Smelling the smell of your own shoes burning is never a good thing. It’s generally the point at which things have to change. We’re at that point now with Rally1 cars.
There’s universal agreement among the drivers, co-drivers and teams that something has to be done. It’s impossible to argue with the crews on the verge of collapse or being sick because of rampant cockpit temperatures.
The situation was at its worst on Friday for the simple reason that that was when the weather was at its hottest. Early afternoon and the early 30s were being registered in blazing sunshine.
That’s warm, but it’s not hot by WRC standards. Sardinia and Safari – the next two rallies – are both well capable of knocking on the door of 40 degrees. That’s why change needs to be implemented. Like now.
How’s this suddenly become such as issue? Simple, it’s because of the positioning of the exhaust and, more pertinently, the exhaust manifold which sits up against the bulkhead and transmits extreme heat straight through into the cockpit.
The spaceframe nature of these Rally1 cars has given significant freedoms in terms of the way these cars are laid out and put together. But there are still rules and the routing of the exhaust has been dictated in an effort to avoid running directly beneath the hybrid kit in the middle of the car. The most effective plan was to send the pipework down the right hand side – hence the co-drivers’ boots melting.
Looking deep inside the three cockpits in Portugal last week revealed more cramped conditions for Hyundai and M-Sport, both of whom have the crew further towards the front of the car. Toyota has located its driver and co-driver marginally further back in the car, but it’s still fairly toasty aboard the Yaris Rally1 – hence Kalle Rovanperä calling on the FIA to do something.
There’s sympathy for the governing body. The white-shirted ones were in full agreement that something had to be looked at and that’s what they’re doing right now. Literally, as you read this, the most technically astute folk in the FIA have their heads together to try to find a solution in time for Sardinia, which starts, er, next week.
One FIA source told DirtFish: “This has been coming from the end of last year, but the teams have designed their cars. There was, I’m sure, ways around this or ways to lessen the issue before the cars came to homologation.”
Extreme heat in cars is nothing new. The FIA’s deputy president Robert Reid will, himself, well remember swallowing temperature sensors as Prodrive sought a solution to understanding just how hot it was getting in an early noughties World Rally Car. The answer was hot. Very.
The cockpits will hit 70 or 80 degrees in Alghero next week. Fancy feeling some of that heat?
Wait until the summer sun does its thing properly around your place. When you’re seeing something in the mid-30s, jump in your car, fire up the engine then crank the heater up to the max and sit there for half an hour.
Yes, you do get some airflow in a rally car, but crew comfort – and I’m choosing my words very carefully here, comfort is very different to safety, which is always priority number one – has always come second to speed when we’re talking cutting edge rally car design.
The teams have to shoulder some of the responsibility here. They’ve worked to optimize performance, but am I completely naïve in my consideration that the world’s best technical brains have to be kept in check every now and then?
And, as we’ve already established, burning soles isn’t a good thing.
The heat is, quite literally, on.