In a landmark move towards track safety in Indian motorcycle racing, some riders competing in the first round of the 2020 Indian National Motorcycle Racing Championship wore protective airbag vests for the very first time ever. The 10 Under 18 riders participating in the Idemitsu Honda India Talent Cup NSF 250 Open Class donned the airbag vests, bringing an additional layer of protection for the young participants. Airbag vests were so far seen in international motorsport events and the inclusion in local racing is a big step in terms of domestic motorsport safety.
The initiative was taken by the Madras Motor Sports Club (MMSC) and Honda Racing. The airbag vests need to be worn on top of the leather riding suit by the rider and will automatically inflate in the event of a fall.
MotoGP riders have been wearing airbag suits since 2007 to protect them in a crash, but the airbag suits were mandated by the promoters in 2018 across all classes. Airbag vests offer more protection over the standard armour upon impact. Manufacturers like Alpinestars and Dainese claim that their airbag vests provide as much protection as 18 back protectors stacked together.
More importantly, the airbag vests manage to offer more protection against stationary objects like a car, which is far better than the traditional motorcycle armour that is designed to protect against injury caused by the impact on the ground. Moreover, the vests are designed to protect the chest and back, which bear maximum impact after the head in the event of a crash. Do note that the airbag vests need to be worn in addition to the leather suit with full protective armour inside. That being said, we'd really like to see airbag vests being adopted across all categories in domestic motorcycle racing events going forward.