SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal Issue - JUNE 2017

SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

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Page 63 of 108

Counterfeit Safety Gear 
The SFI Foundation is concerned that racers are unwittingly buying fake safety equipment. By Stephen Romero The steady rise of counterfeit racing safety equipment is a problem that has dangerous consequences for buyers, and legal ramifications for sellers, according to safety equipment sources. “Buyers are risking their lives or the lives of others by putting cost before quality,” says Mike Hurst of SFI Foundation. The non-profit organization was established to issue and administer standards for the quality assurance of specialty performance and racing equipment. A rising trend of counterfeit gear has SFI concerned and the foundation wants to inform teams and racers on what to look for. According to Hurst, the first rule is to always look for SFI- and FIA-certified safety gear, as the increase of fake and replica safety equipment, sold at deep discounted prices, continues to spill into the free-market online. “Typically we see people selling counterfeit safety equipment online and it’s usually coming from Asia,” says Hurst. “If you buy from a reputable source, that’s your best protection. If it’s from some anonymous source, especially at a very low price, consider that a red flag, and a racer should not cut corners on safety gear.” Hurst added that high-end, high-quality brands are subject to being counterfeit. “Even name brand safety gear gets counterfeited,” said Hurst. “Its a bad thing because you might rely on this gear to save your life.” Recognize Counterfeit Gear Counterfeiters are wise to the adverse media attention towards their products, and take steps to replicate the gear in stunning detail. According to Hurst, some have even gone so far as faking SFI and FIA certification patches that are sewn into the fire suits, gloves and underwear worn by racers. At first glance, the product may appear legit, but it takes a watchful eye to spot the flaws. SCORE International’s director of technical safety, Art Savedra, says the problem is not going away. “I train my crew about counterfeit equipment,” said Savedra. “My team knows what counterfeit gear looks like. I train them how-to spot a misprint on the label, an imperfection in the spacing of the stitching, or the lettering of the labels. At SCORE International we keep an eye open for counterfeit helmets, fire suits and harnesses. I show my people counterfeit equipment and if they see something during tech inspection that is questionable, they bring it to my attention.” Savedra looks for the smallest details too, but often times it’s really obvious because counterfeit equipment lacks the quality of genuine safety gear. “One way to spot counterfeit safety gear is done by simply talking to the racers,” said Savedra. “Sometimes they will come to tech inspection and chat about what a great deal they got on their equipment, and that’s when I start asking more questions.” If gear is determined as counterfeit, Savedra has the authority to ban the racer from competing. That last minute rejection at tech inspection can be costly to any team, so Savedra recommends that racers do their research on the safety equipment before coming to an event. “If you have a $50,000 race car, why would you buy a $10 driving suit,” said Savedra. Yet as shocking as it seems, some racers do shop for the lowest price. Unfortunately, that is where they get into trouble because price is often the lure counterfeiters use to make a sale. According to Hurst, it doesn’t stop there. Fraud Is Pervasive Online New counterfeit equipment is also marketed online as “slightly used,” to further fool the buyer into thinking that the deal is legitimate. “If a deal is too good to be true, it typically is,” said Hurst. “Used safety equipment is generally a bad idea, but we see a lot of products that are advertised as used that turns out to be new counterfeit goods.” Hurst recommends staying away from swap meet gear too because counterfeit goods are easily passed on to buyers through these temporary locations. A smarter idea is to shop directly from manufacturers such as Sparco, Impact Racing, Alpine Stars, RaceQuip, Simpson, Stand-21 and others. He also recommends to stay away from anything that appears questionable on websites and classified forums. Why Do Counterfeiters Do It? According to Hurst counterfeiters make this equipment because they can’t or won’t produce the quality of gear that is mandated. “It’s not the cost of the certification process itself, it’s the cost of manufacturing quality products that meet or exceed the SFI specifications,” said Hurst. One tip he suggests when shopping for safety equipment, is to look for correct types of labels. Some counterfeit equipment might have one label, but not necessarily the certification label and the manufacturer’s label as is required by SFI. A World-Wide Problem With advances in technology counterfeit equipment becomes easier to produce and market, and it’s not just a problem here in America, as counterfeit equipment is showing up around the world in all types of venues. “I think the problem for the FIA is possibly more serious because they sanction races all over the world,” Hurst said. “I’ve seen many links to FIA equipment that sell obvious fakes.” While SCORE rulebooks are clear on what types of safety equipment is allowed and what is not, it comes down to the racer himself to determine that what he or she is buying is legit. “Counterfeiters are not very upstanding people and tend to hide, they are off-shore international entities and we go after them when we can,” said Hurst. “Ultimately it comes down to the buyers understanding the problem first.” SJ

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