Press Release

Space tech to race at Le Mans this weekend

By SpaceRef Editor
June 13, 2003
Filed under ,

Space technology will thrust two cars into this year’s legendary 24-hour Le Mans
race. Thanks to new composite materials designed for space travel, the cars will
be lighter and safer making them more competitive in the world-famous race that
takes place this year from 14 to 15 June in France.

Le Mans, which has been held every year since 1906, is an international event in
automobile endurance racing. Right from the first race it has been a test bed
for new technologies — for example, disk brakes were first used in a Le Mans
race in 1953. This year is no exception and several new technologies,
originating from Europe’s space programmes, will be showing their worth.

ESA Technology Transfer Programme (TTP) has been working since 2002 with Henri
Pescarolo and Andre de Cortanze of Pescarolo Sport, on two priority lines for
development: performance and security. In collaboration with Bertin Technologies
in France and Grado Zero Espace in Italy this collaboration led to the
identification of areas that could greatly benefit from space technology: space
composite materials for structures, space thermal insulation and innovative
lightweight cooling systems.

Henri Pescarolo, team leader of Pescarolo Sport, is very satisfied with the
result "undoubtedly the space technology we use improves the car’s performance
and safety," he says.

This was already demonstrated at the Le Mans qualification test day last month,
when the two Pescarolo C60 Peugeot cars achieved a very encouraging 9th and 13th
position out of the 50 cars participating.

For Pescarolo engineers AndrÈ de Cortanze and Claude Galopin it was particularly
important to verify that the effort to make the cars more aerodynamic through
the use of the new space composite materials on the C60 Peugeot had borne fruit.
Having both cars doing the same tests at the same time was a great opportunity
to evaluate the different adjustments on each car, and to choose the best
configuration for the actual race to come.

"We did not seek pure performance or high qualification, our objective was to
perfect the behaviour of our C60 Peugeot configuration," summarized Henri
Pescarolo at the end of the test day. "We made some very fast laps and could see
that we had made a lot of progress, but the variations between the different
participants were much less this year and this year’s race will be much tougher
than last year.

Lighter and safer with space materials

The performance to weight ratio, which is vital in Le Mans, persuaded the
Pescarolo Sport team to use hi-tech carbon composite materials, the same
material employed in satellite construction, to construct the racing car. This
allowed a reduction of 29 kg in the overall weight thus compensating for the
loss of 60 CV of engine power due to new Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO)

To make the cars safer, thermal shields similar to those used on the European
Ariane-5 launcher were placed between the engine and the flexible fuel tank in
order to protect the tank from engine fire hazards and similar material was used
to insulate the manifold and turbo. The same insulation shields have already
proved their worth as they were used in the Pescarolo Sports car that ran in the
Paris-Dakar race in January 2003.

This year Le Mans cars are still open-topped, but new rules for next year’s race
will introduce closed (saloon) bodies, which will introduce new challenges to
control the temperature inside the cars. Grado Zero Espace have already had
experience in designing and creating innovative clothing for the McLaren Formula
1 racing team using high-tech materials from ESA’s space programmes and they
have produced two sets of cooled undergarments for the Pescarolo team. These are
worn under the driver’s racing suits and need no special modification.

"We will work with Pescarolo in this year’s race in order to adjust the garment
and to try and obtain a weight reduction of up to 50% by 2004, "says Silvio
Campigli from Grado Zero Espace. "The cooling system is encapsulated in an
advanced textile structure designed for low cooling dispersion."

Space tech already a winner

The technology and ‘know-how’ obtained through the development of the European
space industry have already proved their worth at the first race in the
seven-event FIA Sportcar Championship, at Estoril, Portugal in April 2003. The
Pescarolo Sport team that won used the same lightweight composite space
materials and insulation shields that will be used at Le Mans.

"We started the cooperation with Henri Pescarolo to demonstrate how space
technology can provide innovative and practical solutions for endurance racing,"
says Pierre Brisson, head of ESA’s Technology Transfer and Promotion Office.
"When exotic space technologies prove their worth in tough races like Le Mans
and Paris-Dakar, they will also find their way into the mass-produced cars we
all use everyday, providing improvements in comfort and maintenance and more
importantly, contribute to greater overall safety and reliability."

More information

* Le Mans official site
* Pescarolo Sport
* Pescarolo car no. 17
* Pescarolo car no. 18

Related articles

* Space technology helps win race at Estoril

* Bringing the coldness of space to the Sahara

* ‘2003 Dakar Rally’ completed

* Space technology for McLaren at the British Grand Prix

* Nuna wins the World Solar Challenge!

Related links

* ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme

* ESA Technology Transfer — Cars and Trucks

* ESA Technology Transfer — Down to Earth

* Grado Zero Espace

* Bertin Technologies

* ESA Launchers


[Image 1:]
The two Pescarolo Sport cars, no. 17 and no. 18, participating this year to the
legendary 24-hours Le Mans race in France, are ‘boosted’ by space technologies.
Space composite materials have cut 29 kg off body weight — crucial in a race
where lower weight means faster laps. In addition, thermal shields based on the
same technology used for Ariane launchers are used to insulate exhaust pipes and
manifolds. An innovative cooling system to refresh helmets and suits,
successfully used first time at this years Paris-Dakar race, will provide higher
comfort to the driver. The image shows no. 18 during the test day at Le Mans, 4
May 2003.

Credits: Pescarolo Sport

[Image 2:]
The two ‘Pescarolo Sport’ cars, no. 17 and no. 18, performed very well at the Le
Mans test day on 4 May 2003. The image shows no. 17 in a curve during the test
race in which 50 cars participated. Car no. 18 driven by Soheil Ayari, …ric
Helary and Nicolas Minassian ended in 9th position with a time of 3 hours 46
minutes. Car no. 17 driven by Jean-Christophe Boullion, Franck Lagorce and
StÈphane Sarrazin ended in 13th position with the time 3 hours 46 minutes.

Credits: Pescarolo Sport

[Image 3:]
In the ‘2003 Dakar Rally’ temperatures hit 25?C towards Ghat, Libya, but a
special thermal screen on the exhaust system with technology from the European
launch vehicle Ariane reduced the car cabin temperature.

Credits: ESA

[Image 4:]
The space-cooled undergarments to be used at Le Mans. The system is based on a
lightweight-cooling unit based on Peltier effect, the same cooling principle is
utilized in space devices where weight reduction is important. The Italian
company Grado Zero Espace has produced the garment. The importance is, however,
for next year’s race when new rules will require closed (saloon) bodies which
will introduce more challenges to ensure comfortable thermal regulation for drivers.

Credits: Grado Zero Espace

SpaceRef staff editor.