One reason the cockpit of a racecar gets so hot is because of the intense heat produced by the high output engine operating for extended periods at full throttle. Because there is usually no insulation, the heat from the engine and exhaust pipes quickly radiate through the sheet metal and into the car's interior.

So it only makes sense that you can cut some heat by DEI (Design Engineering, Inc.) produces several products designed to work in hot environments, and one of the newest-and most interesting to racers-is its Floor and Tunnel Shield. The product reflects as well as insulates heat and is designed to be used on the underside of the floor of the car to keep heat from actually getting into the car.

Floor and Tunnel Shield uses a reflective 10 millimeter flexible aluminum sheet bonded to a 3/16-inch thick layer of fiberglass insulation. It is backed by an adhesive so that you peel off the backing and then stick it to the underside of the car. The material is flexible, so you can form it to the curvature of the surface. The ideal place for this is directly above the exhaust pipes so that the extreme heat from the pipes cannot get into the car.

At first we had reservations that a stick-on product would hold up to the rigors-and abuses-of a season's worth of racing. But then we learned that Floor and Tunnel Shield was tested by applying pieces to the mud flaps of 40-foot trailers and underneath the frames of large trucks for an entire winter of durability testing in the Northeast United States and made it through with no signs of excessive wear. The shield material is lightweight, but any weight penalty isn't much of a problem since it is designed to be placed so low on the car any way. DEI says the product can withstand 1,750 degrees F of continuous heat while reflecting 90 percent of that heat away. Only 3/16-inch of clearance is required for maximum protection.

There is a reason why you wear cotton shirts working around the shop instead of something constructed out of Nomex. Nomex is great as a fire resistant material, but there is simply nothing as comfortable as cotton. Cotton absorbs sweat and is also very breathable. Modern technology has produced flame resistant cotton blends that work very well as an inner liner in driving suits.

"One of the things you can do to help stay a little cooler is choose the right type of underwear and the right suits," says RaceQuip's Mantell. "Nomex-based products work well as protection, but they just aren't as comfortable to wear as cotton-based products. If a suit has an interior layer that's against your skin and it's flame resistant cotton, then it will be cooler to wear than a similar suit that has a Nomex layer against your skin.

"It's really a perception of how cool you are," he continues. "If the TPP numbers (a measure of the thermal protection factor) are the same, then the insulation factor is roughly the same. The difference is the cotton will wick the moisture away from your skin so you aren't sitting in your own sweat and you will feel cooler."

Keeping yourself cool in the racecar is not only good for your health, but can also give you and edge over the competition. But best of all, these suggestions are pretty easy to implement. So, as the summer months approach take stock of how you keep your body cool, update if necessary, and go out and win some races.

Cool Shirt's Rich Shafer provided us this list of symptoms of heat exhaustion. If you are feeling more than one or two of these symptoms after getting out of the racecar, you should seriously consider increasing the cooling measures inside your racecar:

* Heavy perspiration
* Fatigue and weakness
* Skin is cold, pale, and clammy
* Muscle and body ache
* Headache
* Nausea
* Vomiting and/or collapse with or without loss of consciousness
* Skin is hot, dry, and red
* Rapid heartbeat
* Confusion
* Loss of consciousness

SOURCE
DEI Sparco USA
800-224-RACE
http://www.sparcousa.com
RaceQuip
8-13/-642-6644
www.racequip.com
Cool Shirt