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April 22, 2009 - Autos

Robert Eckaus
Air Conditioned race cars - where is the coverage and carry over?

No air conditioning in Wayland Joe's
IMSA Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Car

Yes it's true. The American LeMans Series, the premier racing league in the United States with a similar series in Europe has mandated air conditioning in the cockpit of the race car during the 2009 season. Where in the world is the reporting about this and the production car usage?

What is the big deal? Did you know virtually all passenger car A/C systems shut off during full throttle acceleration? These race cars spend most of their time at full throttle! This is to address dangerous cockpit temperatures well over 100 degrees which can lead to serious driver errors and fatigue at well over 100 mph running hard for hours on end. These cars, with no insulation and finely tuned engines making in excess of 450hp minimum running high octane race fuel, run hot, really hot. Cool suits are utilized in many race series, but in this series where races run for hours, air conditioning was deemed necessary. A cool suit is a shirt with cooling passages that circulates water to cool the driver during the race.

Most likely these are very efficient air conditioning systems that are powered by an electric motor, rather than a belt spinning the compressor in virtually all passenger cars. There are two exceptions I know of though. The new 2010 Toyota Prius and the Tesla. How is that for irony? Two milestone cars designed for efficiency using the same system extreme race cars use.

So what's the problem? First off, why in the world hasn't this been covered in the media yet? And secondly, why hasn't this been incorporated into production cars that really need it?

This system that has to be designed for efficiency. Ideally, develop the most efficient and reliable system you can in racing and it can filter down to the street car. Here is a system that is functional at full throttle, in an environment that could normally be at well over 100 degrees in an uninsulated environment (no rubber seals, no UV treated or tinted glass, etc), and when is going to show up in the larger engined, lower fuel-economy vehicles?

Obviously the Prius doesn't have this racing pedigree and development, but how ironic that the car that needs it the least has it first. It's time for the media to get on the ball, and the manufacturers to start making some announcements. More at cartruthblog.blogspot.com.

Keywords: LeMans, IMSA, racing, American, Porsche, air conditioning, Wayland Joe, cool suit, Prius, Tesla, compressor, cockpit
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