Getting a head start
The art of fast
Back in the day, the racer’s helmet was an item with little more use than to keep the oil and insects out of your hair. The choice of linen or leather as the favoured materials gives you some idea of how serious the role of the helmet, as modelled here by Tim Birkin of Bentley Boys fame, was regarded by him and his contemporaries.
Fortunately by the early fifties the subject of head protection was taken somewhat more seriously and in 1952 the hard helmet was made compulsory for all Formula One drivers, though their construction left something to be desired (in fact it took until 1977 for the FIA to set approved standards for helmet construction).
Then with the advent of the hard shell drivers things started to get interesting. By 1962, the flamboyant Graham Hill was sporting the distinctive design of his London Rowing Club cap on his helmet, while his contemporaries were generally a little more restrained opting for a single overall colour with perhaps the odd stripe or two. That said, who could forget the distinctive plain dark blue helmet of the late, great Jimmy Clark. A ‘design’ as minimalist as his peerless driving style.
Fellow Scot Jackie Stewart was one of the first to follow Hill’s example when he added his band of Stewart tartan to his helmet in ’69. Within a few years, sponsors’ logos started finding their way onto helmets too and that unleashed the art form that we know today. Which brings us to one of its foremost practitioners, Brit Jason Fowler.
Jason started his craft back in the early nineties, working primarily on bike rider helmets. But word quickly got around and before long he was plying his trade in the world of F1. And so his fame grew and not surprisingly.
These days many would probably think that the amazing art on view on drivers’ helmets was the by product of digital printing, decals and films. Not so. Well not in Jason’s case. He still painstakingly creates every helmet using an airbrush. Crafting the design layer by layer. There are no short cuts. Just incredible skill, amazing patience and hard, hard work. Which is why over time he has been proud to work with some of the biggest names in racing.
Lewis Hamilton has been a client since his early days in karting and Jason has created innumerable designs for him on the journey to his multiple World Championships (here at Torque we think Lewis’s departure from his signature yellow colour – an homage to his hero Ayrton Senna – was not a great move and much prefer the yellow to his current design. Maybe we should ask Jason to have a word?).
Another big name, sadly no longer with us, with whom Jason’s work has become synonymous was Indy racing star Dan Wheldon. Two times Indy 500 winner, the British racer became famous not only for his achievements on track, but also for the incredible array of helmet designs he commissioned, each and every one of them created and produced by Jason.
“We are proud to have been Dan’s helmet artist throughout his Indycar career. We worked with him on almost 100 helmets on which we were given full freedom to produce designs that reflected Dan’s fun-loving character and personality. His themed helmets and Indy 500 specials became world renowned, and the challenge to create something unique on every helmet led to some of the most distinctive designs in motor racing.”
As you can probably gather, Jason’s talent is in much demand, but fortunately he is incredibly prolific so we were really pleased he could squeeze in designing a new helmet for NGK sponsored hill climber, Charlie Martin. No doubt if you’d like to join his client list he’d be happy to have you along, but you do need to be prepared to wait. Great art isn’t the work of a moment, but we reckon having a Jason Fowler original on your head has got to be worth two tenths at least!
You can see more of his work at his website or call him on 01359 252225.