Alex Wurz: Draw me a helmet!

Besides being the youngest winner of the Le Mans 24 H, Alex Wurz has a specialty: he paints his helmets himself. A long process that takes patience and some talent. Alex explains the different steps to get a design. This one means several things to him: “Red and white are for the colors of the Austrian flag. Yellow, on the front and rear, stands for sunrise and sunset. Green on the bottom is for the earth. Blue, that’s the sky. Everything is connected.”

Step 1. I get everything ready. The helmets, with ground coating, the aerograph and the compressor, the paint brushes, various paints etc. I started painting my own helmet a few years ago. It is too complicated and nobody wanted to do it. As a matter of interest, I paint my helmets in my house’s second bath room.

Step 2. I personally paint on each helmet, by hand, so each one of them is unique. The first painting needs to be well structured for the rest of the work. However, each time I paint without any plan or model. It can take me up to six hours. I learnt this from a friend of mine, a professional aerographer, who has also made the bull on Toro Rosso’s F1, by the way. He always says I am crazy never to train or draw any plans…

 

Step 3. The helmet’s ground coat is white. I start with red, which is the easiest color and helps to get back in the mood. White areas on this picture will later on be red on the final design. The tape, which I take off afterwards, is to draw the lines. I have to cut it precisely and carefully. It takes some patience to do that.

Step 4. Both red layers are done. One of the helmets is ready –with tape on it- for the next step: yellow. The front stands for sunrise. The rear stands for sunset. I use three different colors to get this nice effect.

 

Step 5. I cover the yellow color with tape to carry on with green (white area on this picture). Again, I use several shades to get the right color. The basis is a light green, to which I add layers of darker green. Yet at the same time, I am looking for a carbon fiber look, so I use a “net”, which can also seem like snake skin.

Step 6. The top of the helmet comes next: blue. I always try to draw the eye of the storm, from a “satellite” point of view. I always draw counterclockwise. Why? I’ve always done it like that. It’s not easy. In fact, the steps get more and more difficult, with ever more complicated effects.

 

Step 7. This is the moment of truth. I take the different tape stripes off. Only at that moment will I know whether the preceding layers are OK. You can’t see any mistakes before that. I draw two helmets at a time, in order to use as little paint as possible and to avoid cleaning the aerograph too often.

Step 8. The whole part with the aerograph is done. I take the paint brushes to draw the outlines: black around the red area, silver and blue to cut the sky’s white and blue. This takes very long. I need 5 to 10 minutes per picture. There are about 20 of them on each helmet, plus the outline of each red part. It takes over four hours.

 

Step 9. Right now, that is where I am at. I’m almost done. I started these two helmets in December, but I am so busy that I am not done yet…

Since a few years, I have been racing on closed prototypes so I need to paint my helmets less often. But for my season with TOYOTA Racing, I decided to take new helmets. I often keep one model of each helmet. I give the other to my parents, my friends or sponsors. I still have the one I wore on my victory at Le Mans 2009. However, I used to wear the one from Le Mans 1996 in F1 and I have no idea where it is.