A number of the accessories used in sports cars may also be used to transform non-sports cars, or performance versions of family and budget cars, into a sportier model. These accessories may have direct application for motorsports (in the case of the actual sports car); or they may be used to create aesthetic and performance enhancements for the semi-sports vehicle (in all other cases).
Common motorsports accessories used in cosmetic and mild performance enhancement situations include springs, exhaust kits and seats. The racing seat is designed to protect the body from the more violent forces inherent in taking turns and driving at high speeds; and features a four point seat belt that holds the driver’s body tightly into the bucket.
Sometimes referred to as “bucket seats”, racing seats can be seen on professional standards motorsports cars in a variety of categories, including rally cars and Formula cars of higher numbers (for example Formula 4).
A true motorsports exhaust conversion involves replacing components in the engine and the full exhaust system, as well as the pipe. The exhaust manifold may be replaced; and a turbocharger may be added to increase the power of the engine.
Larger manifolds and exhaust outlets may reduce the back pressure in the system. Back pressure is a form of resistance erroneously described as pressure – it is essentially a blockage formed in the flow of exhaust gas because of the diameter of the pipes and the turns and twists in their moulding. Releasing or reducing this resistance can improve the efficiency of the normal four stroke engine, which results in its developing more power.
Controlling the heat loss in the exhaust gas stream may also help to reduce back pressure. When heat is lost in the exhaust system (where it is still contained in the engine, under the bonnet of the vehicle), the temperature of the manifold itself rises and its overall efficiency drops off. Introducing specific exhaust cooling measures as motorsports accessories can raise the whole engine performance of a vehicle and therefore measurably increase its ability to develop the torque required for race driving.
Suspension springs may also be classed as motorsport equipment. Suspension springs are used to control the relationship of the car’s body with the ground. In very basic terms, the lower a car’s body is set, the faster it will go and the better it can handle turning at high speeds: the higher the body is set, the more it can cope with extreme terrain and sudden bumps, but the worse it is at cornering at increased speeds.
In genuine motorsports, ride comfort comes a clear second to the ability to develop power and speed, and to maintain both of these elements through tight turns. Suspension alterations for performance are therefore likely to reduce the comfort of the ride – but to increase both ride feedback and handling capabilities.
Weight management is also an important attribute of motorsports detailing. Where possible. motorsport equipment will seek to reduce the weight of the vehicle when, all other things being equal, it would have remained higher had the original fitting stayed in place. This weight reduction imperative can apply to wing mirrors, rear view mirrors, seats and even steering wheels.
The only element of a race car more important than its ability to develop speed is its ability to do so safely. The consideration of weight may pay off, therefore, against a consideration of strength.
Kitty Hawk is a motorsports journalist. She has just finished writing a book on motorsports equipment.