The Art of Custom Helmet Painting

14 August 2019

Helmet design specialist talks us through the process of creating a unique look for an FIA ETRC driver…

In the early days of motor racing, crash helmets were seen as nothing more than head protection. Over the years, drivers began customising their helmets, giving them unique looks with some distinctive designs earning an iconic status.

Today, a customised helmet is a driver’s trademark and something that captures the attention of the fans. In that respect, truck racing is no different.

To get the insight into the process of creating a customised helmet we caught up with reigning FIA ETRC GRAMMER TRUCK CUP champion Shane Brereton and Paweł Fórmaniak of Fómen Desing, a Cardiff-based airbrush specialist with years of experience in creating unique identities for drivers competing across different disciplines, from karting all the way up to Formula 1 and WRC.

Brereton returned to the FIA ETRC last month at the Nürburgring for the first time since dominating 2018 GRAMMER TRUCK CUP, taking 19 wins out of 32 races along the way.

2019 is very much a rebuilding phase for the TOR Truck Racing outfit in preparation for a challenge in 2020. However, at the Nürburging Brereton debut a new truck, sporting a new Apollo Tyres livery and rocking a new customised helmet.

“I’m superstitious, so my helmet has to be predominantly black and my favorite colour is blue so the idea was to combine the two,” says Brereton.

“Years ago, I saw the design I liked so I sort of leaned towards that design and then put my own mark on it.”

“I sent [Paweł] what I liked, he came up with a few design options and then between the two of us we came up with the final project. I’m really pleased with the outcome, it looks amazing.

“I has everything I wanted – the Union Jack, it’s predominantly black with a bit of blue. It’s a nice design and it’s not too loud. It has my number on - when I started with the FIA ETRC, I went with 17 because it’s my miss’ lucky number,” explains Brereton.

Creating a custom helmet design is a time-consuming process that requires great attention to detail and may last up to two weeks.

“When you receive a helmet form a customer you start with taking it apart, you prepare the surface with sandpaper and then put several coats of primer,” explains Fórmaniak.

The next steps are applying a base layer (usually white) and doing the masking.

“When airbrushing is done, the next step is applying special effects such as shading. It’s also when you add things like the driver’s name or sponsors logos.

“Finally, it’s time to move onto applying several coats of clear lacquer, which may take two or three days.

“When everything is done, the final step is to assemble the helmet back together, pack it and sent it back to the customer,” he says.

“With Shane’s helmet, the biggest thing was the number 17 on the side of it – his race number.

“The digits stand out and the shading makes them look almost 3D. This was a very enjoyable part of the project, fine-tuning all the little shades made the work more complicated but also more interesting, it’s time-consuming and requires attention to detail but the final outcome is very satisfying,” he concluded.