In the heat of competition drivers need to stay cool. The ARCA series, seen here at Toledo
Like all racing product manufacturers, Hart Design and Fabrication, based out of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, strives to put forth the best quality product it can, and sometimes that means redesigning a current product to meet the needs of the customer. Like its big brother, Arctic Racing Air Series II, the newly developed Arctic Racing Air Series III unit is a Freon-based driver air conditioning system designed by former drag racer, Jamie Hart. Started more than 12 years ago, Hart's company knows how important the input and feedback from the racer can be. "The Series II unit was 6 inches wide by 7 inches tall and 26 inches long," says Hart. "It came in at 23 pounds and produced 800 btu output. It was a very good unit for the racers to stay cool. The technology is one-of-a-kind and stands on its own two feet. However, even at that, we started hearing feedback from the racers to slim it down, but keep the same cool quality output."
From that racer input, Hart and his team found that the biggest complaint was that the Series II unit was just big and heavy. So, they went back to the drawing board and started from scratch. After a seven month period of trial and error, they came up with another unit that they called simply the Series III. "This unit is really a technical marvel. It's a very simple system for the race team to install and for the driver to utilize giving him or her several different options to stay cool and comfortable in the heat of competition." Of course, getting to this point wasn't always that easy for Hart. "Honestly, many times, racers do not tell me what I want to hear. If we do not get good clear answers, we do not know what we can or can't do with our product. The installation process has been critical. It took a lot of field testing to show what we could or could not do," explained Hart.
Like the Series II, the newly developed system still only has a 12-amp electric draw. However, the biggest changes came in size. Coming in at 4.5 inches wide by 7 inches tall and 16 inches long the new unit was ready for work. The weight comes in at 8.8 pounds making it less than half the weight of the Series II system, while the new system also produces 1,200 btu output versus the Series II's 800 btu. That's a 33 percent improvement in output. But the real proof was in the performance. Could the new unit still deliver the necessary cooling? Tested in mid-May 2012 with an ambient air input at 87 degrees, the Series III delivered a temperature output of a whopping 43 degrees. This was measured going into the helmet with the unit set to its maximum cooling function. "The demand for less weight, and smaller size to cool the entire car became evident, we've heard that from day one" said Hart VP John Hoffman. "But, when it is that size and weight it becomes a critical issue for assembly. Because the Series II and Series III were similar we did not have to reinvent the wheel. In the end, it was both the mechanical and software engineering that had to change in order to achieve our goals."
Coming in at 4.5 inches wide, 7 inches tall, and 16 inches long, the new Series III unit w
Not only is the Series III smaller and lighter, but it is also more powerful. It produces
The unit has two amperage settings to choose from, 5 or 15.
However, because they wanted it so small, just getting all the components in the box and still reaching the goal of cooling properly was no easy task. Since the system is fundamentally similar to a street car's air conditioning unit, Hart knew that one area he could cut weight was the housing itself. A lot of racers like carbon fiber, but the Series III housing is even lighter than carbon fiber, being made of anodized aluminum. And you even have housing color options available.
Coming in smaller, lighter, using less power, producing reliable cooling, and inexpensive filtering, the Series III is all packed into a unit not much bigger than a typical shoe box. With this unit the racer will never be without airflow. The bonus over Series II also includes the newly incorporated thermal breakers to allow quick reset in the event of a power surge. This is a design departure from the Series II's fuse setup. In addition the Series III comes with a new triple redundancy switch that, in the unlikely event there would be some kind of failure, the bypass switch bypasses DC power directly to the helmet fan and provides a robust 40 cfm of airflow directly to the helmet, so the driver is never without air.
With low power consumption of between 2 and 11 amps, this Freon based cooling system is a one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art product. "This most recent evolution of Arctic Racing Air is the first of its kind," says Hoffman. "For reliability, it's what racers have been starving for. This is why we got into the cooling business. There is up to 50 degrees difference in ambient air and cooling air. If it's 100 degrees outside, you got 50 degrees going to the helmet. In pre-testing, as mentioned, we got a measurement down to 43 degrees," finished Hoffman.
The simple to use driver control panel allows the racer to adjust the cooling output using
The silver output hose seen here connects to the helmet, while you can attach your own duc
Impact Helmets makes a special helmet for the system that was designed with Hart’s input.
Mounted within easy access of the driver the Quick Glance switch panel is also equipped with LED light indicators. A three-switch panel that is very easy to navigate is the racer's best friend on those hot days behind the wheel. The first switch is simply the Power Switch--flip up for A/C or down for Fan mode. The middle switch is your Fan Output--a three- position switch. Adjustment of this Fan Output switch will control the cool airflow to the helmet. Flip up for Hi airflow of 40 cubic feet per minute (cfm) drawing 2 amps of power; middle for medium airflow of 30 cfm drawing 1 amp of power; and down for low airflow of 20 cfm per minute drawing just a 1/2 amp of power. The third switch is the Temperature switch, which also is a three-position switch. If you flip the Temp switch all the way up to high you draw just 8 amps at a cool setting, the middle position draws 10 amps of power and the air output gets colder. Flip the switch all the way down for the maximum coldest airflow drawing 12 amps. As you adjust the Fan Output switch and the Temperature switch to fit your needs the amperage draw will fluctuate from the lowest amp draw of four and the highest of 12 amps.
Doing a lot of the research and development though the ARCA series of racing divisions, the Arctic Air system is a hit with the competitors. Not to be outdone, the state-of-the-art cooling system tends to apply itself to the racers every need. "The system is very easy to install," notes ARCA Truck competitor Brad Yunker. "The system is basically plug-and-play, so all you need to do is figure out where it will mount best in the race car. The installation process is easy as long as you follow the Arctic Air suggestions. Some duct hose and a NACA duct is pretty simple. We were a little creative with our duct work, but had the system mounted and running in less than 45 minutes at the track on race morning. The system has been a blessing for me and it cools me down to the point at times I have to back it down to just fan mode only. "Adjusting the system is very simple as the switch panel is labeled for every setting," continued Yunker. "Just mount the panel where it's easy to reach and you can adjust the airflow easily under caution or while racing. There are several levels of cool with this system. Using just the fan does a pretty good job of keeping you comfortable, but when you use the actual air conditioning, it's just amazing. I feel better than I ever have during and after a race. Sometimes I have to turn the system back to fan because it worked too well. Now in our ARCA Truck we do not run an alternator, but the amp draw is so minimal that I can run my brake fans, radiator fan, and the Arctic Air system for 100 laps and still have plenty of battery left for another 100 laps if needed."
With direct contact to the driver, the helmet could be as important a piece to the Arctic Racing Air equation as anything. Arctic Racing Air has been involved with the development of the helmet with Impact Safety. The newly designed helmet is made to meet and promote the airflow the new Arctic Air system provides. All of the helmets in the market place are great for lower airflow, but when Arctic Air came out with a system that could supply up to 40 cfm of airflow, it was an opportunity to provide more effective targeted airflow to the neck and head for maximum cooling. Impact Racing has stepped up to the challenge and has been very cooperative in developing a helmet that passed the airflow tests while still maintaining safety standards. Thus, the new helmet is able to accommodate the airflow, no matter how the driver adjusts the system. Arctic Racing Air management recommends this newly designed helmet to be a part of your Arctic Racing Air System III. Innovation is a part of the motorsports industry, whether it's on track or off, that is never going to go away. A cool headed driver at the end of a race will most certainly make better judgment decisions than one who is overheated and tired. With more cool air, at less weight, plus the small amount of amperage pull, Arctic Racing Air truly has mastered the more for less reasoning. The price range of the new system is not out of reach of the majority of racers either. At $3,400 (not including the helmet), it won't take too many cool headed victories to make it pay for itself.