Modern race cars often come equipped with cool suits that circulate water through tubes close to the driver's skin, making hot, muggy locales like Sebring somewhat bearable. Sometimes they fail. Stevenson Motorsports' number 6 Chevrolet Camaro became a rolling sauna on the grid, but they won anyway.
The number 6 Camaro's cool suit failed on the grid for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race, and with temperatures creeping up in the high 80s with high humidity, that wasn't good.
The car came with a blower that is supposed to get cool air onto the drivers through a tube that attaches to the drivers' helmet, but that was of little use. The blower only takes the ambient air temperature down ten to twenty degrees, and if it's close to 90°, that means you're still getting lukewarm 70°-80° air blown on your face.
Unfortunately, the Camaro's helmet blower was akin to having a sweaty old person try to blow through a tube. Sometimes you can cheat warm air by having it blow faster, but the speed and force just wasn't there to do that with this helmet blower.
The TUDOR United SportsCar series requires air conditioning in some cars, but the Continental Tire Sports Car Series that usually runs with it does not. So, there was no aircon in the Camaro, either.
You might think that open windows and other vents into the car might be of help, but airflow is key to why it doesn't. After a certain point, pressure builds up in the closed cockpit to where no fresh air can force its way in. Then there's no airflow to bring the driver relief, and things in the car just stays unbearably hot.
Andrew Davis was in the car to start and drove through it anyway. At one point, he pushed up the sleeves of his race suit to try and get a bit more cooling, only to get busted by the in-car cameras. The team radioed in that IMSA demanded that he roll his sleeves back down. (Something something fire resistance something safety blah blah reasons, I'll bet.)
The team lost some time trying to fiddle with the cool suit during the pit stop, but ultimately gave up on it, and sent the car back out.
Robin Liddell shared driving duties with Davis, and he mentioned that the Camaro in particular was a hot little box of hotness. Race cars lack a lot of the insulation that keeps drivers from feeling the heat of the engine and transmission. Front-engined cars in particular get "really, really hot," according to Liddell. All that heat up front just flows right back to the driver.
Didn't matter. Ain't care. Liddell and Davis won the race anyway, but not without a bunch of sweat.
You could tell which Stevenson car had a functioning cooling system when the drivers were on the podium. The number 9 Camaro that claimed second place of Lawson Aschenbach and Matt Bell was just fine. Davis and Liddell's car, not so much. Two of those race suits were much soggier than the others.
"That's what we train for," explained Davis.
Training for heat doesn't mean sitting in a sauna in full race gear, as hilarious as that would be.
Davis explained, "Sometimes I take my run at noon when most people would try to avoid it." Cardio in hot conditions is a huge help when it comes to sitting in a hot car wearing what's best described as a fluffy nomex quilt.
So, there you go: heat resistance wins races. You've got no excuses the next time your friends want to work out at lunch time in the heat of summer.