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In this article, we look at how to understand race seat sizes and dimensions. While the security and comfort of race seats are both crucial, always remember that not everyone is created equal.
To an untrained eye, all race seats are basically the same. Always remember that there are specific dimensions that must absolutely be followed if peak results are to be achieved from use.
The Motor Sport Authority is Britain's governing body for motor sports. MSA has determined a number of different dimensions and patterns that must be followed in full. For example, in addition to height, width and length of the seat, the MSA also indicates the number of fixation points required for it to be MSA-approved.
Each year, MSA publishes the "Blue Book" in the UK - National Motor Sports Rulebook, which, among other things, determines the specific dimensions and specifications required for FIA-approved items. Many seat manufacturers - Corbeau, Cobra, Sparco, Recaro and the like - are familiar with these rules as the 8855/1999 rules.
For example, the rules dictate that it must be securely attached to the car with at least four M8 gauge 8.8 bolts, no less than 2 cm apart. There are additional rules for different materials, which cover the three common seat materials - steel, plastic (fiberglass) and carbon fiber.
Carbon fiber chairs also have minimum dimensions. Carbon fiber is an extremely thin fabric that is used extensively in engine flying in top flight. Fabric layers are bonded together before they are "baked" to form an extremely strong material, which is also much lighter than steel. The width of the carbon seat at the shoulder height is 20 inches (22 inches at the base, with 18 inch sides). Carbon fiber chairs are conveniently the lightest of them all, with the cheaper glass fiber options a close second (depending on how thick the plastic is).
Regardless of the material, these places differ enormously from ordinary car seats. While at last serving the same purpose - to keep the passenger seated in comfort and safety - they couldn't be more different in specification, comfort and safety. For example, some pseudo-racing seats (commonly called shoe seats) combine the comfort of a road chairs (cushioned pillow bases, softer materials) with the bucket-style design of the outward-facing racing chair. But in all but the rare cases, these sites are not MSA-approved for racing.