Former race car driver and motorsports safety pioneer Bill Simpson has passed away last December 16. He was 79.
Most of you reading this may not know who Bill Simpson is. However, if you have ever been to a race track or watched a race on TV, then you might have seen or heard about the products of his company, Simpson Racing Products – or Simpson for short. Yes, the Simpson brand famed for making high-quality racing helmets, racing suits, gloves, shoes, and pretty much anything else you can think of that keeps drivers safe.
Prior to being a safety, Simpson spent his early career racing drag cars and formula cars in SCCA. He would later move up to the USAC Championship Car series in the late 1960s. At one point, he even joined the Indianapolis 500.
However, it wasn’t through racing that he became popular. He is best known for numerous innovations that have greatly improved safety in various motorsports events. In 1958, he was the first to introduce parachutes in drag cars which would slow down dragsters after the finish line. The design would later be picked up and implemented by various drag racing series all over the world.
Probably his biggest contribution to motorsport safety came in 1967. He was introduced to a fire-resistant fabric called Nomex through NASA astronaut and racing enthusiast Pete Conrad. Seeing the value in the material, Simpson created the first fire-retardant racing suit made of Nomex for drivers. He would even light himself on fire to prove the effectiveness of his suit and helmets.
Though Bill Simpson may be gone, his legacy continues to live on through the brand and countless lives saved by his products and innovations.