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The Tillett Story

The Beginning

Steve Tillett started in karting in 1978. The arrival of new sticky tyres gave him and others many problems with bruised ribs, caused mainly by badly shaped seats.

A vintage and veteran car upholsterer by trade, Steve's father Alec, covered the first ever "Tillett Seat" by sticking a fabric used in motor vehicle floor mats as a lining on to the seat. It seemed to work perfectly, not only holding the driver secure, but it stopped the continual sliding around. By taking the hard edge off the hard fibreglass shell, it made the karts aggressive cornering speeds less damaging to the body.

Design Evolution

When padding was introduced underneath the cover, bruising became almost non-existent and the large lumps that were accepted as normal after a day’s racing had disappeared. Not long after the initial seat, friends were also asking for their seats to be covered, all of them instantly feeling the benefits. Then, while assisting his friend, Richard Weatherley in various European and World Championship races, Steve acquired experience in an arena with even higher levels of grip and demands on the drivers' bodies.

Now Steve was starting to sell the covering service to traders and local competitors. He sculptured his own design of fibreglass shells to give more size options with much better support and the first Tillett Seats were born.

Success in Japan

Towards the end of the 1986 season, Richard, racing with the help of ex World Champion Terry Fullerton, both went to a major race in Japan, taking the special covered seats with them. After the meeting, the enthusiastic Japanese bought the seats and the largest Japanese dealer in karting equipment, placed an order for 100 seats.

The time was now right to split from his father's firm and set up Tillett Racing Seats as a separate company. Since that time the seat range has grown into at least 60 separate shapes and sizes, with a choice of colours, and from 1990, three different rigidities have been available. Altering the rigidity was found to change the handling of the kart and can bring about significant differences in lap times.

Innovations and Race Service

Tillett Racing Seats pushes ahead the development of the products by competing and testing amongst the World's top drivers. Steve, his son Archie and daughter Laura have travelled all over Europe to develop their products in the most competitive arena possible. By doing this they keep constant contact with the top international race teams, manufacturers and drivers. The products are then in tune with the latest chassis trends and ahead of the competition. Over the years the list of drivers helped and sponsored by Tillett Racing Seats reads like a who's who of the motor racing elite. Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Michael Schumacher, Lando Norris, Kimi Raikkonen, Hekki Kovalinen, Robert Kubica, Jenson Button, Paul Di Resta, Anthony Davidson and the late Daniel Wheldon, are just a few of the drivers past and present who have used Tillett seats while racing karts.

Out of this racing service development program came the Ribtec rib protector range. When the Tillett rib protector was release in 1996, nothing like it was available on the market. The harder outer shell and extended edge soft foam inner of the Ribtec changed the design of this product worldwide, now all effective rib protectors have their roots in the original Tillett product.

In 1996 innovations in the RTM process were to significantly speed up production and improve product quality. In 2000 a cutting robot was acquired to further mechanise the process, speeding up production and increasing the accuracy of the finished parts. A constant striving for composite perfection continues to this day, with the latest developments creating laminates on another level of quality, not just in the racing world but in the composite industry as a whole.

The Business

Tillett Racing Seats has grown from a one man operation in a garage, to a brand new purpose built 22,000 square foot factory, with a current workforce of 35. There is now a Tillett dealer in most countries throughout the world and the brand has established itself as a mark of quality in the motorsport industry.

Other Ventures

Developing the technology to produce composites accurately and efficiently has opened doors to other industries. Tillett Racing Seats produces many carbon parts for Caterham cars and a number of other small vehicle manufacturers use Tillett to manufacture various composite components.

In 1999 a new type of car seat was constructed for the Caterham R500. This seat was derived from a shape originally sculptured for a company called the Westfield Motorsport centre, hence the "W1” shape which still exists. From this beginning a complete range of innovative car racing seats were born. The research and development continues to push boundaries, not only are they the most compact 8855-1999 FIA race car seats available, but also the B7 is the lightest FIA homologated competition seat anywhere in the world.

Tillett seats are always open to other uses for their seats and they have been used in many different applications over the years, from flying cars, racing power boats, autograss cars, auto gyros, cross Atlantic rowing boats, microlights, paraplegic sailing, ski bobs, electric wheelchairs and were even used in James Bond's ice racer on Die Another Day, the tank in Goldeneye and the attack sub in the Gi Joe film.

However, Steve Tillett will never let the business loose sight of its racing roots. He is regularly away with his son Archie and daughter Laura testing and developing the latest products.

You can see Laura's web site at www.lauratillett.com

Laura Tillett at the 2009 Super KF World Championship in Macau

Laura Tillett was the first British girl to ever compete at the World Championship of karting in the premiere class. (photo by Chris Walker)

Steve and Laura Tillett
Steve and Laura Tillett


An early Tillett Seat


The first Tillett Order


2014 World Champion Lando Norris

Laura Tillett
Laura Tillett

Archie Tillett 2014
Archie Tillett