News & Multimedia

Heat Adds To Challenge Of Daytona Prototypes

Driving a race car takes a lot of energy, and energy makes heat.

When you go out for a mid-summer jog, the last thing you would want to do is put on your ski pants, some gloves, a winter jacket and a nice wool cap. But every time a Rolex Sports Car Series driver straps into a Daytona Prototype with his helmet and triple-layer fireproof driver suit on, that is pretty much what they are doing.

When the Rolex Sports Car Series takes the green flag this Friday for the Brickyard Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there will be a fleet of Daytona Prototype drivers that all will look for one thing – a win.

That, and a nice cold bottle of water after the race.

In addition to the physical effort of driving the cars, one of the main challenges for the drivers is the design of the Daytona Prototype. With a closed cockpit, very little fresh air comes into the car. While having the engine behind the driver helps somewhat, the cooling system doesn’t.

The radiator on a DP is placed at the front of the car to get the freshest air possible. Fluids flow between the radiator and the engine to keep the engine running at the right temperature. Unfortunately, those lines – with all that heat – wind their way right by the cockpit, adding another element to the heat mix for the drivers. So the driver is surrounded by lots of heat, with little to no fresh air.

“We can and we did see temperatures exceeding 120 degrees in full 100-percent humidity,” said Velocity Worldwide driver Max “The Axe” Angelelli. “Remember that we also wear a helmet, fire suit and other things that make things even hotter. It is like going for a run in Miami on Aug. 15 at 1 p.m. wearing a full skiing setup and pretending to enjoy the ride.”

That is one reason why you can’t be surprised when you read about the fitness exploits of drivers like Spirit of Daytona Racing’s Richard Westbrook when he goes out and runs a marathon, or Michael Shank Racing driver Ozz Negri, who scores yet another medal in a triathlon. That kind of training is a great way to prepare for what the drivers experience inside the cars.

But besides being in good shape and accustomed to that kind of extreme heat, there are a number of other tricks that the teams and drivers use to make it at least tolerable.

One key option the drivers can use are “cool suits,” which are a series of straw-like veins of plastic tubes that sit close to the drivers torso, underneath the driver suit. A small motor pushes cold water (it is cold at the start of the driver’s stint, but then tends to warm up!) through the tubes to keep the drivers core temperature as low as possible.

Alas, running the cool suit is better for the driver but adds nearly 10 pounds to the weight of a car. So if a driver is able to run without the suit, he will be warmer but much more popular with the engineers, who love losing weight in the car.

Another key factor is hydration, as the drivers can sweat nearly half a gallon of water in a two-hour stint. Like riders competing in the Tour de France, the drivers are also able to take on water as they work, thanks to drink bottles that send water shooting right into their helmet.  But like anything on a race car, these systems can have issues, as well, with drivers telling countless stories of getting near-boiling hot water shot into their mouths after something goes wrong and the water heats up inside the car.

The drink bottle system is also yet another factor in making a successful driver change.

“It happens more often than you think, especially during driver changes, if the driver exiting doesn't get his drink tube unplugged all the way and breaks the connectors,” said Ryan Dalziel, who races a DP in GRAND-AM as well as an air-conditioned GT entry in ALMS. “At Watkins Glen we had some bottle issues, but you can always grab a bottle during a pit stop.”

Mid-Ohio race winner Angelelli also has fallen afoul of overheating on occasion through the years, but only when one of the cooling elements let him down.

“In the past, my problems were due to some failure or another that occurred inside the car,” Angelelli said. “Cool box and other issues. We have done a lot inside the car, lately, to make the situation much better for the drivers. Now there are times I don't wear a cool suit at all to save some weight.”

Like driving in the rain or at night, some drivers barely notice the challenge, while others really have to prepare for it.

“It's always very difficult in the heat to keep yourself hydrated throughout the race,” Dalziel said. “We work very hard on cooling inside the DP car and try at all costs to avoid wearing cool suits. However, sometimes it's better to use them. I've been quite lucky. I've always been OK with the heat.”

While it might seem that “just add water” is a clear solution, there is more that goes into it than that.

“For a hot race, ideally, a driver must start hydrating two days in advance,” said Alex Gorne, director of fitness for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. “With regard to recovery after sessions and preparation for the race, it's essential that a driver takes on the correct level of electrolytes to replace the fluids they have lost. As soon as dehydration starts to occur, muscles will not work as effectively, and concentration can lapse.”

So spare a thought for those racing drivers, cruising around in their mobile saunas.
 

Show More Show Less
Now Viewing
Heat Adds To Challenge Of Daytona Prototypes
 
Heat Adds To Challenge Of Daytona Prototypes
Driving a race car takes a lot of energy, and energy makes heat.
Read More
Related Media
Doug Boles
 
IMS, INDYCAR Retain Ties with Purdue Grand Prix
So many go-kart team participants who competed in Saturday’s 60th running of “The Greatest Spectacle in College Racing” at West Lafayette, Indiana, have an ambitious eye toward the future. Be it drivers or team members, these Purdue University engineering students aspire to be a part of the Indianapolis 500, “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Read More
Fernando Alonso
 
Alonso Begins Indy 500 Learning Process with Visit To Barber
If nothing more can be gleaned from Fernando Alonso’s visit today to Barber Motorsports Park – and his plan to race in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 28 – it’s that racers share one goal: to be faster than the rest, no matter the car or venue.
Read More
Fernando Alonso
 
Formula One Champion Alonso To Test May 3 at IMS
Two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso will begin on-track preparation for his Indianapolis 500 debut with a test session Wednesday, May 3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Read More
Fernando Alonso
 
'Triple Crown' Remains Moon Landing of Motor Racing
Seven-hundred and ninety-two drivers have strapped into a car on Race Day since 1911 to attempt to win the Indianapolis 500. At least that many drivers have raced on the public roads and long straights of Le Mans, France, with its fields of 50-plus sports cars. And hundreds of Formula One drivers have dared to race on the narrow, unforgiving streets of the principality of Monaco.
Read More
JW Marriott
 
JW Marriott To Celebrate 'Greatest CITY in Racing' with Huge Indy 500 Message
The Indianapolis skyline will again celebrate the Month of May and the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, with a JW Marriott façade installation greeting residents and visitors from across the globe with a special, larger-than-life message.
Read More
Items 1 - 5 of 2,504
Reserve one of our hospitality suites for your next event!
To start planning your event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway please fill out our Information Request Form or contact Laura Wyamn at (317) 492-8557 or email at lwyman@brickyard.com.
Latest Tweets
@ccsmith1989 That does sound right, actually!
about 6 hours ago