Johannesburg - It's not just the Stig who loves them. British composites manufacturer Simpson has been making high-quality crash helmets since the 1970s - when gelcoat was only available in white - and, like the Bell company in the US, originally catered mainly for car racers.

In fact, at the 1979 Indianapolis 500, 23 out of 33 qualifiers were wearing the then newly-introduced RX-1 - widely known as the Star Wars helmet because of its extended 'snout'.

But that snout was to lead to controversy; not long afterwards, the British Standards Institute banned the RX-1 for road use on motorcycles because, it said, the distinctive concave surfaces on the sides of the snout could be driven back into the rider's face in a fall.

THE COOLEST HELMET IN TOWN

The ban made the RX-1 a legend in its own lunchtime and doubled sales overnight; suddenly it was the coolest helmet in town and no street racer or Stoplight Grand Prix rider would be seen in anything else - and always with the darkest tinted visor Simpson would supply, especially at night.

Within months, however, Simpson had replaced the RX-1 with a modified shell of which all the planes were slightly convex and the BSI removed its objection. The RX-1 become a much sought-after collector's piece and the company went from strength to strength, hand-crafting some of the world's finest helmets.

SA DISTRIBUTOR APPOINTED

Now the latest Simpson Diamondback models are available in South Africa through motorsport supplier Automotive Technology Specialists; top end Pro models are autoclave-moulded in carbon fibre for astonishingly strong yet lightweight results. Simpson also makes helmets for specific applications, including models with dust filters for off-road racing.

All Simpson models imported by ATS meet current FIA standards and are compatible both with HANS devices and Simpson's in-house frontal head restraint the Pro Rage hybrid.

Competitors such as extrovert drag racer John Force, as well as his daughters Brittany and Courtney, swear by them - not to mention the Stig…

The Diamondback is now in stock at ATS in both black and white, priced at R11 250.