BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THE SEAT SPORT WTCC TEAM The "crowning glory" of the SEAT Sport drivers At each round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship, the paddock is alive with activity and colour. Each team has its own, unique colour scheme --...
BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THE SEAT SPORT WTCC TEAM
The "crowning glory" of the SEAT Sport drivers At each round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship, the paddock is alive with activity and colour. Each team has its own, unique colour scheme -- from the racing cars to the support trucks and from the drivers' overalls to the team shirts adorned with sponsors' logos -- but there is one small element of the "uniform" which is unique to each driver.
Racing helmets are as vital as the fireproof overalls and the roll-cages built into each of the cars, yet the helmets worn by the SEAT Sport drivers are as individual as the drivers themselves. National pride is a theme that runs throughout the team, none more so than in the colour scheme favoured by Rickard Rydell.
"My helmet has a background of dark purple; so dark that it's almost black, while the main colours are yellow and blue -- the colours of the Swedish flag. I won the Swedish karting championship twice when I was sixteen and seventeen and I had a simple black helmet at the time. To brighten it up, I stuck some blue and yellow tape on it and when I started in single-seater racing, I wanted to keep the same colours as a kind of 'good luck' thing."
"Shoei in Japan did the design using the colours I wanted and they gave me free helmets for my first year, although my current helmet comes from Peltor, a Swedish company that makes radio and intercom equipment. Helmet design is a very personal thing; it's about the only thing I have control over. I might change it slightly for next year, but I'll keep the same colours. The guy who paints my helmets has been trying to persuade me to go for something a bit more radical. He also paints helmets for the goalkeepers in the Swedish ice-hockey league and some of them are quite amazing. One has a picture of Bjorn Borg on one side and a beautiful girl on the other, so you never know what he might do for me!"
Patriotism is also behind Jordi Gene's choice. "I used to race always in a plain white helmet, but one of my sponsors told me I should paint a design on it and so I spent two or three days with sheets of paper and some paints to come up with a design. At the time, I was using an Arai helmet with an odd visor so it was important that the design wasn't too complicated. In the end, I went for the three colours that I liked the most -- red, blue and yellow, together with the white helmet -- and that's how it's been ever since. Red and yellow aren't just the Spanish colours, but the Catalan colours too and that means a lot to me."
"When my brother Marc did his design, he ended up with the same design but with different colours, so it's almost like a family crest or something! The painters always try to persuade me to do something different, but so far I've only ever changed things a little. When I raced trucks, I had to wear a sponsor's helmet that looked like a glass of beer; I'd do it again if a sponsor asked me, no problem, but I prefer my own colours."
It's not just the colours, however. As Jordi discovered, even the designs are something the drivers can personalize. SEAT Sport UK's Jason Plato competed for the WTCC team in Spa, Mexico, Imola and Silverstone this year, finishing second to Rickard in an amazing 1-2 on his home event. The red, white and blue of the British flag can be seen on Jason's helmet, but there's also an element to the design that isn't so easy to see.
"Unless you knew there was a logo on the helmet, you probably wouldn't notice it, to be honest. There's a 'JP' on each side of my helmet, but it's done in such a way as to be quite subtle; in white, not in colour. I got the idea from Alain Prost's helmet, which had the letter 'A' on the top and a 'P' on each side. A company in the UK called JLF Designs paints my helmets and the design never varies -- it's my logo, if you like. After all, the helmet is a driver's identity since you can't see his face and so the design and the colour scheme are both important. My design allows for a sponsor's logos, but it would cost a lot if a sponsor wanted to take over the entire helmet." Finally, the personality of the driver inside the helmet is the idea behind Peter Terting's latest design. The helmet looks normal enough from the front and sides, but a cartoon version of Pamela Anderson, together with the words "Chick Magnet", on the back confirm 21-year-old Peter's fun-loving status!
"The basic colours of the helmet are red, silver and blue simply because I like them," explains Peter. "The guy who does my helmets has been doing it for about two years now. He also paints the helmets for all of the Audi DTM team and every Red Bull helmet; from Formula One to extreme sports.The blue diamonds across the top are for Bavaria, which is the area of Germany I come from, and on the front there are some flames which look fast! The cartoon is the thing most people notice about my new helmet -- as you know, I like girls and so now I always have a girl with me in the car!"
From the blue and yellow of Rickard's helmet to Peter's cartoon, all of the helmets worn by the SEAT Sport drivers allow fans a glimpse of their individual personalities. With the exception of Jason, who's gone back to concentrating on the British Touring Car Championship for the rest of the season, the helmets - along with the drivers who wear them - will receive their next outing at Istanbul in Turkey on September 18th.