Unlike with most athletes, motorcycle racers’ faces remain hidden during competition. Except for promotional events or pre- and post-race interviews, the faces of our racing heroes are shielded under protective helmets with tinted visors. You don’t see the same human emotion in their faces like you can when soccer players score a goal or baseball players hit a home run.
But one thing helmets provide is a canvas for racers to express their creativity and personality.
The 2009 MotoGP Championship is almost complete, so we thought we’d take a look at some of the top helmet designs from the season. Here’s our list of the most interesting helmet designs for 2009. Let us know what you think about our choices or suggest ones we missed.
Of all MotoGP racers, Valentino Rossi is probably best known for his creative helmet designs. Rossi’s usual helmet, the Five Continents is a work of art on its own, but every season, Rossi and his designer Aldo Drudi bust out a couple of special one-off designs. Who can forget Rossi’s screaming face plastered on his helmet in last year’s Mugello race? This year, they gave us the Shrek Donkey design at Misano and at Mugello, they produced the Hands design with Rossi’s gloves painted on the helmet.
Not to be outdone, Rossi’s Fiat Yamaha teammate and main title challenger Jorge Lorenzo showed off several helmet designs of his own. In most races this season, the Spaniard sported his Lorenzo’s Land helmet with his trademark circled X logo. At the Catalan Grand Prix, Lorenzo paid tribute to his favorite soccer team, Barcelona FC.
This season, two of Lorenzo’s four wins were earned wearing one-0ff helmet designs honoring American icons. At Indianapolis, Lorenzo was victorious in this Captain America helmet, paying tribute to the Marvel Comics character. A couple rounds later, Lorenzo was victorious again, this time in Estoril with an astronaut motif celebrating the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk.
Staying with the theme of Yamaha riders, America and outer space, we have Tech 3′s Colin Edwards and his Star-spangled helmet. For most races, Edwards wore a colorful design but at Catalunya, the Texas Tornado switched to a black-and-white helmet.
Nicky Hayden celebrated the Fourth of July weekend with a fireworks-themed helmet at the U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca. At the Indianapolis Grand Prix, Hayden wore a one-off helmet supporting the Make a Wish Foundation. The helmet was later auctioned to raise funds for the charity.
Hayden’s Ducati Marlboro teammate Casey Stoner missed several rounds due to a mystery illness but returned with his usual form, including a win in his home circuit at Phillip Island with this Aussie-themed helmet. Fellow Australian Chris Vermeulen had his own tribulations this year. The Rizla Suzuki rider will move on to World Superbikes in 2010, but in what may be his final MotoGP season, Vermeulen sported this Red Bull design.
Veteran Loris Capirossi wears an asymmetrical design with his number 65 on one side and stars on the other. At Phillip Island, Capirossi wore a modified design with 65 in yellow and his nickname “Capirex” running across the vertical stripe.
Okay, so maybe the Rainbow helmet of Gresini Honda‘s Alex de Angelis wasn’t one of the “best” designs of the year. It probably wasn’t very intimidating for racers to know Rainbow Brite was on their tails. But the design was eye-catching to say the least. Meanwhile Ben Spies’ Lone Star helmet also deserves honorable mention. Spies will race as a wildcard in the season finale in Valencia before becoming a full time MotoGP racer in 2010. The Lone Star helmet worn in the World Superbike round at Miller Motorsports Park was great and deserves recognition.