Every rally is unpredictable. The victory may be gained only by the combination of strong will, perseverance and creativity. At the same time it is a race of technologies and materials that help pilots to perform their best skills.
It all starts with safety. The influence of permanent vibrations, loads, sudden hits on the hundreds-kilometer route on the human body equals the g-forces, experienced by astronauts. That’s why the basic material of pilots’ seats and helmets is expanded polystyrene. Due to its closed-cell structure, this foam is full of air – that makes it capable to suffer vibrations and save health and life of the driver.
The speed and performance of car directly depend on engine weight and parameters. Due to polymeric and composite materials the total weight of racing KAMAZ, for example, is 300-350 kg less than the weight of usual truck. Engineers examine racing vehicles and try to reduce weight and increase strength of almost every part and spare piece.
For example, the racing engine capacity of 800 kW requires the high-power cooling system. The metal fan weights 50 kg and has over 1 m in diameter, like a real aero turbine. The weight of polymeric fan doesn’t exceed 10 kg. And it is compact, as well as other composite engine parts (caps, filter boxes, air and fuel pipes), which guarantees better performance parameters.
A piston skirt made of polymeric materials reduces friction and minimizes wear and tear of piston system, which helps to increase engine capacity by 120-150 h.p. and raise engine rotation rate by 12% with less wear and tear.
Rally usual environment is uneven sandy or rocky slopes. As water, dust and dirt plug unit suspension and the car has to overcome high-angled obstacles, the chassis reliability becomes crucially important. Modern composite materials are 1.4-2 times stronger and up to 10 times more resistant to vibrations than traditional metals and alloys.
Polymeric laying between spring leaves reduces dry friction on uneven surfaces and ensures smooth ride, especially on broken roads. Unlike the usual rubber bumpers, closed-cell polystyrene spring bumpers not only serve as stoppers but also take up to 30% of wheel load as additional elastic elements with progressive performance.
A modern racing truck has a pneumatic system with up to 200 m of air pipes. Plastic material not only helps to reduce weight but also resists corrosion and ensures maintainability by its quick-dismountable connectors.
Today each car is more an electronic device, which requires reliable electric connections and communications. Racing vehicles go through extreme conditions with high temperature, water, dust and dirt, high vibrations and physical impact, caused by movements and deformation of chassis and car body. At the same time a truck has kilometers of electric wires inside it and wire insulation must be light, strong and fireproof, resistant to 150oC heat. Corrugated polyvinyl chloride coverage, polymeric string braiding and heat-shrink sleeves are perfect for such purpose.
It is also important to fix cables securely on car body and frame. Plastic details, such as adhesive-backed fasteners and plastic clips, increase strength and save time for maintenance service.
3-5 mm thick polymeric spray coating with heat-resisting properties of regular 50 mm thick heat insulation is used for temperature-sensitive parts and blocks.
As we see, almost all vehicles that took part in Silk Way Rally have polymeric elements, as it is the only way for a vehicle to outperform itself.