If you're thinking of indulging in any form of track driving, you're going to need a crash helmet. Our view is that the best helmets certified by the Snell Memorial Foundation, the nonprofit group that tests helmets for sporting activities from snowboarding to horseback riding to motorcycling, are of the SA (special applications) kind. Essentially, SA helmets are for auto racing and are tested for impact, penetration, ease of removal, heat resistance, and strap strength. SA helmets are subjected to more impact angles than a helmet wearing the M (motorcycle) label and also have to sport fire-resistant paint and linings. We've assembled reasonably priced helmets from three manufacturers in open- and full-face forms, because plenty of people who drive closed cars will appreciate the former.
1. Bell Sport III $299 Hand-laminated glass-fiber full-face helmet. Nicely made but quite heavy. Shield needs hex head key. A larger eye-port version, the M2, is available for the same price.
2. Arai GP-5K $670 Beautifully made composite full-face helmet, with simple slotted screw for shield replacement. Pricey, but it is Arai's cheapest SA 2000 full-face.
3. G-Force Pro Force 1 $280 Composite full-face helmet with neat shield latch. Very light, excellent field of vision.
4. Arai GP-Jet $370 Light open-face helmet that molds to your head shape. The Jet has a clip-on peak and an optional cheek pad for even better fit.
5. Bell Mag 4 $212 Fiberglass construction makes it relatively heavy, but it has classic styling and good cheek protection. Comes in black or white.
6. G-Force GF 750 $170 Composite construction makes it very light, and it seems very well made, but it doesn't fit as well as the Arai. Hard to argue with at this price, though.