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Keeping cool when the heat is on

Written by Darren Parker.

Parker Motorsport Engineering - Refrigerated CoolerParker Motorsport Engineering - Refrigerated CoolerG’day and welcome to my third contribution to the Just Drag Racing website. I must be doing something right as Kym has been asking when my next article is going to be ready!

It has been a quiet month for me with Melbourne’s winter keeping us inside out of the cold. That also means away from the workshop where it is also too cold to go unless I need to do something specific. It does however give me lots of time to think about racing and things I can do to improve the GXP outside of the engine program that Peter and Arthur are taking care of.

Even though it has been cold and wet down here in Melbourne I have been concentrating on some small adjustments to the GXP while getting it ready for the 2013 season. I have fitted a new diff centre with a different ratio and freshened the transmission ready for the new engine to be completed very soon. I have made some other minor changes to the setup which should see some improvements on the track. We will see if I have been successful in November when I head up to Sydney to test prior to the Australian Nationals.

Sometimes it's what you know, not who you know

I am fortunate to be a qualified toolmaker in my day-to-day life and this has given me the opportunity to make a lot of parts for my race car rather than paying someone else to make them. On the GXP I haven’t made too much due to it coming complete from Jerry Haas Race Cars, however I have had some fun designing and manufacturing a couple of engine coolers to speed up the turnaround time between rounds.

When I was first talking to Peter Ridgeway about running these engines he made it very clear on the importance of keeping the engine cool prior to a run to avoid detonation which can hurt an engine. When you’re pushing these engines to 10,000+rpm it doesn’t take much to tip them over the edge and heat is a big problem.

There are a few commercial engine coolers available to cool the engine between rounds and all of them plumb an external unit into the radiator to circulate cold water. Obviously you don’t plug this in as soon as you return to the pits while the engine is still hot as you may do some damage via thermal shock. It is best to wait until around 10 or 15 minutes before you are called to the lanes to turn it on and very quickly you can see the temperature dropping and condensation forming on the radiator and cylinder heads!

The commercially available units are all pretty expensive, starting from around the $3,000+ mark and vary from units that require ice and water to units that are fully refrigerated and require nothing more than a 240v power supply to get them going.

Refrigerated Cooler - Version 1.0

My first version of the cooler involved an esky, Davies Craig Electric Water Pump (EWP) and a coil of Moroso aluminium fuel hose and owed me just under $300. As you can see in the pictures I made some aluminium fittings on the esky that allowed me to connect the EWP on the outside to the coil on the inside. I filled the esky with two bags of ice and filled it up with water so the coil was covered. Once plumbed into the radiator I turned it on and it circulated the radiator water from the bottom of the radiator through the coil and back into the top of the radiator. Even though it circulates from the radiator, the cold water is also forced through the engine cooling the heads and block as well. The ice unit was very efficient, however it was quite expensive to run as two bags of ice only lasted one run before they had melted and the tub was lukewarm.

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After using the ice unit for a few meetings a friend of mine who crews for a local Modified racer mentioned he had a refrigerated Glycol cooler and I was welcome to it if I wanted it. I didn’t know much about it so I went over to his place to check it out. A glycol cooler like this is used to cool beer on tap from the Keg by a home brewer. After a quick inspection and seeing its potential I accepted the gift and loaded it into the ute to take it home.

Refrigerated Cooler - Version 2.0

Once home I worked out that I could use the same principal of the ice cooler by cooling a bath of water and sitting the aluminium coil into the bath and circulating it to the radiator. On this unit I wasn’t able to mount the EWP on the side so I mounted it on top of the lid and bent up the coil so when I put the lid on it sits in the refrigerated bath of water. The big benefit being not having to buy ice during a race meeting to keep the engine cool! The only new part I needed to buy for this cooler was another roll of Aluminium fuel hose, everything else was salvaged from the esky cooler.

On each morning of qualifying or racing I turn the unit on and within a couple of hours the water in the bath is down to 5°c where it maintains that temperature until I turn the pump on. When I am ready to cool the engine I plug in two hoses with the quick release Jiffy fittings and turn the pump on. Very quickly you can feel the cold water going into the radiator and cylinder heads and the temperature in the bath rises as it is transferring heat from the coil. The bath is digitally controlled and I can set the temperature where I want.

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For both versions of my engine cooler, 12v power for the EWP is provided by the winch battery in the trailer, or when we raced in Perth without the trailer we plugged it onto the hire cars battery. The 240v refrigerated version is either run off the track supplied power, or my generator when power is not provided.

I hope you enjoyed a look at some of the parts I have made for the GXP. The actual list is much longer, but the engine cooler saved me a lot of money and does just as good a job as the commercially available units.

I would like to thank the following people for their on going support;

  • Peter Ridgeway and Arthur Sagiaris (Custom Engines)
  • Neil Hendry at Cryogen Industries
  • Nick Xerakias (ERC Fuel)
  • Paul Rogers Snr and Matt Ramsay

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