Helmet Story: Toni Vilander
Competizioni GT

Helmet Story: Toni Vilander

Maranello | 5 May 2020

Finnish drivers have played a major role in the history of motor racing, making their mark wherever they have competed. Four Formula 1 titles, two with Mika Hakkinen, one each with Keke Rosberg and Kimi Räikkönen, show how the country has developed a particular affinity for speed and passion for racing. Toni Vilander, a native of Kankaanpaa, has been fascinated by the racing world since he was five and his helmet has been a faithful friend ever since.

My first helmet”, Toni recalls, “was very simple, basically the same as the one I bought in the shop, except for a visor sticker. It was white, but it was all I needed to start karting”. It has been a fast-moving career, just like his performance on the track. It is one that has yielded to two wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the WEC title and many other national and international championships, the last of which he secured last year, the Blancpain GT World Challenge America.

As for many Finns, his nationality shines out in the design and colours of the helmet. “The Finnish flag was the starting point for all my helmets”, explains Toni, “and over the years it has simply changed its essence: it has gone from being a flag to the basic colours of the helmet, white and blue”.

In the past, Vilander’s creativity and humour always found an outlet on the helmet shell through original ideas. “I’ve always liked to add funny drawings like forests or karts on the track to the flag… Twenty years on people still laugh at those drawings! All I can do is note that they’ve obviously spent a lot of time on my tail as they remember them so well!

Even after using one of Europe’s most famous designers for his helmet’s livery, the Blancpain GT World Challenge America champion still proudly displays his country’s colours. “When coming up with the design for my helmet, the designer has carte blanche and can add colours or changes to the graphics, but he cannot leave out white and blue. He produced helmets for Raikkonen, Alonso, Kovalainen, and many WRC and Dakar drivers, so he knows what he’s doing. I add the official logos and my personal sponsor’s logo and nothing more”.

Ayrton Senna was one of Vilander’s idols. However, he didn’t want to reproduce Vilander’s helmet design or colours. Instead, he focused on two concepts: essentiality and recognisability. “Ayrton was my benchmark driver”, says the Finn”, “perhaps my only idol. I liked the fact that his helmet was simple and recognisable. I like to be able to easily make out a driver from their helmet design when maybe I’m watching a kart race from the grandstand because it makes all the difference to be able to spot them quickly amidst a large number of drivers in a race”.