Posted: August 20, 2017
Over the last few months, more and more of our customers have been asking about the use of HANS devices and so we thought we dedicate a blog post to it, so here goes. For those that are not familiar with HANS devices, HANS stands for Head and Neck Support.
If you’re a Formula 1 fan like me, you’ll have seen drivers wearing them for the best part of the last 15 years and as time has gone on, they’ve made their way into competitive motorsport on every level. So where did it all begin, what protection do they provide and should you be making an investment in a HANS device any time soon?
These are all very good questions that we’ll attempt to answer below.
Believe it or not, the HANS device was invented all the way back in the 1980s by a professor called Dr Robert Hubbard after he lost a close friend in a racing incident due to severe head injuries. Specifically, his friend died from a basilar skull fracture. It’s an injury which is often associated with motorsport or high-speed collisions but is rarely seen outside of this.
It occurs during an impact when the forward momentum of a person’s body is stopped by a seatbelt or harness, but the persons head continues to move forward unrestricted. The result is inevitable, and without going into gory details, the person is left with either life-altering (at best) or fatal brain injuries.
You would think then, that any device that could stop this relatively regular occurrence from happening in the world of motorsport would be lapped up in abundance, but racing drivers and sports bodies weren’t at all keen in the beginning. It was seen as uncomfortable and a restriction on movement. Some drivers were even quoted as saying they wouldn’t be seen dead in it.
It was only after a fatal crash in the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 by one of the top drivers in NASCAR history, Dale Earnhardt, that people finally began to stand up and take notice. In the four years that followed, the device became compulsory across most of top-tier motorsports including NASCAR, WRC and F1 and it’s rare to see a driver in motorsport at any level without one today.
The answer to that is a little complicated. Firstly, you can only use a HANS device with full harness belts, so if you don’t have those fitted in your car, the question is immaterial.
Secondly, a HANS device is used in conjunction with a crash helmet, so you’re not going to be needing one if the only driving you do is on a public road. However, if you are someone that drives on the track, or drives off-road as a sport, even if it’s not very fast, then I would recommend you invest in one.
Remember, a HANS device, like a seatbelt, is not there to protect you when you’re driving fast, it’s duty is to protect you when you stop fast. Tweet This
An entry entry-level FHR or HANS device will set you back around £250, with top end devices retailing for around £1,500 - the difference primarily being around its weight and comfort. However, there are other factors to consider too.
Firstly you’ll need to find a size that’s right for you. The sizes are typically related to the circumference of your neck, this sizing chart can help you determine which fit you need.
This refers to how far your seat is reclined in the typical car you race in.
Image courtesy of https://www.merlinmotorsport.co.uk[/caption]
So for example, if you’re a rally driver (or co-driver), it’s likely you’ll be sitting almost bolt upright and the degree of decline will be small, say 10 degrees.
However, if you have a track day car or compete in classic, saloon or sportscar events on the track, you’ll be sitting back a little bit more and require a device with a 20 degree recline.
Move on to single seater racing and you’ll be a looking at a 30 or even 40 degree recline HANS Device.
Of course, if this all sounds a bit complicated, you can always invest in an adjustable HANS device which will be good for almost every kind of driving you undertake.
This is a common question that often pops up, being that a HANS device is attached to the helmet when in use. Well, the short answer is yes you do.
There are two options to look out for. Some helmets come with HANS clips (anchors) pre-installed and they’re easy to spot. Others won’t have the HANS clips installed, but will have pre-drilled holes for you to install the HANS anchors into.
The holes will look similar to a typical headphone socket on your car radio. They’ll be one each side, situated slightly further back and below the visor. To install HANS anchors to one of these helmets, simply remove the protective plugs from the pre-drilled holes and screw your HANS anchors in place. It’s a five-minute job with the right tools.
If you have an older helmet without either of the options above you might be tempted to drill your own holes into your helmet and manually fit HANS anchors - but it’s not recommended.
If your HANS anchors are not perfectly aligned on either side and you have a crash, the stopping force will be disseminated unequally and you still risk serious neck or head injury. With new, HANS-ready helmets available from as little as £99, you don’t need to invest big to give yourself the safety and peace of mind to have a great day on the track.
So hopefully you’ve now got your head around what a HANS Device is and whether you need one for the type of driving you do.
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"I have had a reasonable degree of driving training over the years as am ex police officer and advanced police driver. I took the performance driver driver training to learn about track driving, and found it excellent. My instructor was Paul who was fantastic. The training built up during the day and I learnt so much about the capabilities of my own car and although I was nervous about using my own car realised afterwards it was the best thing for me to do. The instruction was extremely informative from an engineering perspective coupled with driving, friendly and tailored to your individual needs and abilities. At no time was I encouraged or pushed to do anything I wasn’t comfortable with. It was extremely professional throughout. I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone whatever your standard of driving."
"Truly exceptional In my experience, driving instruction has generally consisted of being repeatedly told that you are 'doing it wrong' accordingly to some unknown standard or principle that you had hoped to learn about by taking said instruction. Then there is Colin. It is not that common to find an individual who genuinely understands both people and engineering. It is incredibly rare to find one who can actively apply both to deliver a sustained behavioural change. Colin adapts his teaching style to the way you learn. For me, he lead with the WHY of the learning point, grounded in physics and engineering. We'd then put it in to practice, often doing several variants of an excercise to explore how the car reacts to differing inputs, providing valuable context for what good feels like and reinforcing the learning point. Each point built on the previous ones, layering up and coming together in to a whole, one far greater than the sum of it's parts. Subtle changes to huge effect. I was concerned on the day that the learnings would rapidly fade, but I have found that because Colin has taught me an understanding the lessons have persisted, even if I do still need some more practice (48 laps of the Silverstone GP circuit last Thursday definitely helped!). Add to this the fact that Colin is great company and an absolute pleasure to spend time with, and you have one of the most positive learning experiences I've ever known. Truly exceptional. I could not recommend more highly. Thank you!"
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"Far better than any track day you can imagine! There is a massive difference between a typical driver experience or track day events and CAT driver training. The main difference is that you drive your own car to the full extent of it's capabilities, and your own, while being given expert one to one tuition by brilliant trainers Colin and Paul, who come from a Motorsport and auto engineering background. Their combined domain knowledge of engineering and competitive Motorsport allows them to explain the physics of why the car behaves as it does and how you can exploit the cars characteristics for maximum performance., in a safe fun environment. The frankly brilliant experience on the track is matched by the quality hospitality hosted by Jo, and classroom training, which prepares you for what you will experience on the next stage. These stages include such delights as the ring, where you will drive with no hands on the wheel at 100MPH, providing you with a clear understanding of the fact the car finds its own balance , and my personal favourite the alpine stage, with hairpins a plenty and 'character building' drops and rock faces. I have to admit to being slightly 'corner shy' before the training, however after some brilliant coaching from Collin urging me to 'stay on the gas, stay on the gas!' I am now far more confident and safe in the twisty stuff!"
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"It's hard not to be enthusiastic about the lasting impact CAT Driver Training will have on your approach to driving. I spent a day with Paul exploring the potential of my new vehicle. The coaching is clear, methodical and structured to allow you to go on learning for a full day without overload. The training venue is superb and quiet enough (on the day I attended) to allow uninterrupted driving. Brilliant admin team too. Absolutely 5 Star!"
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"An amazing day. If you drive you should go to CAT. If you have a performance car you MUST go to CAT. A day with CAT will transform your driving, you it be safer on the road in any situation and it will be the biggest performance upgrade your car will ever get. I learned so much in one day without any pressure, effort or stress. Colin's coaching is world class, he makes it simple / interesting to understand and easy to absorb / remember. The whole day and and everything leading up to it are well organised by the team. They REALLY care that you have a great day and TOTALLY deliver. You owe it to yourself to go."
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"Achieve your driving goals here! Can't ask for more than that! The entire experience was a positive and pleasant one. Everyone I met at CAT Driver Training contributed positively to the day, regardless of the role, so thank you to Jo, Lynne and of course, Colin! CAT have existing programmes for teaching anyone the fundamentals and advanced techniques of how to drive fast, but Colin can identify really quickly what you can and cannot do, and is quick to understand how to best use your time. I went in with my own unique set of requirements which slightly 'broke' the programme, but it was no problem at all and the most impressive thing was that I achieved my goals by the end of the day! I wanted to understand my car, be able to find and drive at the grip limit, and also understand how to be a faster and better driver. A lot to fit into a day, but Colin managed it in the most efficient way possible, and we achieved them all! Colin has great insights into vehicle dynamics, as well as the human machine behind the wheel. He understands why we sometimes don't function as optimally as we would like! His ability to listen to you, translate your input and isolate what is not working with your current technique helps focus the day on exactly what needs attention. This focus, along with Colin's 'feeling' of how the package of car and driver is behaving, makes him uniquely qualified to provide great direction and input to help you become the best driver possible. A lot of people talk about it, but very few can translate the inputs to a specific process for you to follow as a driver. The process is all about starting with foundations and building on them. It doesn't always seem to make sense, but trust the system - it all comes together in the end! The time is not cheap, but it will help you achieve your goals, so how do you put a price on that!? Thank you CAT Driver Training!!
"Best In Class Driver Training The training provided by Colin at CAT Driver training is superb. I am lucky enough to attended training days with Porsche, Lotus, Aston Martin and the day with a Colin at Millbrook has topped them all being informative, challenging, practical and above all delivered by a true Petrol Head. Thanks again and I will be back with the 911."
"Reminding how to drive fast A day with Colin on a 'One to One' basis is almost essential for anyone who lives on a small rock in the middle of the English Channel or lives in a city. We don't drive fast and don't get the opportunity to drive fast unless we are on a track. Colin spent the day reminding me how much fun it was to have 'fast feet' and to make the Tyres 'squeak' as they reach the sticky limit. I think I lost about 7kg in weight during the day as I was worked so hard but oh what a day. Thoroughly recommended to anyone who had a petrol head. Best bit was the 'Alpine Loop' at the end of the day. Full gas on the exit with all four squeaking. 👍😃"
"Excellent! Colin, Jo, Paul and the team are amazing, professional and have a unique ability to cover all areas of driving properly. My driving capability has been enhanced beyond measure. I highly recommend them and the CAT Advanced Driving Academy Programme. During the course it became clear to me that CAT Driving are one of the very few on the planet with such experience and capability. They have designed a brilliant dedicated package focused on working with you and delivered with an attentive caring personal touch."
"Paul was amazing: awesome teacher with a great brain. Made me realize my Mustang has actually way more grip and better and better handling than I thought. Top notch facilities in Millbrook. Totally worth it."