Fire-Resistant Fabrics Face-Off: Nomex, Proban & Racing Suits

When it comes to the adrenaline-fueled world of motorsports, safety is paramount. One critical element is the racing suit, designed to protect drivers from the track’s intense heat and fire hazards. In this Fire-Resistant Fabrics Face-Off, we will put Nomex, Proban, and other racing suit materials under the microscope. 

Let’s explore high-performance fabrics, comparing their unique properties, strengths, and weaknesses. Discover which fire-resistant material reigns supreme and why it could make all the difference in the heat of competition. 

According to Grand View Research, the global fire-resistant fabrics market was valued at USD 3.7 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow by 6.2% between 2021 and 2028.

Strap in and get ready to fuel your knowledge of the ultimate racing suit fabrics.


Nomex, a flame-resistant meta-aramid material, was developed by DuPont in the early 1960s. Dr. Wilfred Sweeny, a DuPont chemist, discovered this polymer’s unique properties while researching heat-resistant fibers. 

Since then, Nomex has become a standard material in various industries requiring heat and flame protection, including motorsports.

Properties and characteristics

  • Flame resistance: Nomex is inherently flame-resistant, meaning its flame-retardant properties are built into the fiber’s molecular structure. When exposed to extreme heat, Nomex chars and thickens, forming a protective barrier that self-extinguishes once the heat source is removed. It does not melt, drip, or support combustion in the air.
  • Durability: Nomex is highly durable and resistant to wear and tear, abrasion, and chemicals. It maintains its strength and color even after multiple washes and prolonged exposure to sunlight. These characteristics make it popular for racing suits that withstand harsh conditions and rigorous use.
  • Comfort and breathability: Nomex is known for its comfort and breathability. Its fibers are soft and flexible, resulting in a comfortable, lightweight fabric that allows moisture and heat to escape, keeping drivers cool and dry. This comfort and its flame-resistant properties make Nomex a top choice for racing suits.

Applications in Racing Suits

Nomex is used in various components of racing suits, including the outer shell, inner lining, and thread. It’s often combined with fire-resistant materials like Kevlar to enhance the suit’s overall performance. 

High-quality racing suits often feature multiple layers of Nomex, providing drivers with optimal protection from heat and flames.

Pros and cons


  • Inherent flame resistance that doesn’t wash out or wear off
  • High durability and resistance to wear, tear, and chemicals
  • Comfortable and breathable, providing a cool and dry experience for drivers
  • Widely used and trusted in the motorsports industry


  • Generally more expensive than alternative flame-resistant fabrics like Proban
  • While comfortable, some drivers may find other materials to offer better breathability
  • It may require extra care in washing and maintenance to prolong its lifespan


Proban, short for “PROBANce,” is a flame-retardant treatment developed by Rhodia (now Solvay) in the 1950s. It was initially designed to provide fire resistance to cotton and other cellulosic fibers. 

Over the years, Proban has become a popular choice for a variety of applications, including racing suits, due to its affordability and effectiveness in providing flame resistance.

Properties and characteristics

  • Flame resistance: Proban-treated fabrics are flame-resistant because of a chemical reaction when the fabric is exposed to heat. This reaction forms a protective char layer that insulates the material and prevents it from igniting or melting. The flame resistance of Proban fabrics is long-lasting but may gradually diminish over time and with repeated washing.
  • Durability: Proban-treated fabrics have good durability, but they may not be as robust as Nomex. While they resist wear and tear reasonably well, exposure to chemicals, UV light, and multiple washes can affect their flame-retardant properties. Proper care and maintenance are essential to prolong the fabric’s lifespan.
  • Comfort and breathability: Proban fabrics are generally comfortable and breathable, especially when used on natural fibers like cotton. The treated fabric maintains the original fiber’s softness and breathability, providing a comfortable experience for drivers. However, the level of breathability may not be as high as that of Nomex.

Applications in racing suits

Proban is often used as an alternative to Nomex for racing suits, especially in entry-level and amateur competitions. Suits made with Proban-treated fabrics can provide adequate flame resistance for drivers on a budget. 

These suits may also feature a combination of Proban and other fire-resistant materials to improve their overall performance.

Pros and cons


  • More affordable than Nomex, making it accessible for a wider range of drivers
  • Comfortable and breathable, with a natural feel due to its application on cotton and other cellulosic fibers
  • Suitable for entry-level and amateur racing events


  • Flame resistance may diminish over time and with repeated washing
  • May not be as durable as Nomex, especially when exposed to chemicals and UV light
  • Not as widely recognized or trusted in the motorsports industry as Nomex

Other Fire-Resistant Fabrics


CarbonX is a high-performance, flame-resistant fabric made from a blend of oxidized polyacrylonitrile (OPAN) and other synthetic fibers. It exhibits exceptional heat and flame resistance, withstanding temperatures up to 2600°F (1426°C). 

It is also known for its superior comfort, breathability, and moisture-wicking capabilities.

Applications in Racing Suits 

CarbonX is used in racing suits, particularly in the professional racing industry, where extreme heat resistance is required. It can be used as a standalone fabric or combined with other fire-resistant materials like Nomex to create high-performance, multi-layer racing suits.


TECGEN is a patented fabric technology that combines inherent flame resistance with lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking properties. 

It is made from a blend of high-performance fibers, including meta-aramid and para-aramid, offering protection against heat, flame, and arc flash hazards.

Applications in Racing Suits 

TECGEN can be utilized in racing suits as an alternative to Nomex or Proban, providing lightweight protection and comfort for drivers. 

It is often used in single- and multi-layer suits, balancing flame resistance and breathability.


PBI (polybenzimidazole) is a high-performance synthetic fiber known for its exceptional heat and flame resistance. It maintains strength and flexibility even when exposed to temperatures up to 1204°F (650°C). 

It is also inherently flame-resistant and doesn’t melt, drip, or emit toxic fumes when exposed to heat or flame.

Applications in Racing Suits 

PBI is used in racing suits requiring high heat resistance and durability. It is often combined with other fire-resistant materials like Nomex or Kevlar to enhance the suit’s overall performance. PBI can be found in the outer shell, inner lining, or thread of racing suits.

Comparing and Contrasting These Fabrics with Nomex and Proban

  • CarbonX, TECGEN, and PBI shares Nomex’s inherent flame resistance, while Proban relies on a chemical treatment that may diminish over time.
  • CarbonX and PBI provide higher heat resistance than Nomex and Proban, making them suitable for more extreme racing conditions.
  • All three alternative fabrics offer comfort and breathability, with CarbonX and TECGEN being especially lightweight and moisture-wicking.
  • PBI and CarbonX can be more expensive than Nomex and Proban, while TECGEN offers a more affordable alternative with similar performance characteristics.
  • While all these fabrics have applications in racing suits, Nomex remains motorsports’ most widely recognized and trusted material.

FIA and SFI Certifications

FIA and SFI are certification programs that provide certifications for various components used in racing vehicles to ensure safety and fair competition. Compliance with racing regulations is crucial to maintaining the sport’s integrity and ensuring all participants’ safety. 

Non-compliance with regulations can result in penalties, fines, and even disqualification from races, putting drivers, crew members, and spectators at risk of injury or death. It is the responsibility of all participants to prioritize safety and fair play to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries.

FervoGear, recognized as one of the emerging manufacturers in the industry, ensures the safety and protection of their customers by utilizing the rigorous safety standards set by leading organizations such as FIA and SFI in the design and production of their fire-resistant racing suits.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, using fire-resistant fabrics in industries such as motorsports and firefighting has become increasingly important for the safety and protection of workers and equipment. Nomex and Proban are two popular materials used in producing fire-resistant fabrics, each with advantages and limitations. 

Meanwhile, racing suits made from these materials, such as those manufactured by Fervogear, play a crucial role in protecting drivers and pit crews in high-risk environments. 

Ultimately, selecting fire-resistant fabrics and racing suits should be based on carefully considering the specific requirements and risks associated with the intended use. Compliance with relevant safety standards and regulations should always be a top priority.

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