Here are the spec pistons....
Here are the spec pistons. You can see the scuffing on the skirts that comes both from the bore distortion and the fact that this is a short deck block. To get the stroke the crank actually pulls the piston skirts out of the bottom of the bores.
But if a racer has his engine assembled by someone that just wipes off the parts and bolts everything together, he could very likely have a very frustrating experience.
I assembled several of these kits in 2007 and the horsepower was pretty consistent with good tuning. These engines were then returned after the season for rebuilds or maintenance as needed. After checking, I found that multiple engines had distortion in the cylinder bores up to 0.0025 of an inch. This amount of distortion simply isn't acceptable in real race engines because it leads to poor ring seal and piston problems. The easiest solution is to bore the cylinders 0.005 over to clean up the distortion. But when we called about getting 0.005 or 0.010 oversize pistons we were told they are not legal. Re-sleeving the cylinder bores would cost more than the entire block, so to rebuild these engines properly a brand-new block and a new set of pistons have to be purchased!
Then, there is no way to prevent the cylinders from distorting right away, again. This certainly does not seem very cost-effective to me. I thought the reason behind this type of engine is to keep the cost down. It's a little bit like a bait-and-switch. The racer is only told about the up-front cost. What he isn't told about is the cost of maintaining these engines. Considering the cost of a proper rebuild, race teams would be better off purchasing a brand-new spec engine every year, and even if we are talking about the basic cost of $25,000 plus per engine, he's already exceeded the cost of a more durable 18-degree engine in less than three years.
But things have already started changing pretty quickly-and I'm not talking about the parts being used. At the start of 2008-just one year into the program-the kit price has already gone to $23,900! And because there is only one resource for obtaining these engine kits, there is no competition and no guarantee that prices won't go up again in the future. Take, for example, the crankshaft for the spec engine. It costs $2,046, and it's the same crank I can buy direct from the manufacturer for $1,200. The difference is the $1,200 crank doesn't have the tracking code that makes it spec-legal. There's no performance or durability to be gained from the spec component that costs nearly twice as much! Now we are at the point that racing two seasons (and replacing your engine instead of a rebuild) will exceed the cost of a true 18-degree race motor.
I understand that we have to have rules to keep those with unlimited budgets from ruining the fun for everyone else. And I'm a proponent of intelligent ways to help maintain costs for the racers. But being forced to buy parts from one source for this type of series is like forcing Tiger Woods to buy his clubs from Kmart.
We can buy these encrypted parts and put together these engines and still make a living, but what a boring way to do it! And I think the effect will be the same for the race teams and the fans at the race track. I will always cherish the days of competing against others in the business. Ford racing against Chevy and Mopar. Crane versus Isky versus Comp. We've designed and built our own oil pans, valve covers, headers, accessories and worked with several different manufacturers to design other components that make more power and last longer. The real fun in racing comes when you have the freedom to find ways to overcome the current limitations of the equipment.
In the short term of the sealed crate and spec motor era, some will save money-and a few will certainly make money. But motorsports in general will surely suffer because of it. I don't have all the answers, but I am certain that the direction we are headed isn't a good one. And as always, I welcome your responses, whether they are critical or positive.