In the world of professional motorsport, drivers often have little room for personal expression. So much is corporate controlled and homologized. For the most part sponsors control the look of a car's livery and the manufacturer has a lot to say in what a driver's racing suit looks like. Often, there is usually only one place that the driver gets to keep control: the helmet.
Every driver is different. Some take full advantage of this platform showcasing their personality with vivid designs that put their psyche out there for all to see. Others subtly use their carbon fiber “buckets” to represent their corporate partners, their family roots or their own artistic bent. Some just hand it over and let someone else use it as a glossy canvas.
We reached out to the 7 Porsche factory drivers who regularly compete on the IMSA circuit – both WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge – as well as in the Pirelli World Challenge to ask their reasons for why their helmets look the way they do. Here's what they had to say.
Patrick Pilet, France, No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR
“I designed my helmet myself when I was 11 years old. I like the blue and yellow. I drew like a thousand different sketches to find my design. I would find it really difficult to change the design now. I make more evolutionally type than big changes. I have raced with this design since 1994.”
Nick Tandy, Great Britain, No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR
“My helmet is less about the design and more about the colors. The design, that changes frequently. But, I've always run the colors of the race team that I raced with and now run in the UK, JTR.”
Earl Bamber, New Zealand, No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR
“Yellow is for my sponsor LKM, who has supported me from Porsche Carrera Cup times. On the side, I have the sliver fern, which is very symbolic for Kiwis. On the top, I have the Southern Cross stars and the Union Jack to represent our nation’s flag. On the back, I have a cartoon drawing of my girlfriend and myself. I have had this helmet from the start of the season. Its’ been good with a lots of podiums to start the year.”
Frédéric Makowiecki, France, No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR
“My helmet design came from when I was 14 years old. At that moment, I didn’t really have a design and a friend of mine gave my helmet to a painter in the south of France. He did this design for me. It means a lot to me, because it was the beginning of my career when myself and my parents worked very hard. So, I try to keep the design this way. Every year I get a small update. The colors represent, a little bit, the French flag. But the helmet colors can change, it’s the design that I want to keep.”
Michael Christensen, Denmark, No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR
“I drew it myself looking at other helmets. I found something that I liked. I had a lot of time drawing helmets in the winter when I was young. I took a bit of what I liked from each helmet. I’ve had this design since 2006. It shows who you are and hopefully people will recognize you.”
Jörg Bergmeister, Germany, No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R
“I have had this design for most of my career. The colors, red, black and yellow, represent Germany. The flames came when I met Troy Lee and he started painting my helmets.”
Patrick Long, Manhattan Beach, California, Pirelli World Challenge, No. 58 Porsche Consulting/Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R
“I have always had bright green flames and a shamrock on my helmet. They’re sort of ‘family heirlooms’ if you will. My uncle drew my helmet up for me as a kid. He’s into hotrods and he grew up with my father watching oval track racing around Los Angeles, and a lot of the drivers had a scalloped or flame designs. Through the years of traveling in Europe, flames and green and shamrocks have come in and out of fashion, but I think it goes back to your identity. You stick with one thing and people will recognize that.”