Alright race fans, the moment you’ve all been waiting for- new gear reviews! First, apologies for the lack of new content. A lot has happened in the last year, on and off the track.
Why the new gear? Funny story. Heard of the Spec MX-5 series? Ex-Playboy cup cars. A Miata with more HP, power steering and ABS. Mazda sponsorship with $100K contingency? Sounds awesome, right? Then why the heck didn’t enough drivers sign up?
Now you know why it has all those weird non-PCA patches on it.
Embroidery aside, this suit is a winner. The TS-9 is Sabelt’s top of the line 2 layer model. They clearly put a lot of engineering into it. Every small detail is well thought-out. The zipper flap is a perfect example. It is just wide enough to cover the metal teeth. No need for extraneous material and the accompanying weight penalty. The more I wear it, the more I appreciate these small features.
The inner layer is composed of Lenzing. This new fire resistant fiber makes Nomex feel like a burlap sack. The first thing I thought of when I put the suit on was ' this feels like a pair of pajamas’. It is both lightweight and breathable, two characteristics that are critical to regulating body temperature in a racecar.
Lenzing also stretches and is very durable, unlike natural velicose (I’m looking at you, Traqgear!).
The outer shell has a nice texture and finish. No weird glossy sheen present on other high end suits. It also has anti-bobbling properties. What the hell is that, you ask? Bobbling refers to small balls of fiber or pills that collect on the surface of textiles. These are broken pieces of fiber that protrude as the result of wear. No bobbling equates to no fiber degradation and a longer lasting firesuit.
The materials are top notch, and the overall construction in well executed. The internal and external stitching is flawless. As the two layers are sewn to one another in roughly 6 inch square intervals, there is a lot of opportunity for manufacturing defects. I cannot appreciate a single loose thread. The zipper action is smooth. The top pull is a nice rounded polyacrylate bonded to metal hardware. It is easy on the fingers, and generous enough to grab with gloves on.
The fit itself is impeccable. Mind you, this suit is bespoke. When ordering, break out the ‘ole tape measure, sit down in the driving position, and jot the numbers down on the form Sabelt provides. This comes at a premium, but trust me, it is worth it. When you fly do you want to sit next to the screaming kids and the bathroom, or do you want to be handed a Gin and Tonic as you sit back and stretch your legs? First class all the way with this suit, baby.
The TS-9 fits slim. As Will put it- ‘there’s no room for extracurriculars.’ And that’s fine. Because it disappears when your buckle into the race harness. It doesn’t shift or bunch up in odd places. Nor do the legs inexplicably shorten by 2 inches in the seated position, exposing your lower legs above your boots. Zip it up and forget it’s on.
When I picked it up, it made my OMP suit feel clunky and heavy. Like an iPhone 10 makes a version 4 look like a VCR.
Other notable features include free floating, pre-curved arms and an elastic lumber insert. It does not have inserts in the legs or knees, but it doesn’t need them. It is perfectly flexible without them.
It also lacks pockets. Never fear, coolshirt wearers. Sabelt has you covered. There is a nifty elastic hole on the left side for the tubing to exit. When not in use, there is a small tab that velcros closed. Genius.
At first I though this was a bit oddly placed, much higher than I am used to. In the racing position, the tubing easily clears the seat bolster and lays nicely outside the seat. In my old suit, with the tubing exiting the left hand pocket, I had to wedge the tubing down into the padding of the seat to get it out of the way. Not the best idea if you have to exit the car in a hurry.
How does it handle the heat? Impeccably well. At a recent test day at Road Atlanta the ambient temperature was in the mid 80s. I would run 5-7 laps, come in (shut the car off, including the coolsuit), make a suspension change and go back out. I rolled through about 2 hours of this routine without feeling overheated.
Negatives? Well, if you’re being nitpicky….. The light grey color I picked looks a little lavender in fluorescent light. But it looks fine against the red offsets in sunlight. The zipper does get stuck on the velcro of the flap when unzipping it quickly. If you take your time and undo the velcro first it functions fine.
The access hole for the coolshirt tubing is a bit small and takes a some stretching to get the adapters through the first few times.
Cost- it ain’t cheap. Most high end customs aren’t. Expect to pay upwards of $3000 depending on colors and customization. I have not priced a custom suit from the other manufacturers recently, so I don’t have a comparison.
In conclusion, If you are in the market for a new firesuit, I highly recommend the Sabelt TS-9. Spend the extra coin and get it custom fit, you won’t regret it.