The in situ profiles of the piston skirt and cylinder bore surface are subject to thermo-elastic global deformation due to differential operating temperatures and forces. In operation, a lubricant film is entrained into and pressurized within the gap between these profiles. This film not only supports the prevailing contact load, but also inhibits direct interaction of surfaces, thus reducing friction and thereby improving fuel efficiency. The reduction of reciprocating mass in motorsport applications has been achieved through the use of partial circumferential skirts for a number of years now. The response of the shape to both mechanical and structural loadings differs from the classic full circumferential skirt studies. This paper provides a ‘snapshot’ into how the inherent piston side load is supported by the piston skirt. It highlights the importance of the operational temperature on the skirt profile, conjunctional gap and the lubricant film. Additionally, it shows how a given piston skirt shape and its structural stiffness perform in operation.

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