I’ve done a couple of seat fittings lately, both in the new Mazda Global MX-5 Cup car and the SKYACTIV Prototype. Having a seat that has been properly fitted is an important aspect of racing, but one that many racers, unfortunately, overlook. There are a number of reasons why doing a seat fitting should be a priority for every racer.
First, proper seating position is a safety aspect. The things that you think about with fitting a seat go back to proper seating position in a street car, like making sure the distance to the pedals is correct so you can brake and accelerate easily and still maintain a proper bend in your knee. You also want a proper stance against the dead pedal on the left because it’s another contact point with the car.
You also want to make sure that you’re not too reclined. You see a lot of people who drive on the street in a much more reclined position than you want on the track. If your angle is too extreme, the shoulder belts won’t protect you properly in a crash.
Performance is a second reason why a properly fitted seat is important. You can push the pedals more effectively and use the dead pedal as a third touch point to the car beyond just your back and hands. Having the seat close enough so that you have a nice bend in your elbows when your hands are at 9 and 3 on the wheel lets you drive without straining or leaning forward.
Endurance is the third thing you gain with a seat fitting. More comfort means that your body is relaxed and you can save your energy for the racing. If your seat isn’t properly fitted, you’re holding yourself up with your core instead of letting the seat do the work. In endurance racing, especially if you’re doing long or multiple stints, your seat can make the difference between a comfortable race and cramping in your lower back or getting fatigued too soon.
Getting the Right Fit
You should do a seat fitting while wearing your HANS Device and helmet. You’ll be checking your height, field of vision, center of gravity, bend in your elbows, reach to the steering wheel, bend in your legs, and reach to the pedals. The ideal way to sit in the car is so that your arms, when extended, reach over the top of the steering wheel with your wrists resting on the wheel.
Making sure that you have the proper height so you have a good field of vision should be paired with finding an advantageous center of gravity. You don’t want to sit too high up, but you need to be high enough to see!
Having someone assist you will help a lot. While seated, you will want to make small adjustments, so your assistant can do those for you. A fitting can vary in time, but make sure that you set aside adequate time for this – it shouldn’t be an afterthought. Your seat position, bracketry and fabrication all combine to make up a very important factor in your racing performance.