Sepang International Circuit’s monthly magazine
By Cheryl Tay
It’s amazing yet scary how something as simple as heat can determine a winner or lose the race completely. Heat is a driver’s worst opponent, especially so for tropical climates in this region. Heat can adversely affect a driver’s performance and those who have been to the Sepang International Circuit before, as a spectator or competitor, will understand how hot it can get. Track temperatures at Sepang can go beyond 50 degrees Celsius!
In an enclosed cockpit of a racing car, a driver can experience extreme high heat when racing and if he is not prepped up properly, things might turn fatal. It becomes progressively more difficult for perspiration to evaporate and as a driver’s body heat rises, the resulting quickened heart rate will affect performance. Once the body is unable to cool itself through perspiration, serious heat-induced illnesses like dehydration, heat exhaustion or even heat stroke may occur.
On my recent visit to the production grounds of Stand21, a French made-to-measure racewear manufacturer based in Dijon, I was given great insights on their Heat Stress Control (HSC) research programme – an extensive investigation and research conducted to solve this problem of heat stress.
What is heat stress?
Heat stress is essentially the state when a driver experiences less heat loss than heat gain. Backed by international medical specialists, Stand21 concluded that humans must maintain a stable body temperature (balance between heat loss and heat gain) in order to deliver optimum performance. When the body stores heat and is unable to release the heat, the effect of heat stress will raise the body’s core temperature to dangerous life-threatening levels. A driver can have excellent cardio vascular fitness, consume heavy ingestions of fluids or put himself through an intensive training schedule, but all these will do little to reduce heat stress conditions.
For example, a heat acclimation programme takes at least three weeks to be efficient but the benefits are lost in merely three days. Aligned with their continuous adage to promote safety in motorsports, Stand21 came up with a simple yet highly effective solution to heat stress: breathable racing wear, including racing suit, innerwear, gloves and boots. This is achieved with a fabric called pAIRformance® – it meets FIA standards, is fireproof, stretchable, comfortable and most importantly, breathable. This innovative fabric prides itself on providing ventilation, allowing perspiration to evaporate faster, thus cooling the body by prolonging the time taken for the body’s temperature to reach the critical level where physiological performance starts deteriorating. This results in enhanced performance!
The common misconception most people have about racing wear is how lighter means better. What they fail to realise then, is that lighter fabrics which resist the same level of fire protection need to be denser, thus being less breathable. Lightweight suits have a much tighter weave in the material construction, creating a greenhouse effect on the body. Decreasing breathability causes the skin’s temperature to rise faster than the body’s core temperature and when the perspiration is trapped within the suit, the benefits of wearing a lightweight suit are lost instantly.
When I tried on their top-of-the-range ST3000 racing suit, I felt a significant difference compared to the other suit brands I have used before. The effect of HSC was marvellous! When I was there in France, the weather was dipping to sub-zero levels, so can you imagine how much more beneficial HSC will be in hot and humid countries like Malaysia and Singapore!
Other than the renowned medical specialists engaged in the HSC programme, Stand21 worked with the Frency Army on some HSC tests and the Japan Automobile Federation also ran their own independent medical study on the effects of a regular suit versus a Stand21 HSC suit. With 40 years of experience in the business since 1970, Stand21 has seen many drivers suffer from heat stress.
“Racing is no doubt dangerous, but we will continue to innovate with new technologies to keep the driver safe from head to toe. That is our responsibility to our customers who believe in us,” said Yves Morizot, owner and founder of Stand21.
Racing drivers and enthusiasts from Malaysia and Singapore will be happy to know that Stand21 is much more accessible now as the latest to join their exclusive dealer network is Fong Mui Garage R Trading Pte Ltd, whose racing team Team HKS Garage R finished second in the Sports Production category at this year’s Merdeka Millenium Endurance (MME) race.
“We have been racing in this region for years now and we are clearly aware of the consequences that heat stress can have on a driver’s performance. When one’s body temperature increases, fatigue sets in and the muscles start to numb over time,” said Lawrence Lee, team principal of Team HKS Garage R and managing director of Fong Mui Garage R Trading Pte Ltd.
“Drivers then need to keep themselves hydrated and they need to perspire so as to cool their bodies down. We are glad we discovered Stand21′s HSC range of racewear; a driver’s clothing can make so much of a difference!”