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Off to the races: an industry pro uses his expertise to help revolutionize the world of auto racing.

What could swimming pools and race cars possibly have in common?

The answer, thanks to a little happenstance--and a lot of ingenuity--is the multiport valve.

Multiport valves help divert water flow where it's needed most: to the main drain, the skimmer or a waterfeature.

Now that same technology is being used in race cars to divert engine coolant--and help win races.

But taking the multiport valve from pool to race car was a bumpy road, to say the least. Take it from Joe Cohen; owner/president of Fail Safe in Aurora, Colo.

Turns out, Cohen is a longtime friend of Craig Lawrence, crew chief for 1991 LeMans series champion Price Cobb. When Cobb told Cohen about the problem his race-car engines were having with wildly fluctuating temperatures, the light bulb went on.

"I knew I could divide the flow," says Cohen, whose company makes safety vacuum release systems. "I could control how much fluid goes to the radiator for dissipation and how much would go around it. It's like mixing hot and cold water in the shower."

Cobb and Cohen conceived the idea together, and Cohen had a prototype design ready within a month. The knueder (pronounced ka-nuder) valve was born.

At first, drivers had an easier time with the name than believing all the things it promised to do: Keep engine temperature constant, plus or minus two degrees; provide maximum power in all situations; give the engine better responsiveness; and produce better gas mileage to reduce pit stops.

It didn't help that the original knueder was a 15-inch, 5.45-pound monster that raised eyebrows.

But when it worked, the knueder became music to drivers' ears.

Since then, it has been slimmed down to a svelte 8 inches and 1.7 pounds, and is winning accolades and races.

Jon Fogarty of Dorricott Racing won the Toyota Atlantic CART series last autunm in Denver using the valve. The knueder also was on the American LeMans series champion car, the Nighthawk. Fifteen knueders are already installed on other cars, and big-name racing teams such as Players and Team Green are readying to test it in their vehicles. Teams such as Joe Gibbs Racing and some NASCAR outfits are approaching Cohen with their engine problems as well.

Cohen started in the pool construction business in 1971 and began his own service company in 1976, learning every facet of the business and earning 17 different manufacturers' certifications.

"When I was 31, I began designing hydraulics," says Cohen, who along with Cobb calls the new company Vapor Trail, LLC. "Now I'm 52 and I've just applied for my ninth patent. And it's the pool industry that's allowed me to develop my technical expertise."

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Author:Dumas, Bob
Publication:Pool & Spa News
Date:Jan 24, 2003
Words:448
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