Photographer's Blog-G.P. Helmet Art


I spent more time on the grid in 2011 than ever before and one of the interesting benefits of this was the level of details I started noticing in some of the helmets. On TV, or even at trackside, it's difficult to see exactly what the helmet designers have done to make each rider's crash hat unique.

So I started grabbing a few close up shots of helmets as they popped out of the hustle and bustle that makes up a G.P. grid. This collection is arbitrary in that I made no effort to look at each helmet to find the best ones. There simply isn't time to do that, nor is it possible to look in a systematic way since the bikes arrive in an unpredictable order, and the grid itself is a fairly hectic space until right before the start when they kick us off. 

Instead these are just some images of one element or another that caught my eye, some detail I'd not noticed when that lid went by at 120mph the day before. For example, I didn't realize until I looked closely that Lorenzo's Spartan emblem is dripping and spattered with blood. It's a nice touch placed adjacent to the heart-shaped ribbon, sort of a martillo-mantequilla thing.

It seems that, while the Compact Disk and then iTunes removed from our culture the wonderful artist's canvas that was the LP sleeve, the motor sport helmet has come into its own in this sense, compared to the old days of very basic paint schemes. As you might expect, some designs are inspired, others are less so. Some work a theme central to the rider's self-image into the design, others are dominated by a major sponsor's logo to the point that this sponsorship become the theme and the rider's identity is secondary. 

Here then is a selection of designs I found noteworthy, and I hope the opportunity to see some of the details up close is interesting to you.


Tom Luthi's helmet was one of the first to make clear that I was missing something from the Armco. I'd not realized that his has bolts of lightning arcing around to strike his 12 logotype. 


Nico Terol's Total Choco billboard is one that I did identify from a distance and at speed, because it reminded me often of how glad I am to see money, ANY money, being invested in GP racing. Beggars can't be choosers, right?


On the other end of the cool spectrum is Jonny Hernadez' winged design. As he backs it into to a corner you can almost see these wings flapping backwards to slow the show down.


Crazy Joe has an entire graphic identity constructed around his G.P. effort, his helmet, the bike fairing and tank, the pit box graphics all done in this cartoony style. Some packages, as I said, have had a lot of thought put into them.


Others strike me as in their infancy, such as Maverick Viñales' day glow stripes. I get the feeling he likes this very much, but post puberty he'll have moved on to something more sophisticated.


The younger Espargaro has gone right to the font of helmet design excellence, Drudi Performance, and sports a lid so sophisticated I can't tell what the heck it is.


I think this is Vasquez, and I think that's a pirate lion. But it might be some Spanish character. Any help, ye experts on Spain?


Behind Zarco's flag collection we find this guy. I'm sure there's an explanation but I have no idea what it is.


Sofuoglo's choice of flat black finish is similar to Ben Spies', but the ornaments are quite different. 


Casey's helmet is worthy of study, another example of a lot of thought going into the design. But he also has a cartoon caricature on the back, and I think this element must be the common feature of GP helmets in this era. 


Rossi is above all of that, and someday someone will write a treatise on the evolution of his helmet designs as realized by Aldo Drudi. 


I really like when a rider does a special helmet for a given race, such as Bautista's for Laguna Seca. 


I don't remember whose this is, but anyone who gives his dog a con-rod and piston to chew on is ok with me.


Sometimes some cool art and a pirate theme lose a bit of their impact when covered in Utah mud.

And to end with, one of my favorites. It wasn't until this photo that I noticed the cat has the red and white stripes between his eyes. Awesome.

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There's something about the +0 on Simoncelli's back that stirs up alot of emotion for some reason.

Lovely photo's there, good to get more close ups of riders lids.

I always thought it reads O+ from the front view of Simoncelli hanging off his Honda! Maybe I've seen WRC drivers display their blood group on the windows of their rally cars so I conveniently thought Simoncelli is O+ too!

Sorry but I am not a fan of helmet art as it stands. I much prefered the days when riders stuck to one simple highly recognisable design which distinguished them on track and became their trade mark so to speak. Agostini, Hailwood, Nieto, Read, Robb et al never deviated from their simple designs and it helped to build their legendary status. It became as much of an occasion to actually see their helmet as it was the rider who wore it.
Todays designs are far too intricate, despite the level of skill required to produce them, to ever become legendary!
Recent exceptions are Doohan, Roberts, Spencer, Schwantz, Sheene and of current riders maybe Rossi, Redding, Harry Stafford (plain white!) No others spring to mind as they are just too fiddly and seem to change too often!

Rossi designs aren't intracte... you've got be joking he's pretty much the one that kicked off all of this trend in my mind, including the cartoon caricatures that everyone seems to want to add on...

That said, i'm somewhere in between your preference and the current trends, I don't mind something a bit more itnricate as long as it doesn't become a blended mess. So of the current helmets I don't mind Luthi or Simoncellis.

Hmmm, pretty sure Doohan and his Koala or even Barry Sheen, if you include his Donald Duck logo, might argue they predate Rossi slightly for the cartoon characters-on-helmets-fad (I'm sure there are lots of other too).
For me, I enjoy the intricacies in helmet designs though I probably prefer a limit of 3 or 4 colours to keep things a bit more simple.The main thing I would prefer is that riders kept their basic lid through their career as they used to. I would love an Eddie Lawson replica Shoei X-Eleven but my all time dream helmet would be an Anthony Gobert AGV when he rode for Yamaha in the U.S.

design has the virtues of simplicity and recognisability from a distance... which many of the others lack.


I agree with some of the comments in that I like some of the simpler designs, that's my personal preference, but I think the diversity is good to have!


Yes, that is Efren Vazquez's helmet. You can tell because there is a small ikurriña (basque flag) on it. I'm guessing the cat is a lion because that is the mascot of the football team from Efren's home town, Bilbao.

Edit: I was wrong. Obviously I know nothing about comics. Efren says it's Heathcliff.


I think I agree that the lesser the confusion in the graphics, the more memorable and visible. Ben's is great in that respect.

Hmmm, i don't know much about Zarco but the scene on the back of his lid seems to be very 'Survivor' ! And is that an immunity idol he is holding ? :)

Great pics. I for one love the colourful designs of the modern age, they bring art and personality to the scene, and help to distinguish one rider from another. To go back to the generic, bland designs of yesteryear would be a big ol' yawn.

Stoner's lid is the best in regards to the level of detail but easy on the eye to look at, because his kept three main colours (red, white & blue) which make up the Aussie flag, and not used silly fluro's which will date quickly. His lid will still look great in a glass box on display in 50 years.

Great photos, more please Scott. So what is the theory on the +0?