Do Rally Or Race Cars Have Air Conditioning? (Explained For Beginners)

Rally cars do not have air conditioning because these systems cause drag on the engine and slow them down. 

Do any race or rally cars have air conditioning? Does air conditioning cause a significant drag on the car’s engine? How do racers stay cool without air conditioning? Keep reading and find out!  

Let’s Find Out If Rally Or Race Cars Have Air Conditioning

Rally cars and race cars do not usually have air conditioners. Air conditioners draw power from the engine, which could decrease the vehicle’s speed. Additionally, air conditioners can waste fuel, increasing energy demand in the car. 

Rally car parked interior seat
Rally car parked interior seat

Rally cars and race cars are similar machines. However, the primary difference is their legality and where they can and can’t be driven. 

  • Race cars are designed for racetrack racing. They contain only one seat for their driver and have multiple safety features.
  • Rally cars are driven for rally races. These are primarily dirt tracks that require these cars to have adaptable designs for a constantly shifting terrain. 

Rally cars can also be driven on public roads as long as they abide by speed limits. They can’t race on roadways, but since they may occasionally need to drive on roads, they need several features. 

Rally cars must have headlights, seatbelts, and a passenger seat. These cars must have certain regulatory features that make them road safe. 

However, race cars and rally cars have several similarities. 

Both have been designed to optimize speed and aerodynamic design. This means every aspect of these cars is intended to prevent drag and maximize energy output. 

Race and rally cars do not have air conditioners because the A/C pulls power from the engine. This is true even for regular cars, but it’s not significant enough to considerably drag the vehicle’s speed. 

Every inch of speed and power matters in rally racing, which is why they lack certain features. This is also why rally cars have a roof vent. These roof vents, also known as roof scoops, are meant to allow fresh air for the driver and create a vacuum inside the car. 

This vacuum prevents the cabin from filling with sand and dirt while the rally car races. 


Are There Any Types of Rally Or Race Cars That Have Air Conditioning? 

Race and rally cars do not usually have air conditioning. However, some do have ventilation systems or alternative climate control methods. These include new A/C systems, seat blowers, and built-in suit climate controls. 

Race cars can become as hot as 140 degrees Fahrenheit but usually level off around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This is an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous heat level, especially for prolonged periods. 

Rally cars can get even hotter. Many reach above 150 degrees Fahrenheit. The scoop roof somewhat rectifies this, but it can still be pretty unbearable. 

Race and rally cars have several unique features that keep the driver cool on the track. Although air conditioning units are too energy-intensive, drivers get cooled with unique suites and vents. 

Some ways drivers stay cool on the track include: 

  • Roof vents (rally cars especially)
  • Ventilated suites (race cars especially) 
  • Cooling seats (both have these features sometimes) 

Cooling suits are an impressive method of climate control when the A/C can’t be added to the vehicle. These specially designed suits contain tubes running up and down the whole outfit. 

These tubes have cold liquid pumped through them, which helps keep the body temperature low. Race and rally cars are a scorching environment. 

There are a few exceptions to in-car cooling systems, which we will explore briefly below. 

Dakar Rally 

Dakar rallies are incredibly intense. They take place annually in the deserts of Dakar, Senegal. These rally cars have air conditioning and heating because of the extreme shifts in temperature in the desert. 

The length of the course is another factor. While most normal tracks can last a few hours, Dakar can stretch for days. The nights are cold, and the days unbearably hot. Participants must train before engaging in the activity to prepare for the experience. 

Climate controls are considered necessary for these courses. 

F1 Racing 

F1, also known as Formula One racing, is an international racing event. The name arises from the standard design all cars must abide by to be entered into the competition. 

While these cars don’t have A/C, they have several features that help drivers stay cool. 

In addition to dousing riders in ice water, drivers keep dry ice in their cabins to keep their temperature down.

Riders also use cooling vests to keep their core cool at all times during their race. 

Why Don’t Rally Or Race Cars Have Air Conditioning? 

Yellow race track car parked
Yellow race track car parked

Race cars don’t have air conditioning for several reasons. The main reason is that the air conditioning adds extra weight to the vehicle, slowing it down on the track. Additionally, the air conditioning pulls power away from the engine, slowing down the car. 

Air conditioning creates extra drag on race and rally cars. This is because the motor for the car’s A/C blower pulls energy from the engine. 

Have you ever started your vehicle’s A/C or heater and noticed a momentary shift in power?

It might cause your car lights to flicker or the engine to jump mildly. This is the power drag. 

While this is excusable in regular cars, it decreases a race and rally car’s performance.

How Do Rally Or Race Car Drivers Keep Themselves Cool?

In addition to systems built into the cars, race and rally car drivers have several methods of staying cool. Primarily they use hydration methods such as consistently drinking water and electrolyte drinks. However, they can also wear cold packs, take ice baths, and utilize air vents. 

Race and rally car drivers need to be careful to avoid heat stroke. This extremely dangerous heat-related illness is caused by the body’s temperature rising above 104 degrees. 

Since these drivers must wear so much protective gear, it gets difficult for the driver’s body’s cooling system to engage. When the wind can’t reach the skin’s sweat glands, it’s hard for the body to cool down. 

Racing requires drivers to train before getting behind the wheel. Many people don’t know that race and rally racers need to train like Olympic athletes. This conditions them for the extreme conditions they must endure during the race. 

What Is the Arctic Racing Air Cooling System? 

The Artic Racing Air Conditioning system is a specially designed cooling system for race cars. It’s specially designed to be light and not to create a drag on the engine. This system can improve the comfort and well-being of the racer by circulating cooled air through the cabin. 

Although not officially used in racing, the Arctic Racing Air system is a small, portable cooling system. This can help circulate cooled air inside the cabin without significantly increasing weight. 

It utilizes similar technology as regular thermodynamic air conditioners. However, it uses significantly less energy with a higher production of cooled air. This makes it a better candidate for race cars since they’re light, unintrusive, and effective.


Race and rally cars become extremely hot. Between the scorching sun and the powerful engine, there are many things working against the driver. 

To stay cool, drivers deploy an intense training program and utilize hydration drinks during the race. The drivers can push through when these cooling tools are used in tandem with ventilation systems and open roofs. 

Hopefully, one day there will be an innovative cooling system. But for now, we can admire them and their endurance! 


Wikipedia: Rallying

WikiMotors: What Is a Race Car?

Medium: Race Market 25 Most Asked Questions about rally cars

Fox Weather: Keeping NASCAR drivers from overheating is a balance of weight, aerodynamics and safety

Racing Adventures: Don’t Sweat It: Staying Cool on The Race Track

Speed Hunters: Blood, Sweat & Gears: Preparing For Dakar

Wikipedia: Dakar

Wikipedia: Formula One

F1 Chronicle: How Do Formula 1 Drivers Stay Cool?

CDC: Heat Stress – Heat Related Illness

The Conversation: Intense training – why F1 is one of the most physically and mentally demanding sports on the planet

Arctic Racing Air

Motor Trend: Race Car Air Conditioning – Chilled Like No Other