You might often hear that auto racing just isn't in favor of tall folks - turn on your T.V. and see that F1 racers are small fellows who fit into all the best racing gear. But what about everyone else? Fear not! For the Sparco Evo II and the OMP WRC-R are here to fit your size and your budget. But these seats seem similar and sometimes their features are confused, so let's take a closer look at both of these popular FIA race seats and observe their differences to reveal they're not quite as similar as people might think.
RaceTech, Cobra, OMP, Sparco - these are just a few of the flashy, well-known brands out there that offer racing seats of different fits and functions. Because the market is so vast, choosing a race seat for your race car might feel overwhelming, especially if you're a novice. Well, take a deep breath and relax because DiscoveryParts has got your back...and we aim to put it in the perfect racing seat for you!
Like a lot of gear, you can't just walk into a race shop and pick out a helmet or a suit for someone else because you don't know their exact dimensions or purpose for that particular piece of gear. Opposed to what many people think, it's the same with race seats - it needs to fit you, your car, and apply to your style of racing. There are also other factors that must be considered: homologation, neck restraint compatibility, materials, style, and - of course for the racers on a budget, which is most of us - price.
When shopping for racing gear, a good start to narrowing down the best and most affordable products is to be observant in the paddock. What are the pros using? What are your track buddies using? In this episode of DP Product Duels, we're comparing two of our most sought after non-head-containment race seats that we see in the paddock every weekend: the Sparco Evo II and the OMP WRC-R. We'll investigate what makes these seats popular and different from other seats on the market and how they differ from one another. For personal convenience, at the end of this article, we'll share some brand-specific sizing and mounting charts as well.
SPARCO EVO II - Evolution of Evo
Sparco's entire Evo racing seat line is the most versatile group of seats that Sparco has created over the years. The Evo line includes the grandaddy of race seats - the original Evo. Following came the Evo II, the Evo II US, and the Evo III. Some key facts to note about the Sparco Evo II US is that it's made slightly taller and wider (specifically in the shoulders and torso) for an "American Fit". Take that how you will, Americans, but you're all a little...wider...than other racers that make it to the big leagues. The heaviest F1 racer is Roberto Merhi weighing 167lbs and the tallest racer Nico Hulkenberg at 6ft tall (auto123.com). But despite our average size, we still have the right to race! And Sparco realized that for the average American's safety and comfort, they needed options that fit them well. The Evo II US adds about 1.5 inches to the Original Evo size. It also includes wider, raised shoulder and hip belt guides for proportional and proper fitment.
When the original concept for an "American" race seat was being conjured, it was labeled the Evo II because the modern Evo II had not been born yet. Around the same time, Sparco had been experimenting with all kinds of measurements upon demand and came out with the Evo II Plus, which was a slimmer but taller option. Sparco quickly realized "slim" wasn't the popular fit for your average American racer and that the Evo II was booming and making them big bucks in the states. So, to clear the confusion in the Evo line, they changed the Evo II to the Evo II US and the Plus to the Evo II. Chronilogically, the line now reads Evo, Evo II, Evo II US, and Evo III. The Evo II being taller, but slimmer and the Evo II US being taller and wider.
According to Sparco's main website, all of the seats in the Evo line are FIA approved, Hans compatible, and were inspired by feedback from professional and influencial DTM and ITC championship racers. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's zone in on the Evo II, the most popular Sparco race seat and observe its first impressions upon window shoppers.
APPEARANCE, MATERIALS & WEIGHT
Don't let the all black appearance bore you because there is much more than what meets the eye. The shell of the Evo II is a uniquely contoured shape made from a special fiberglass composite for superior durability and max weight savings. The LF (Sparco's patented "lightened fiberglass technology") shell weighs 17lbs by itself (without the cushions and padding). This aramadic reinforced casing lightens the seat by 3lbs upon average when compared to other Sparco shells (SparcoUSA.com). The covering and impact-absorbing cushions are all FIA 8855-1999 approved fire retardant materials. The shoulder wings and base cushion are coated in a highly tactical material that prevents the driver from sliding around while driving through tight corners at high speeds. So what does this all mean? The padded casing around the Sparco Evo II is cushy, somewhat grippy, and won't go up in flames instantly if your car catches fire but as we'll get to in a moment, weighs a bit more than people would assume.
Why would Sparco state that the Evo II weighs 17lbs but then specify in the small print that they were only considering the shell on the scale? We wanted to know more, so we secured all of the padding and cushions and popped this baby up on our shipping scale to find out.
The outer casings all together weighed around 2lbs - not a significant amount, according to Sparco - or I'm sure they would have included it in their total weight advertised but even after this weigh-in, the Evo II is still a lightweight race seat for what it is, coming in at 19.2 lbs.
Now, here's where we crack into Sparco's marketing and really find out where consumer reports clash with what is often advertised. The base cushion of the Evo II and the rest of its family have a slightly raised-knee design to provide "enduring comfort for long seat time" and the lower back cushions protrude a bit above the hips for "lower back support". But at DiscoveryParts, having one of the largest seat fitment centers in the south, we communicate with a lot of racers throughout the week and many have the same opinion about the Evo II's leg support - that it's non-existent.
(seats pictured above: WRC-R back and the Sparco Evo II front)
As you can see from the comparison photo above, the Evo II lacks the leg guard and cushion volume of the other seat.The cushion of the Evo II protrudes out further but is flatter and one piece. This flat cushion can be a positive feature for some because it also allows the driver to sit lower in the seat than other, thicker seat cushions would allow. Besides, some drivers might not need as much cushion as others - which goes back to that whole 'perfect fitment' formula - but most drivers desire as much support around the legs as possible to keep them stable while on track. The leg guards of the Evo II are significantly lower than the guards of many other race seats, proving to be the Evo II's most significant downfall.
Another common complaint against the Evo II is that the shoulder wings, for a non-containment seat, fold inward slightly too much, complicating the process of climbing in and out of your race car without rubbing against the material. Over time, this constant rubbing can cause unnecessary wear on the seat wings and on your expensive race suit. This seems to be an issue because the seat is made specifically for taller people who would already have more trouble climbing in and out of their cars without the wing of their seat getting in the way.
But let's recap on what Sparco does right. The Evo II's shoulder and hip belt guides are higher up on the seat designed specifically for tall drivers. This is specifically a great feature for drivers with long torsos because it allows room for correct harness fitment as well, securing them safely and correctly to their race seats. The materials covering this seat are excellent and long-lasting and even comfortable. Though the base cushion is one solid piece and thinner than many other seat cushions, it is also completely removable, just in case the driver needs to sit even closer to the floor. And lastly, the Sparco Evo II only weighs 19.2lbs, which is a low weight considering that it is ultimately a larger seat.
It's just like Sparco to create a versatile and completely functional race seat marketed specifically for low budget racers. When compared to some of the other similar racing seats on the market, the Evo II US's price of $825.00 seems pretty reasonable. Especially for what Sparco considers to be one of the best seats they produce.
FITMENT AND SIZING CHARTS
Below are sizing charts provided by Sparco to help you, the racer, know where to start looking for your seat fitment. While the charts are typically accurate, it is still recommended you physically sit in and feel the seat before you make a purchase. Human bodies are as unique as snowflakes, therefore, make sure your seat fits you perfectly before cashing out! Stop by the DiscoveryParts Racing Safety Expert's Headquarters in Dawsonville (inside Atlanta Motorsports Park) to talk with an expert and have them size you up for the perfect seat for you.
Sparco has always been about "fair" quality and value and helping the racer on a budget. So, going into this article, my hypothesis was that Sparco would offer the better prices and OMP would offer slightly better quality. Leave it up to OMP, one of the hottest brands in motorsports (for a reason) to roll their dice and win over safety-seeking shoppers at the drop of a hat.
When I asked the owner of DiscoveryParts, Mr. Zappendorf, why he believed the WRC-R was so popular, he replied with "It's basically the Evo II's twin but a little better in every way." To do research for myself and figure out just how different the two seats are, I pulled them both from the DiscoveryParts race seat fitting center and propped them up side by side on our seat podiums.
APPEARANCE & MATERIALS
Looking at the icon pics on our website, the OMP WRC-R and the Sparco Evo II look really similar: they're the same color, seem to have similarly textured materials, they're both wide and have large belt guards to be paired with any type of harness. But up close and side by side, these guys are significantly different. The material covering 80% of the WRC-R is a special woven Airtex formula. Airtex exist in the racing world for max breathability and durability while remaining flame resistant. I spoke with a few guys from the track community that I knew owned the WRC-R and asked them what they liked most about it. Their response was unanimous - the absorbent, yet grippy material. Sweat a lot? With the WRC-R, don't sweat it because the Airtex fabric wicks it away and dries faster than other fire resistant materials. When you zoom in for a close-up inspection, this Airtex material looks really cool, resembling a beehive structure for strength, grip, and breathability. The different textures in the material aren't just for looks though, the outer lining is stitched with anti-wear materials that preserve the life of the seat, even for the most rugged, seat-abusive racers. The edges and seams of the WRC-R are encased in a durable sealant-like fabric to guarantee your seat lasts a lifetime. This material is similar in texture to rubbery chicken-skin, with webbing and tiny bumps for strength and even more grip.
The profiles of these seats side by side reveal that the leg guards of the WRC-R are significantly higher than the Evo II and offer more leg support all together. This means that in addition to the extra grippy fabric covering the seat, you've got high leg guards keeping your thighs and butt planted in one place in through the kinkiest of corners.
Though the seat padding is completely customizable, the WRC-R offers split cushions for independent leg mobility and more comfort than a solid one-piece cushion would offer.
The WRC-R also has widened shoulder wings for head protection but they do not jut out as far forward as the Evo II wings do so they won't catch the driver's shoulders when he's trying to enter and exit his race car in a timely matter. It is also FIA certified and works with just about any neck restraint system that is compatible with harnesses. And while the Evo has large belt guards, the WRC-R offers even larger, wider shoulder belt guards.
It's as though OMP took a look at Sparco's Evo line and thought to themselves "Oh... you want to play that game?" and then built a seat that was just slightly better in every way than all of the Evos that Sparco could produce. Except for one feature they just couldn't seem to surpass...
The OMP WRC-R has thick, durable, grippiest of grippy material encasing its carbon shell and that material is heavy. It just couldn't be helped at the budget they had to create this seat. I noticed right away when pulling the seats off of our display wall - the WRC-R is just heavier than the Evo II. It's solid and I got the impression from just holding the seat that I could throw it under a semi going 75mph on the highway and it wouldn't lose it's shape. Carbon fiber shell? I think more like steel. It's stiff and sturdy just like expensive suspension is supposed to be. So, I threw this guy on our scale as well.
The WRC-R came in at a whopping 22.4 lbs. This seat only has one flaw and as I stated above, it is a product of the seat being so solid and stable.
Usually OMP as a whole is known and marketed for durability at a slightly greater price, but everyone knows "you get what you pay for." Flash back to Battle of the Balaclavas - OMP is not the most inexpensive brand on the market, but it kicks racing booty when it comes to longevity and durability. The WRC-R race seat is a perfect example of the company's consistent formula. BUT OMP realized their competition was waxing smarter as technology advanced over time and decided to evolve and grow with them.
To everyone's surprise, OMP's WRC-R FIA race seat is less expensive than the Sparco's Evo II! Completely crushing my hypothesis. Yes, I knew OMP would offer the more durable, more gripping materials but I had no idea how intelligent their design and sales pitch would be, coming out to fit the budget even more so that the brand that is known around the world for saving racers a dollar. The OMP WRC-R only cost $799.00 before tax.
FITMENT AND SIZING CHARTS
*charts sourced from DiscoveryParts.com
At the end of this battle, we've learned that both Sparco and OMP have produced ingenious race seats that provide safe options for taller and bigger racers. They are both quality designs that meet racing standards and certifications. While Sparco did well with the Evo line and set the bar high with their lightweight design, OMP blasted them out of the park with their airtex material, sturdy base, contoured shape, and phenomenal pricing.
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