Einstein Science Reporting for Kids
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Contact: Pierre Brisson
European Space Agency

ESA technology drives you wild!

Pescarolo racing car just passing the famous Dunlop footbridge at the Le Mans circuit, in the new PlayStation game Gran Turismo 4 Credits: Sony Computer Entertainment France
Click here for a high resolution photograph.

Very few people get to drive a state-of-the-art sports car. However, thanks to a new PlayStation 2 game called 'Gran Turismo 4', anyone can sit at the wheel of a space-age vehicle that has been designed with the help of ESA.

The exciting game features two custom-built Pescarolo cars that starred in the 24-hour Le Mans races of 2003 and 2004. At Le Mans 2004, the V10, 5 litre Pescarolo car completed 379 laps without any mechanical problems a total of 4,940 km at an average speed of 204.5 km/h.

Gamers can now try to beat this record for themselves by competing against hundreds of cars on more than 100 tracks around the world.

One special feature of the Pescarolo sports car was its use of very light, extremely strong, carbon composite material that was first developed for the Ariane rocket. With the car's weight cut by 29 kg, 4.25 seconds were shaved off every lap. Fire-proof shields similar to those used on the Ariane were placed between the engine and the fuel tank.

Safety and engine performance were also improved by quartz felt that was wrapped around the sizzling hot (800 C) exhaust system. Space technology was even used in the car's wheel bearings.

"Endurance racing is like space: it's a harsh and hostile environment which requires reliable solutions with light and strong technologies," said Pierre Brisson of ESA.

"In the end, the use of spin-off technologies from space will contribute to greater safety on our roads."