Dani Sordo has expressed deep frustration at the lack of a proper cooling package in the new generation of World Rally Championship vehicles, while also hitting back at any suggestion that the drivers should simply put up with it.
Cockpit temperatures were raised as a major concern during Rally Portugal, where both drivers and co-drivers reported suffering intense heat in their Rally1 cars.
With only two weeks between the Portugal and Italy rounds, there was little lead time between events to implement effective solutions.
Temperatures of up to 40°C (104°F) are expected on the Saturday of Rally Italy – and the limited changes teams have been able to implement to improve cooling have left the two-time Sardinia winner incredulous.
“They put a yellow roof,” Sordo bluntly told DirtFish when asked what changes Hyundai had made to improve cockpit temperatures.
“I don’t know if it’s doing something because the heat didn’t come from the roof in Portugal, it came from the exhaust. It was near to the codriver’s seat. But this they can move. They need to put some system for the cooling inside of the car.”
Though Sordo accepted that warm temperatures were part of rallying he was bemused at the complete absence of cockpit cooling systems, pointing out that the rally-raid machines which compete in long-distance events like the Dakar Rally come equipped with air conditioning.
“This is rally. This is like the people want rally to be. It’s like this. It will be hot here. After they will go to Kenya, it will be hot, it will be next year the same thing, nobody takes anything, nobody does anything. They think that if we are rally drivers, we need to be like in the past and all of these things and it’s rally, you need to suffer. But I don’t understand.
“In Dakar they have air-conditioning and in circuit [racing] they have [it too]. Why they don’t have the same rule. Only in rallies, no?”
“Imagine you go to the beach. You park your car in the sand. And you come after a few hours and you go in your car. It’s hot, no? Imagine, what car doesn’t have air conditioning now? Tell me. No one in the market, no?”
Drivers regularly competed in hot, humid climates in previous decades of the WRC at events like the full-length Safari Rally and Ivory Coast.
But any comparison to the old days isn’t realistic, according to Sordo – and he’s very concerned about what the worst-case scenario of soaring cockpit temperatures would be.
But after, if one guy, he lost his mind because it's too hot and they will have a crash and kill 20 spectators because the driver passes out, what happens?Dani Sordo
“The people want to compare the old days with this. For me, it’s stupid.
“We have an amazing rollcage, bucket seats, belts, HANS, helmets, all [of this] for safety. But after, if one guy, he lost his mind because it’s too hot and they will have a crash and kill 20 spectators because the driver passes out, what happens?”
M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux’s experience behind the wheel in Portugal suggested Sordo’s worries were far from being unfounded hyperbole.
“It was difficult for me [at the] end of some stages in Portugal where I was losing a bit my mind and when, you know, you are sat, and then you stand up. And you are a bit you know…”
“Yeah, exactly,” Fourmaux confirmed.
“What I tried to do every time when I finished the stage is not to be angry for whatever happened on the stage before, just to calm down. Because you have to understand that as long as we drive the car takes air, cool air inside the cockpit. When we stop, it’s like all the temperature goes up.”
Though Sordo had voiced his concerns strongly, Craig Breen indicated he had already resigned himself to putting up with the high cockpit temperatures and there being little point ruminating further.
“It is what it is,” he said. “There’s no point worrying about it now. We just have to get on with it and see what it’s going to be like.
“We’ve taken all the best preparations that we can. We’ll try to be as hydrated and as ready for it.”
“But to be honest with you, there’s an element of this thing that you need to be fit, extremely fit, to be in this game. At temperatures like that it goes beyond a question of fitness. It’s just a question of whether you can manage it enough and if you can keep your body cool enough. That’s all we need to do.”