In any form of racing, heat is an issue drivers and crews have to deal with. From the effect of heat on the health of the driver in the seat, to the prevention of mechanical component failure or fluid system failure throughout the vehicle, the control and dissipation of heat is a major concern in motorsports.

Drivers in any division will sweat during the course of a race and an event weekend. Research has shown that an athlete's (driver's) performance can begin to be adversely affected with a loss of 2 percent of body weight. This would be 3 pounds in a 150-pound driver.

Even without the loss of fluids, the hot environment of a driver's cockpit will affect a driver's concentration and driving performance-not to mention that a driver getting burned on the foot or through the seat can be taken out of a race.

Heat Sources
There are three main heat sources in the race car that affect the driver-the engine (including the radiator), the exhaust system, and the oiling system. Each of these has its own specific volume of heat and transfer method to deliver heat to the vehicle.

The engine and radiator, because of location and how they operate, will transfer heat to the firewall and under the car. The heat they release will be transferred in the volume of air that flows across them. The method of shielding most practical for these components is to begin at the parts that are affected. This method works best because there is not an effective way to contain the heat of the engine or radiator.

The heat from the exhaust system will be transferred to the firewall, frame, and undercar sheetmetal. The exhaust contains the most heat, and its transfer is the one of greatest concern. The heat from the exhaust will transfer directly to the surrounding air and to the other elements through conduction. The most effective way to shield exhaust heat is to start at the pipe itself and work your way toward the driver or heat-affected component.

Heat from the oiling system is a concern throughout the car. In a car with a dry-sump system that has a rear-mounted tank, there are oil lines running throughout. The tank itself is a significant source of heat normally positioned behind the driver. Controlling the heat given off by the oiling system is difficult because each piece is different and the method that will work best depends on the individual component.

Now that we know the origin of the heat, we should look at the most effective theories for shielding the driver and specific components from it. Too many teams take the Band-Aid approach after there's a problem. They add more shielding at the driver's point, not understanding that the problem stems from too little shielding at the source of the heat. If the source of the heat were effectively directed away from the driver, any extra shielding at the driver would be unnecessary.

When looking at insulation products, undoubtedly, the question will be asked or a claim will be made about temperature reduction. Most manufacturers will have an answer for that question. However, there is a problem if the person answering the question doesn't have knowledge of your specific application or the true heat levels involved. These claims would be given more credibility if they were accompanied by test data, thermal imaging, or at least a description of the heat involved as radiant, conductive, and so on.