Space technology helps win race at Estoril
Pescarolo Sport won Sunday’s race at Estoril in Portugal, the first in the 7-event FIA Sportscar Championship, helped by technology originally designed for ESA’s space programme.
The partnership between Pescarolo Sport and ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme (TTP) began in December last year. Its aim: to apply space technology in the field of sports car endurance racing and to demonstrate how space technology can be used ‘on Earth’. This year’s International Automobile Federation (FIA) Sportscar Championship was a good test of whether this partnership is working well. Judging by Sunday’s results the answer is a resounding yes.
Says Henri Pescarolo, team leader of the Pescarolo Sports Team, “the whole team is delighted with Sunday’s results which puts us in the lead of the Sportscar Championship. Undoubtedly the space technology we used improved the car’s performance and safety”.
ESA, together with Henri Pescorolo and Andre de Cortanze, technical director of the Pescarolo Sport team, identified two important areas where space technology could be used: performance and security. Performance to weight ratio is vital in racing and high-tech carbon composite materials, used to build satellites, were used in the construction of the sports car. This gave a reduction of 29 kg in the car’s weight, and compensated for the reduction in engine power of 60 horsepower, required by the new Automobile Club de l’Ouest regulations for the world famous 24-hour Le Mans race that will take place in June.
To improve safety, thermal shields similar to those used on Europe’s Ariane launchers were placed between the engine and the flexible fuel tank to protect it from engine fire hazards. The same material was also used to insulate the manifold and turbo.
Pescarolo is not just interested in winning, the safety and comfort of his pilots also has high priority. For the 24-hour Le Mans race - the yardstick in endurance racing for pilots and cars - a cooling system tested during the Dakar 2003 rally will be in place. This will prevent pilots from suffering from dehydration by providing them with cooling drinks throughout the race. This technology also derives from space.
The Pescarolo team is now busy preparing for the next race in the championship, scheduled for Lausitzring in Germany in May. This latest cooperation of ESA’s TTP programme is just one more example of how space technology can speed up travel on Earth as well as in space.