Inevitably, some of the helmets have more mileage than others. “At the start, three years was probably the most I used the same one, and then it simply didn’t fit, because I was growing,” he says. “When I moved up to cars, Allan McNish was contracted to Bell, and he got them to give me a helmet, which was good of him. Then I used Simpson in F3, then Arai and back to Bell when I went to America. Eventually, I went back to Arai and used them for 18 years. In Indycars, their life could be just one race, depending on how badly they got beaten up. If a helmet won, it generally got taken out of circulation. Occasionally I’d bring out one I thought was lucky. But generally it was one or two races and then they were done.”
As for those in his collection worn by other drivers, it’s quite a list. Off the top of his head, he names most of his Indycar rivals, many of whom are now close friends, plus some other notable aces from the motorsport world, including Sir Jackie Stewart (“it’s an open-face and was given to me by a great friend for my 40th birthday”), five-time motorcycling champion Mick Doohan, Le Mans hero Derek Bell, fellow Scottish Indycar driver Jim Crawford and Mario Andretti (from his final Indycar season in 1994).
“[Three-time Nascar champion] Tony Stewart has the best collection of all of us,” Franchitti reveals. “It’s phenomenal, and he’s got helmets from everything and everywhere.”
Franchitti admits he has a separate room set aside for his biggest hero: Jim Clark. His dedication to the two-time F1 world champion and fellow Indy 500 winner doesn’t border on obsessional: it’s over the line. Among the cars he owns, a Lotus Cortina (reg BJH 417B) is the standout, because it’s the one that Clark twirled around various UK circuits to win the 1964 British Saloon Car Championship.
Franchitti bought it in the wake of the Indycar accident that curtailed his career far too early in 2013. His broken vertebrae and ankle healed after the shunt at the Houston street circuit, but it was the knock he took to the head – not his first, as we’ve seen – that forced him to reluctantly call time. His helmet from that day is part of his collection, by the way.