A lot changed about PRI this past year. New ownership, the return to Indy, and being merged with IMIS, but other than the location, little changed for the Advanced Engineering Technology Conference (AETC).

The three days leading up the PRI tradeshow are all about hardcore engine technology. Each day gives attendees a variety of speakers covering many different topics, all pertaining to the most hardcore aspects of race engines. Each day has five speakers presenting on whatever they specialize in, feedback from some of the brightest minds in the race engine world (builders in attendance), and great door prizes and give-a-ways from the sponsors. When the conference breaks for lunch, you get the chance to sit and break bread with the expert and ask all the questions you have. Each table becomes a mini round table on many different topics. With this many brilliant minds in one place, you can learn a ton just from listening!

Although the AETC doesn’t just cover circle track engines, much of what is discussed can be transferred over. Even the stuff that doesn’t (like forced induction technology) still gets you thinking about ways to transfer the theory and logic to what circle track racers do.

If you are an engine builder, engine mechanic, racer, or simply a guy who wants to learn more about engines, the AETC is a great way to spend a couple of days. If you’ve never been, 2014 is the perfect time to go!

Ben Strader—EFI University

Advanced Performance Tuning For Forced Induction Systems

When Ben Strader from the EFI University took the stage I honestly wasn’t expecting to take much away from his portion of the conference. This is in no way a negative comment or narrative about Ben, but what he was presenting was very far outside of the circle track world.

Ben talked about advanced tuning for forced-induction EFI combinations—not exactly in the circle track wheelhouse. But some of what he talked about really made me think. Ben discussed exhaust size and how normal atmospheric pressure can affect it. It was all linked to restrictions and how boost changes as restriction changes. While the boost portion of the conversation doesn’t necessarily apply to us, the concept of minimizing restriction does.

To put the theory into a practical situation, if you have a race motor that made 650 hp on the engine dyno, using a large round-tube header, then put a stock, cast manifold on the same engine when you put it in the car, it isn’t going to make the same amount of power. The idea is that the same amount of air can get in, but less air can get out. With forced induction you can add more pressure on the intake side and force it through the engine, but in a naturally aspirated circle track engine, we depend on the atmospheric pressure to push the air though the engine. Because of this, header size is extremely important.

From there, the conversation talked about pressure gradients across the intake valves and how it relates to volumetric efficiency. While all of this is important, we simply don’t have enough room to go into all the details.

Harold Bettes—Power Technology Consultants

The Myths, Legends, and Facts of Airflow, Engines, and Dynos

Harold Bettes was the second speaker and MC of the conference. He presented on the facts and myths of airflow and dynos. This informative lecture covered a lot of information, starting with outlining an effective attitude to have for airflow R&D testing, as well as some basic airflow facts. Harold went on to talk about the different between testing intake and exhaust flow, stating that all exhaust flow testing should be done using an exhaust pipe.

Harold discussed airflow and valve shape and how the two are connected. He explained the important aspects at low, mid, and high lift, and how the valve, seat shape, port shape, and port size effect airflow. In the same discussion he talked about how port shape is more influential than size.

Harold explained the importance of port molds as a design tool and how effective they can be when designing a port. Port molds allow for careful measurement of port cross sections, accurately locating the minimum cross section, and they are relatively inexpensive, but yield valuable results. The information Harold presented can be extremely helpful to anyone who regularly works with cylinder heads and airflow.

Lee Carducci— Arrow Racing Engines

How to Embrace and Transform the Latest OEM Engines and Technology into Competitive Race Engines

Lee Carducci comes from Arrow Racing Engines, who builds the engines for the Dodge Viper race cars. Lee’s presentation was about how Arrow designs and builds its engines and components to live on the race track. Coincidentally, much of what they use are unmodified OEM parts.

We are seeing more and more OEM engines being used in the lower ranks of circle track racing. Many Mini Stocks, Bombers, Hornets, or Tuner Car classes require an unmodified factory four-cylinder engine be used in competition. While this certainly keeps costs low, there is always some grey area in the rules.

Outside of the stock engine classes, we have also seen classes emerge that require stock or mildly modified V-8s. We have seen a lot of engines from the Chevy LS series being used. Mildly modified OEM engines being used for oval track racing is a great way to keep costs down for lower series of racing. It will be exciting to see how this trend evolves.

Ron Totunno and Greg West—Federal Mogul

Inside Sealing—Fel Pro Laserweld Technology

The gentlemen from Fel Pro spent their time on stage covering the finer points of engine sealing. While there are a lot of things that need to be sealed, the main focus of the presentation was head gaskets. The duo explained the basic construction of the company’s MLS head gaskets, going into detail about each component. They explained the manufacturing processes for each layer, as well as each parts contribution to common goal of sealing the heads to the block.

When the presentation moved past the make up of the gaskets, other aspects of quality engine sealing were discussed. The pair talked about surface finish and what is required with each of its line of gaskets, surface flatness, bolt prep, and torqueing procedures. Cylinder pressure, clamp load, and cylinder head lift were also discussed.

The presentation also covered testing procedures that Fel Pro uses on its line of MLS head gaskets. The company measures head lift and deflection at 1,700 psi of cylinder pressure with 9,000 pounds per bolt load. The head gaskets are also tested under various levels of preignition. Preignition cause large spikes in cylinder pressure, as well as heat, which can kill head gaskets.

To sum it all up, the keys to good head to block sealing is to reduce head lift by using the right block and cylinder heads, using the correct fasteners for the application with good thread lubricant, apply the correct amount of clamp load, and avoid spikes in cylinder pressure. Keep those things in mind and you’ll have a happy engine!