Counterfeit items of safety equipment are an unfortunate reality in motorsport. They can range from difficult to spot copies of genuine equipment to cheap and vastly inferior imitations. The potential consequences of using counterfeit items of safety equipment – whether unwittingly or not – should go without saying. It is important that, when sourcing new items of equipment, you are alert to the main warning signs that might indicate something is not genuine.
One of the most important factors in ensuring that you are purchasing genuine equipment is to only use reputable retailers, and wherever possible only use sellers approved by the manufacturer. Take the time to research the seller if they are unfamiliar, particularly if they appear to be offering significant discounts on the Recommended Retail Price. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid purchasing equipment directly via social media platforms, again if you see something advertised through social media at a seemingly attractive price then do some research before considering making a purchase.
When you have made a purchase and are in possession of a new item of safety equipment, there are a number of things that you can look at to satisfy yourself that what you have is not a counterfeit item. If the item is approved to an FIA Standard, the first place to look is at the FIA label(s) – look for the following:
Does the style of the homologation label(s) match the requirements for that FIA Standard?
The relevant FIA Technical List (https://www.fia.com/regulation/category/761) will detail how the homologation label(s) should appear for that Standard. Things to look for can include incorrect font or styling, incorrect Standard numbers, incorrect or sub-standard manufacturer logos, incorrect sizing of the label. For helmets approved to Snell standards, the same principles apply. If the label is stitched – such as on the collar of overalls – is the quality of the stitching poor?
Does the homologation and manufacturer information match the relevant listings?
The relevant FIA Technical List (see above) will detail the homologation number and associated manufacturer, model etc. Does the homologation label give the correct FIA Standard number? Does the homologation number on the FIA label correspond to the correct listing on the Technical List? Where there is more than one FIA label on the product (for example the collar and zip area on overalls, or individual straps on harnesses) do the homologation numbers match?
Are the manufacturer and/or validity dates correct?
Where the FIA label features a manufacture date or validity date, these should be checked to make sure they appear correct. If the manufacture date is some time in the future, then it is wrong – this is a common occurrence. For FIA Standards, where there is a number of years’ life on the individual items (e.g. 5 years or 10 years), then does the validity date given on the FIA label appear to correspond correctly? For example, for a Standard with a 5-year life, if the item was manufactured in June 2021 and the validity date on the FIA label is 6 years on from that, then it is wrong.
Make sure you look also at the overall quality of the product.
If it is not what you would expect from a reputable manufacturer, then this warrants a more detailed look. The overall finishing of the product should be considered, for example with items of clothing look at the stitching, seams, zips etc. Where it is an item of flame-retardant clothing such as overalls, zips should not be made of plastic. For many products homologated to an FIA Standard, you can access a Presentation Form for the individual item through the relevant FIA Technical List. This form gives more detail of that individual product and should assist you in establishing if what you have purchased is correct.
If you are in any doubt as to whether an individual item is genuine or not, then do not hesitate to talk to a Motorsport UK Scrutineer for further advice or contact the Motorsport UK Technical team who are more than happy to assist.
The principles of ensuring that what you are buying is genuine can equally be applied to the sourcing of components for the vehicle. There is further information on this available via the Intellectual Property Office, who have published specific guidance on counterfeit vehicle parts at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/counterfeit-vehicle-parts.