our showroom. We always encourage people to "test sit" in any racing seat they are going to use to make sure it FITS THEIR BODY TYPE and driving position. I will talk more about these aspects on each model below.

SPARCO I/II/III

The Sparco EVO is made in an unprecedented 3 sizes (widths/heights), and the EVO II was our most popular seat in 2016 and 2017 - which fits the vast majority of adults. We won't sell the EVO I due to its weirdly small size, and the EVO III is so big it isn't used as often either.



The EVO seats have a lower leg bolstering area, which make them much easier to get into/out of (a "low step-over") but still support the hips and shoulders well. They work well for a dual purpose street/track car or a time trial car. Yes, a fixed back racing seat can be used safely on the street, as long as you keep the stock 3-point retractable seat belts, route them correctly (see above), and set the driving position so that you can reach the controls and see well out of the car.



The upholstery materials on the EVO are great and they feature 5 harness pass-thru holes for use with a 5-6-7 point racing harness. Like almost all composite shell racing seats it has threaded mounts on the sides, and must be used with a set of side mount brackets to mount them to your chassis bracket or floorpan.



Sizing: The important thing to remember is NOBODY over 100 pounds fits in the EVO I. We don't know who Sparco is making the EVO I to fit, but it isn't adult Americans. If you are over 100 pounds but under 275 pounds you should fit the EVO II. If you are larger than 275 you might fit better in the large EVO II seat.



We have these seats in a number of customer and shop cars and try to keep one in the lobby at all times. They are a great seat, and lightweight for their class, but weigh more than the numbers Sparco publishes. Every seat we have ever weighed is 2-4 pounds heavier than the charts show, for all brands. We don't know why.

SPARCO CIRCUIT I/II

The Sparco Circuit is another FIA approved seat which has a composite shell and black upholstery. The middle seat pads are velcro'd in place so they can be changed out to fit your back shape, adjust your height, etc.



The Circuit is a "head restraint" style seat, which means they have a "halo" section to help restrain your head in a side impact. This makes them almost completely unusable for street use but very preferable for a track-only car, as visibility to your direct left or right is compromised. But with a seat like this you no longer need a "center net" to keep you in the seat in a side impact, so they are better for racing use.



The Circuit seat also has high leg bolstering, which works as a good leg restraint in hard cornering. These make them harder to get into/out of (a "high step-over") but for a race car its what you need. Like the EVO seats, this composite shell racing seat has threaded mounts on the sides, and must be used with a set of side mount brackets to mount them to your chassis bracket or floorpan.



We have these seats in a number of customer and shop cars and try to keep one or more in the lobby at all times. They are a great racing seat, and a little heavier than the non-halo seats from Sparco due to the higher leg bolster and halo portions.



Sizing: The important thing to remember is NOBODY over 100 pounds fits in the EVO I. We don't know who Sparco is making the EVO I to fit, but it isn't adult Americans. If you are over 100 pounds but under 275 pounds you should fit the EVO II. If you are larger than 275 you might fit better in the large EVO II seat.

SPARCO SPRINT / SPRINT L

The Sprint series seat is a low cost FIA approved fixed back racing seat from Sparco. This is a tubular steel framed seat with passing and upholstery



This seat can be either side mounted (with optional side mount brackets) or bottom mounted. The tubular steel frame has threaded holes in both locations.



Sizing: The Sprint fits most adult Americans and this is what we sell most of the time. The Sprint L is VERY LARGE and considerably wider than the Sprint. These are best suited for folks over 275 pounds.



The sizing chart above is for the Sprint.

SPARCO PRO-2000 I / II

The Pro 2000 is one of the most popular Sparco competition seats. It combines comfort and ergonomics with safety and performance. The non-slip fabric on the shoulder and cushion area and two lumbar support pads improve cockpit comfort.



Made from an light fiberglass composite shell and wrapped in a fire retardant fabric, the Pro 2000 features a seat design that cradles the body for greater performance. The Pro 2000 is FIA approved.



Sizing: The Sparco Pro2000 comes in two sizes, but we strongly recommend the Pro2000 II. Again, the "I" size is for teenie tiny people.





We sold a pair of the Pro2000 II Sparcos to the owner of this NC generation Mazda MX5, who uses the car for autocross and track competition. They fit both the car and the driver great.



Thanks for reading - we will add more detail about various seat models as we install them into cars in our shop.

Last edited by Fair!; 02-10-2018 at 06:37 PM.
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Unread 02-10-2018, 06:33 PM
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Default Re: Racing Seats at Vorshlag

MOUNTING A REAL RACING SEAT

As people get into motorsports events they typically progress along a path. For "road course" events this usually means you start out in HPDE Novice groups in a fairly stock street car. If you enjoy this sport you probably progress up though the 3-4 ranks of HPDE, into Time Trial, maybe even to Wheel to wheel road racing (W2W). This also applies to autocross, hill climb, and other forms of timed motorsport that involves "changing direction quickly".



Along the way your safety gear needs to improve, and one of the best improvements we recommend that can actually make you faster is going to fixed back racing seats. Some of you reading this might think "But my car has performance seat option!" Well unless it comes with a fixed back racing seat, your car has CRAP seats. Yes, even the tilt back Recaros, those suck on track with stock belts. Once you get faster they really start to SUCK.



The typical track driver goes like this: he has an ever more more serious track car, eventually rides in a car with proper racing seats/harnesses, and realizes immediately that THIS IS WHAT HE WANTS. The driver is much more connected to a fixed back racing seat when strapped in with a 6-point harness than he ever could be in a stock seat and 3-point belt. Your back and legs are all connected to... no they become PART of the seat, which in turn is connected to the car. You become CONNECTED TO THE CAR, directly. When you are sitting IN a proper seat and the car moves you FEEL it in your body, and you can predict any slide or movement or wiggle much earlier than when you are sitting ON a stock seat.

This is huge. YUGE.



The belts and seats work together to hold the bulk of your body mass in place, instead of bracing your knees against the center console, legs braced against the firewall to push your butt back in the stock seat. Your arms are no longer holding your torso in place. After a day on track with stock seats and belts I am exhausted, back hurts, shoulders stiff, knee bruised. After a day on track with proper seats and harnesses you won't feel like you were beat with a 2x4 all day.



There is also a LOT more control over the car with proper seat/harness combo. Your arms are using their strength to control the steering wheel, which becomes lighter and easier to correct quickly than when your arms are spending 75% of their strength holding you in place. Your legs can deftly move the pedals since they aren't having to brace your body. Its a huge thing - and worth a lap time drop of 1-2 seconds per lap for most drivers.

FIND THE RIGHT SEAT



If you have read through the posts in this section above, hopefully you followed our advice and "test sat" in a variety of seats, found ones that fit your body / series / use, and ordered the seats from your local motorsports supplier. Let's say you have made that decision - Now what?



Racing seats can be a great safety improvement and improve driver feedback from the car - if installed correctly. Mounting a racing seat is no simple matter, but it is often overlooked until the 11th hour, when your new race seat has arrived and you have a track event the next day. BAD IDEA! Plan the mounting well ahead of time, ask for the right mounting advice before you try to mount them, and in many cases you might need an experienced fabricator to make some chassis side brackets fit the seat to the car and to your body correctly.

VIDEOS: SEAT BRACKET FAILS AND FIXES

Fixed back racing seats don't just "bolt in" to any car. Sure, you can search the interwebs and often find some "seat bracket kit" that is made for your car, and in rare cases they might actually fit the car in question and the seat you want... but there are SO MANY VARIABLES involved that this is usually NOT the case. Below is a prime example.

Even if some "store bought" brackets somehow magically connect to your seat and your car, they often do not fit your height or seating angle. At all. Or they fit but they are built wrong in some fundamental way - they are at the wrong height, the slider (if equipped) is super sloppy and has a lot of movement when you are seated, the bracket is flimsy, there is no provision for your racing harness and/or the OEM lower seat belt anchors, or it just plain doesn't pass technical inspection at your HPDE, autocross or other race events. We have seen this, too.


This video
shows how badly store bought brackets can be

The video above shows how really nice Cobra Suzuka GT seats can be so sloppy when mounted with store-bought brackets. This is an especially bad example, but we see this all the time. When we quote 3-4 hours per seat to make custom brackets/sliders for a given car, it can scare customers into using these mystery bracket solutions, which almost never work and are rarely safe. Just like when we are quoting roll cages, I ask: how much is your life worth to you? How much is your comfort and viability worth? There isn't almost anything else in a car more critical than seat mounting and driver placement as a racing seat. When it is done right it can be SO much if an improvement over unsupported, sloppy factory seats. But when done wrong it can make you miserable - and be unsafe.


This video
shows two Cobra seats installed correctly into identical Corvettes

When we show people how a "good seat install" should look we often show them the video above. This is the same Cobra seat mounted into two nearly identical Corvettes. The first car shown needed an adjustable fore-aft slider to be able to better work with two drivers. We used a dual locking Cobra slider, modified steel side brackets, along with a custom fabricated lower bracket that mounted to the floorpan. We lowered the seat down with the least amount of stack-up height, and show the movement that will be in even the best of sliders. The second car had a custom floor bracket to fit the car with a "fixed" mounted seat, to minimize height and maximize rigidity. As you watch the video look at how the seat is moving as it is being pulled and pushed - the whole car is moving with it. Nothing can be as rigid as this with a slider, but the first car is pretty close.



The 5th gen Camaro in the first video needed heavy modification to lower the seat, extend the slider travel, and "firm up" the bracket assembly. Our fabricators completely cut up and re-welded the store bought brackets, removed a lot of "stack up height", and altered the side brackets to change the height and angle of the seat.


This video
shows the heavily modified seat bracket/slider in a 5th gen Camaro

The video above shows the modified bracket on this same 5th gen Camaro, which has an incredibly low roof line. The 6'3" driver (me) can fit on the driver's side, which was changed completely. I try to sit on the passenger side in the unmodified seat bracket and it is comical! I actually raced this car in an SCCA autocross with this seat height - it was painfully bad.

SEAT MOUNTING - BUILD OR BUY SEAT BRACKETS?

So now that you have seen examples of the "right" and "wrong" way to sit in a racing seat, how do you duplicate this in your car? Going to Home Depot to scrounge up some metal bits and bolts to make a home built bracket is usually the absolute worst way to go about this.



In some rare cases (and often only with bottom-mount seats) you can get away with a pre-made bracket, like the slider/bracket assembly for the S197 chassis Mustang from Corbeau (above). They make one of the few examples of properly engineered, manufactured brackets and sliders. But most of the Corbeau seats are steel framed and setup for "bottom mounting," so it can be very challenging to modify their brackets for seats that use side mount brackets. Most FIA rated fixed back seats are made for side mounting, so that precludes the use of this bracket for most seats.



Virtually all of the side mount bracket/slider/side mount combos we have seen are just... junk. These "Cuddy Blub" (names have been changed to protect witnesses) brackets and sliders came on an EVO X at our shop in 2018. Before we removed them from the car we noticed a problem - the seat sat up SUPER high, and was very rickety. You could shake the seat and the brackets would move. Super janky!



Once they were out of the car it was apparent these were dangerously inadequate. The side brackets were flimsy things, and the anchor they added for the lap belt anchors was held on by two tiny spot welds. Look at that - would you want to trust your body to be secured with just those little welds holding the harness in place in a 30g crash? Scary stuff.

As an engineer I have a painfully critical eye when it comes to seat bracket kits and home-brew mounting - we have seen all manner of janky race seat installs at our shop.



We will start from scratch whenever we can, if the customer's budget allows for a few hours of fab work. This way we can choose the best side bracket brand and material, the best slider (if necessary), the right seat and build the lower seat bracket to fit the driver and car. On this EVO X we were able to make a fixed seat bracket using rectangular 1x2" tubular steel, some steel angle, and a bit of plate.



Because of the odd shape of most factory floors - they are NEVER flat - this isn't something we can just whittle out on our CNC machines. Some folks try to sell that, but it rarely ends up being the strongest, most compact chassis bracket method. With our in-house fabrication team racing background we end up using fabricated and welded steel tubing and plate.



Height is always a concern so for the chassis-side bracket we have competing design constraints: we want to make it as THIN as possible but also as STRONG as possible. A flat plate lacks the bending strength of a tubular structure, so we use a bit of both. On the EVO X bracket above we also had to grab the inboard rear factory threaded mount that was a couple of inches higher than the outboard rear. Hence the box structure you see above.



The final design above lowered the Recaro halo seat over 3 inches from the store-bought bracket. It removed ALL of the slop in the old slider and bracket assembly and now gives over 6" of room from the driver's head to the upper cage bars. With the old seat mounting his helmet would have touched the padding on the cage.

continued below

Last edited by Fair!; 02-10-2018 at 06:38 PM.
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Default Re: Racing Seats at Vorshlag

continued from above

SIDE BRACKETS MATTER

Virtually all composite FIA rated seats have to be side mounted. The rare exceptions are steel framed, fixed back seats (heavy and cheap), which are often bottom mounted. Those can be a little easier to mount but don't give you the flexibility to quickly change the height or angle that side brackets do.



For FIA rated side-mounted seats, the rating also includes the side brackets. Seat manufacturers really want you to use their brand of brackets, but we often mix and match different brands of FIA rated side brackets with other brands of seats. There are some really cheap, eBay side brackets that should never be used, like these below that have giant slots instead of holes for mounting. These slots provide little fore-aft support to the mounting bolts in the event of a crash, so we avoid them.



With a compact, low mounted chassis bracket we can raise or lower the seat via the holes in the side brackets. Test fitting the seat to the driver is critical. They need to be able to see over the steering wheel/dash, have adequate room from their head to the roof/cage, and be comfortable. Once the fore-aft placement is set we will alter tilt by moving the seat through a sweep of holes the side brackets.



Side bracket quality is important - there's a reason the Chinese import brackets are $30/pair on eBay and name brand FIA rated brackets are $75-100/pair. We prefer steel side brackets over aluminum (long story - has to do with bend radius and height advantages for steel) and often we still have to modify the side brackets to gain more helmet height. The set above was "flipped and chopped" to lower the seat another 2 inches for this application. These were the OMP "low" brackets already - the "tall" version would only work in a convertible!

RACING HARNESSES & ANCHORS

You cannot talk about racing seats and not at least mention harnesses. They go hand-in-hand with a racing seat to connect you to the car. And improve safety in a shunt on track as well - spreading the restraint load over more area, across the major bones in your hip and shoulders than a 3-point belt.



I'm not going into a deep dive on which harnesses to get - just how they should be mounted. The lower anchors for a 5-, 6- or 7- point harness can be mounted to the floorpan (with reinforced anchors), to a roll cage (harder to do than you think!), or to a reinforced lower seat bracket. Any of these 3 methods is a tricky thing to do correctly, but if we are mounting the seats in our shop we can plan for this and build the tubular steel brackets with reinforced anchor mounts.



You can see the shoulder harness mounting above - wrapping these around the harness bar portion of the 4-point roll bar or 6-point cage is the preferred method. The old technique of making these attach to the bar with a "bolted" end is pretty much phased out.



What about the lower belts? With 6- and 7-point harnesses being the new norm, this means you need to add 4 or 5 anchors to the floor. Sometimes we can put them in the floorpan with clip-in eyelets and reinforced washers underneath made for this purpose.



The BMW E30 above was one of the few times we didn't need to make chassis-side brackets. The floor was flat and the modified side brackets could bolt right to the floor. The anchors bolt through the floorpan but on the back side these large, hardened reinforcements spread the point load across a much larger area.



Sometimes the floor is too thin, or not even made of metal at all. The factory seat floor anchors are always strong - the OEMs have to meet grueling gov't crash standards. This means we try to make our chassis brackets bolt to these factory holes, and then we often add our clip-in anchors to the chassis brackets. If they are tubular we reinforce the holes and bolt them in place, as shown above and below.



For a dual purpose street / track car with "clip-in" racing harness ends you can quickly un-clip them from eyelet anchors and stuff the belts in your trunk or back seat, so they are completely out of your way in your commuting. Heck even most race cars use this style of eyelet anchor and clip-in end now.



We have even made custom bracket installs for dual purpose street/track cars that keep the OEM lower seat belt anchors. This is ideal for street use, as the OEM seat belts have auto tensioners, crash retractors, and are more suited for street use than racing harnesses. When you lean over to adjust the radio and then sit back the stock belts can move with you.



We even add anchors for the OEM lower buckle in many cases - for dual purpose cars that see street driving. The retractable 3-point belts are safer on the street than 6-point racing harnesses that you might not keep tight enough, when reaching for that Big Gulp or fiddling with the radio.



Ideally a dual purpose car will have BOTH the OEM 3-point belts AND a set of 6- or 7-point harnesses. They each have their place.

SUMMARY

I hope this series of posts was helpful in explaining the benefits and challenges with racing seat, mounting brackets, and belt anchors. We want to encourage HPDE drivers and autocrossers to "Step up" to real seats, hopefully educating them on the entire "seat/harness system", and how they have to work together to give the most driver benefit without lowering safety.

Good luck!
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