Diamond in the Dirt: Simpson’s Versatile New SD1 Helmet


Diamond in the Dirt: Simpson’s Versatile New SD1 Helmet


Simpson’s new SD1 helmet is a classic case of serendipity. Originally designed to suit the needs of open-cockpit dirt-track racers, this all-new design has turned out to be ideal for many other types of auto racing. The SD1’s lighter weight, sophisticated construction, and innovative features raise the bar for helmets of all types, taking it far beyond its originally intended use.

While the SD1’s aesthetic shares some of the traits found on other Simpson helmets, it’s not a revamped iteration of an existing product. In development for nearly half a decade, the SD1 is the result of a true clean-sheet approach that allowed Simpson to incorporate a number of clever features and cutting-edge technologies.

“It’s a completely new architecture – new shell, new EPS liner, and new interior system,” says Simpson product engineer Luis Ortiz. “We wanted to have a helmet that offered all the features that dirt oval-track racers have been asking for, something that really checked all the boxes for folks in that racing discipline. And in the process of doing that, we ended up creating a helmet that really works well in a lot of different applications.”

Although the demands of dirt track racing dictated much of its design, many of the benefits that the SD1 offers are effectively universal, and its modularity makes it easy to get this helmet dialed in for virtually any racing use-case.

Click Here Now to see the full line of Simpson SD1 helmets

The Simpson SD1 is an all-new design that was in development for nearly half a decade. This allowed the company to incorporate a number of innovative features and cutting-edge technologies. “It’s a completely new architecture – new shell, new EPS liner, and new interior system,” says Simpson product engineer Luis Ortiz.

Breaking New Ground

“Simpson has a strong legacy of iconic helmets like the Bandit, Diamond Back, and Speedway Shark,” says Ortiz. “But we also felt it was time to introduce something that represented a new era for us – something more modern, but also true to Simpson’s roots. And that goes well beyond the look of it: This is not only the lightest helmet we currently offer, it’s also the safest. The technology involved in the construction of both the composite and carbon shells is very sophisticated.”

Built in Simpson’s New Braunfels, Texas-based production facility, the SD1 features a pronounced chin spoiler that aids high-speed stability in open-cockpit race cars and provides a more aggressive look, while the ventilation provisions have been incorporated into the top and rear sections of the helmet – rather than the front – to help prevent dirt and other debris from getting into the helmet.

“Removing the vents up front was something that a lot of dirt track racers had been asking for,” Ortiz explains. “And it’s also something that a lot of drag racers prefer – if you’re running a methanol car or something like that, you want to minimize the opportunity for fumes to enter into the helmet.”

One of the central features of the Simpson SD1 is its ventless front, which dirt-track racers had been seeking. The ventless front design keeps dust, debris, and fumes from entering the helmet. Along with this, subtle aerodynamic shaping such as the pronounced chin spoiler give greater head stability at speed.

The SD1 also features an entirely new visor design that Ortiz tells us is simpler, lighter, and easier to use. “In the interest of minimizing weight, all the visor hardware is made from aluminum, and we’ve moved over to a single-screw setup. The design also utilizes our aluminum tear-off post, which now comes in matte black. Since they’re aluminum they have a set screw that’s threaded in, so you can position the tear-off post wherever you need it to be and then lock it down so it doesn’t move during a race.”

The interior of the SD1 benefited from Simpson’s comprehensive development efforts as well. “There are a number of features you’ll find in the SD1 that aren’t available in legacy models,” he says. “For example, with the exception of the liner padding, the interior is completely removable – you can pull out the top pad, the cheek pad, and the chin pad. You can wash these pads in the sink and air-dry them, and that allows racers to clean off spots where sweat and debris normally get trapped.”

The SD1 offers innovative new features that make it ideal not just for the dirt-track racers it was intended for, but practically any other form of auto racing as well. The ventless front and aerodynamic design in particular make it an excellent choice for racers competing in open-cockpit vehicles, including drag cars where engine fumes and wind buffeting at speed can be issues.

The SD1 also features built-in recesses behind the cheek pads on both the left and right sides of the helmet that are designed to make it easier to install communication and hydration systems. A groove behind the cheek pad offers the space needed to attach a mic or hydration line, while a space between the front of the cheek pad and chin pad offers a spot to route the associated lines.

The cheek pads themselves are made from an advanced multi-layer foam and sport some clever design features of their own. “You have a hard expanded polypropylene foam, which is kind of the backing of the whole thing, and it allows the cheek pads to be removable,” says Ortiz. “And there’s a softer density foam that actually comes in contact with your head, and the whole thing is wrapped in a fire-retardant material.

“And while it’s all removable, there aren’t any traditional fasteners involved,” continues Ortiz. “The cheek pads, chin pad, and top pad all essentially lock together inside the helmet using locating grooves, so there’s no glue or anything like that keeping those pieces in place. And that makes it really easy to remove those pieces and reinstall them.”

That’s important not only for cleaning, but also for sizing and fit. “This is something we really focused on with the SD1,” he says. “You can remove the top pad and put a bigger or smaller replacement top pad in the helmet to adjust how high the helmet sits on your head. And the cheek pads can also be swapped out for bigger or smaller ones to accommodate different head and face shapes. That allows drivers to have a helmet that’s comfortable and fits perfectly.”

Click Here Now to see the full line of Simpson SD1 helmets

The SD1 benefits from an all-new visor design, featuring aluminum fasteners to save weight, along with a simpler single-screw setup and an aluminum tear-off post that can be positioned wherever necessary.

Getting Dialed In

The SD1 is available in six different sizes ranging from extra-small to XXL, and the composite shell is available in no less than nine different colors. While the carbon shell is a bit more costly and is offered only with an exposed carbon weave look, Ortiz is quick to point out that carbon offers some practical advantages that shouldn’t be ignored.

“The carbon shell is quite a bit lighter – you’re saving between half a pound and a pound of weight, depending on the shell size. And carbon helmets tend to be even safer not just because of the construction, but also because the reduction of weight equates to less energy involved in the event of an impact.”

There are also some accessories available for the SD1 that can help tailor the helmet to a racer’s specific needs, like a rear spoiler attachment that helps reduce lift and head instability at speed due to wind buffeting, as well as a variety of shields that can improve visibility in different lighting situations and provide a more customized look. “By default, all of our shields have an anti-scratch coating on the outside and an anti-fog coating on the interior,” Ortiz points out. “But customers can also get a clear shield without the anti-fog coating, which is sometimes a better option in really dusty environments where it’s hard to keep the inside of the visor clean.”

“In order of lightest to darkest tint, we have shields in amber, smoke, blue iridium, and mirror finishes,” continues Ortiz. "A clear visor is going to be best suited to low-light conditions, like when you’re racing at night. And if you don’t want a dark tint, but you still want to control the amount of light coming in, an amber shield can work really well in those situations. Meanwhile, the smoke, iridium, and mirror are best suited for bright environments where you’re dealing with direct sunlight and things like that.”

The SD1 is available in a carbon-shell version that saves between half a pound and a pound of weight, depending on helmet size. This lighter weight provides a significant safety advantage, because it equates to less energy involved in the event of an impact.

Like all Snell SA2020-rated helmets, the SD1 comes pre-drilled for head-and-neck-restraint systems, and Simpson offers post, M61 quick-release, Quick Click, and D-ring-style anchors to provide compatibility with any HANS device on the market. And if the anchors are purchased alongside the helmet, Simpson will also install the anchors free of charge, ensuring that your helmet is ready to go right out of the box.

“And all of our current communications system offerings work great with this helmet,” Ortiz notes. “We have speaker kits or speaker kits with a microphone, and we have NASCAR, IMSA, and Off-Road-style connector options that work with a wide range of radio systems.”

And there’s also another SD1-specific accessory that’s currently in development. “We wanted to have an option for forced air, too,” he says. “Folks who attended the PRI Show this past year may have caught a sneak peak of this accessory on our new Devil Ray helmet – it’s a one-piece, top-mounted carbon fiber cap with a connector molded in. It’s offset by about 30 degrees from the center of the top of the helmet; a design decision that was made with Dirt Late Model racers in mind. Those racers have a really confined space in the car due to the construction of the cage, so we wanted to make the attachment as low-profile as possible. And that’s a benefit in any car where headroom is limited.”

A new forced-air kit for the SD1 is expected to be available Spring 2024. The design is a one-piece, top-mounted carbon fiber cap with a connector molded in. It’s offset by about 30 degrees from the center of the top of the helmet to allow greater clearance in Dirt Late Model cars, which have limited head room.

Although the forced air attachment is expected to be ready to roll in Spring 2024, the accessory can be added to an SD1 helmet – which is available now – further down the road without any modifications. “There are already vents designed into the top of the SD1, and this forced-air system attaches using a strong double-sided tape. We’ve seen issues with designs where connectors are riveted or glued in, but with a one-piece carbon fiber design, it will be incredibly lightweight and strong, and if it does come off the helmet, it can simply be reattached with 3M VHB tape.”

In the meantime, Ortiz suggests that any racers who may have questions about the SD1 or other Simpson racing gear simply give the company a call. “Many of the people at our Texas call center are racers themselves,” he adds. “So these are folks who are very knowledgeable about our products and can answer any safety gear questions you might have – whether they’re related to helmets, fire suits, head-and-neck-restraints, or something else.”



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