Porsche Parade, Charlotte, NC 2008

Porsche Parade. I had an invitation to come out to Charlotte, North Carolina, at the end of June for PCA’s Porsche Parade and caught a red eye from Los Angeles on Sunday night. Monday was out at Lowes Motor Speedway, working a corporate event for Synergy Racing and Bank of America with a great group of passionate fellow Porsche owners. It was just a great day of fun out on the track. On Tuesday I was scheduled for an afternoon talk on safety versus performance at the Heritage and Historic Display. The first thing I noticed was the huge collection of amazing cars. It was a challenge to stay focused on my job at hand—I was tempted to just walk around and check out the incredible collection of Porsches. Quickly I realized that there was quite a turnout of fellow enthusiasts and I had to get my head in the game. The one hour discussion and Q & A session was epic to say the least and turned into a terrific afternoon of give and take with fellow PCA members.

On the way to Lime Rock. We’re preparing for the ALMS race at Lime Rock now and you’ve sent some questions about the track and driver preparation for the race. I thought I’d devote this blog entry to answering those questions.

Q: Are you looking forward to the new track layout and surface at Lime Rock?

A: From the looks of the photos and the plans for the new layout at Lime Rock, it’s definitely going to be a different racetrack. The original Lime Rock configuration was one of my favorites, but for less obvious reasons. The high-speed, multi-surface flow and all the heritage that the track exuded was a lot of fun and certainly one of the most challenging tracks I’ve been to since joining the ALMS in 2003. In saying that, safety and passing zones weren’t in abundance, and I think that was Skip Barber’s plan when deciding to update the new circuit. It’s new for everyone and excited to get out there Friday morning.

Q: What is it like driving the GT car versus the LMP2 car in the rain? What do you do to say cool on hot sunny days?

A: First and foremost, in a prototype you quickly realize that in the rain you no longer have a roof over your head or a windshield. You’re now in the natural elements. The biggest thing is that the LMP2 car sits a lot lower to the ground and has a lot more aerodynamics from underneath, so in the standing water, whenever there is an extreme amount of water, the LMP2 car is a lot more adversely affected and has a tendency to aquaplane, which gets very interesting. But in saying that, in the high speed corners the downforce of the car means that you’re still carrying as much or more speed through the corner in the wet as you would in the dry with a GT car. That helps put into perspective just how much grip is created by the aerodynamics of the prototypes.

As for staying cool, in the GT car, recently the technology has been based around the cool suit and the liquid cooling of the driver with the shirt cooling the core temperature of the body. What we’ve been working on lately is cooling the driver, both the helmet and the body, with forced chilled air. This eliminates weight and also solves the problem of the water from the cool shirt becoming warm. We do it from fresh air or cooled air and have the same system cooling the helmet and the body and with that we can save weight and gain efficiency. That’s what we’re really focused on developing these days.

Q: Is that technology for both the LMP2 car and the GT car?

A: That’s for the GT car. For the LMP2 car, heat isn’t really a factor unless you’re stationary in the pits during practice, qualifying and when you’re doing set up and such. When you’re moving, there’s such a high flow of air that it really helps a lot. One interesting thing about driving an open-top prototype is the aerodynamics of the driver’s helmet itself. It’s amazing just how small an opening or external aerodynamic piece on the helmet can make a large difference at high speed in terms of the stability of the car as a whole.
The helmet has three forces of nature you’re always fighting—the first is having an application of cooling come through the vents, and the second two are aerodynamic. There’s lift that can be generated, where the helmet feels like it’s being pulled off your head, and there’s buffeting, where the head will shake at a high frequency. So, we’ve worked hard to develop pieces for the helmet that give the downforce and stability in the car while maintaining the highest level of protection for the driver, and not upsetting the overall aerodynamics of the car. All of this really comes into play with high-downforce cars like the prototypes, and has to do with airflow to the rear wing when you’re above 150mph or so.

 

Send your comments and questions to Patrick at askpatrick@pca.org. Although he can’t respond individually, he’ll get to as many as possible in his blog.