A “M” rated helmet is commonly referred to as a “motorcycle” helmet; this helmet in itself is a quality piece for conditions in which it was designed to be used but is not legal for use at most race tracks. The “SA” rated helmet that you need is commonly referred to as “special applications” and has a few very important differences than the “M” rated helmet.
Both ratings share four critical elements that affect its protective properties. The first of these is impact management; this is how well the helmet protects the wearer from impacts with large objects. Just having something on your head to block an impact is not enough, it needs to be able to absorb and cushion the impact in a way that minimizes trauma to the head. The second element is position stability; this simply means that the helmet will stay where it needs to be during an impact, a helmet that shifts around on the head cannot provide adequate protection. The third part of the helmet that is looked at is the strength of the retention system or chin strap. The chin strap and its anchors must be strong enough to keep the helmet in place during a collision otherwise there is no way for it to provide any protection, it may actually cause more harm. The fourth element common to both ratings is the extent of protection; this is the area of the head that is protected by the helmet.
The biggest element that separates a “SA” rated helmet from an “M” rated is flame resistance. This is the helmets ability to withstand exposure to a direct flame. The “SA” helmets flame resistance could very well save the life of a driver involved in a crash with fire involved, each second is critical when fire is thrown into the equation. While you may walk away from a crash wearing an “M” rated helmet remember this, that helmet was designed and tested with the idea of it being worn on a motorcycle and not strapped down inside a steel cage.