Nolan's Alberto Vergani talks crash helmets
As important as horsepower is in the world of MotoGP – where the world's best riders burn rubber as they soar, wheel to wheel, to speeds of up to 250mph – it would be inconceivable to utilize such power without the protection of a good crash helmet.
To learn more about the all important crash helmet and, in particular, the specificities of the helmets used by the World Championship riders, we talked to Nolan Group president Alberto Vergani, whose brands, Nolan and X-Lite, are represented in all three classes by the likes of Carlos Checa, Toni Elias, Marco Melandri, Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner and Mattia Pasini.
Q. What are the main materials used for making a helmet?
A. For the external shell, we use a composite material composed of glass fibre, carbon, Kevlar and polyurethane as a thermal insolant.
Q. What are the differences between a racing helmet and the retail helmets?
A. The structure of a racing helmet is basically the same as the retail helmets. The differences depend on the needs of the rider in terms of comfort and there are several accessories available, depending on the weather.
Q. How are the helmets tested?
A. Our helmets are all homologated. Nolan subjects their products to extra tests, which are not required, and we do it for the racing and the retail helmets.
In our lab we simulate extreme use conditions, it's a test that guarantees a very high quality; which is confirmed on the street by our test riders. But the truth is that we learn the most from racing. We can gather very important data to work on the street helmets.
Q. What are the main needs of the racing riders?
A. Security and comfort with good ventilation – and the personalized colour scheme of course. Aerodynamics also plays a part and visibility is also important.
Q. At the start of the season, some riders had visibility problems in wet weather. What happened and how did you overcome those problems?
A. We started the Championship with an innovative ventilation system, but in the extreme conditions we had at Shanghai (94% humidity during the warm-up and 89% during the race; with temperatures from 19 to 24ºC), the system showed its limits and an unusual condensation phenomenon. With the N94, which is still under development, there were some difficulties and we had to go back to a more traditional ventilation system.
Q. How do you explain that only a few riders had this problem with the visor?
A. The problem with the visor depends on various elements – interaction with the rider (sweat, stress, etc…).
In similar conditions and with identical helmets, the amount of mist on the visors of two different riders will be different. So the problem differs with each rider. In Shanghai, some riders had problems, but others like Casey Stoner in the 250cc and Pasini in the 125cc class won their race with our new N94 helmet.