Public Release: 

Winning racer backed by space technology

European Space Agency

"Henri Pescarolo demonstrated once again last week-end that innovative technologies we originally developed for our spacecraft can be put to work in automobiles improving both performance and safety," says Pierre Brisson, Head of ESA's Technology Transfer and Promotion Office.

Pescarolo Sport opened the seven-event FIA Sportscar Championship season 2003 by winning the first race in Estoril, Portugal on 13 April 2003. The new racing car was already demonstrating its worth - its body weight reduced by use of composite materials developed for ESA's satellites and driver safety improved by applying insulation materials from Ariane, the European launcher.

Then in June, the two Pescarolo cars ended in the top ten of 50 competitors in the tough 24-hours competition at Le Mans. Just after the race, driver Frank Lagorce noted how the car, "was much better this year than last year. It was much lighter."

After a fine second place obtained in Spa, Belgium, last month, Pescarolo closed the season by winning Sunday's last race in Nogaro, France.

André de Cortanze, Technical Director of Pescarolo Sport team, said "It is basically the same car as last year, but with much improved performance. In addition to fitting a 3.2 litres V6 twin turbo supercharged engine specially designed for endurance racing and delivering up to 600 hp at 6600 rpm, having a lighter body made with space materials made it possible us to optimise weight distribution resulting in an improved overall car performance".

ESA's Technology Transfer Programme formed a partnership with Pescarolo Sport in December 2002 to identify and provide innovative technologies that had already been developed for space missions, and which could be used in their endurance racing cars.

Performance to weight ratio is vital in racing and high-tech carbon composite materials - used to build satellites - were used to construct the new Pescarolo 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.

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. In addition, a quartz felt, also from Ariane, was used to insulate the 800°C hot exhaust system, the manifold and the turbo, increasing both safety and turbo compressor performance.

With the victory in Estoril in April, the second place in Spa in September, and winning in Nogaro last Sunday, the Pescarolo Sport with their 'Courage C60 Evo Peugeot' car finished second overall in the FIA Sportscar Championship for the 2003 season.

"This is a very encouraging result. Throughout the season in each race our car was in a winning position," says Henri Pescarolo, team leader of the Pescarolo Sport Team. "Unfortunately some small incidents disturbed our mid-season results."

"But two victories, second place in Spa and our great performance at the 24-hours race of Le Mans proved that the technological contributions from ESA were effective."

Pescarolo Sport Team is already focusing on the 2004 endurance races and the legendary 24-hour at Le Mans, and discussing how the car can be further improved, how can an even better result be reached, can other innovations from ESA perk up the performance?

Who knows, maybe next year we will see even more space technology successes on European automobile racetracks.

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