ECU -it seems that those three little letters strike fear into many a promoter, track owner, or sanction head whenever they hear it. ECU stands for Engine Control Unit. Also called an ECM (Engine Control Module), these little black boxes control all of an electronically fuel injected engine's functions and are found in 100 percent of the street cars coming out of the OEM factories today. So why are we writing about it?

Recently, we ran across Keith Iaia. Midget racers will know that name because Keith Iaia was the man behind the Ford Focus Midget engine. His company S.C.R.E.A.M. built that program from the ground up for USAC. Well, Keith is back with an all new motor based on the GM Ecotec engine and it's electronically controlled and he has a major sanction backing him up.

We caught up with Keith to get an inside look at this motor and find out just exactly why Midget racers the country, and dare we say the world, over will find this new little jewel just the ticket to bring more youngsters into Midget racing and put more people in the grandstands.

"I was a Midget racer in my younger years and one of those who quite frankly got priced out of the sport," explains Iaia. "When it was time to go to the next level I couldn't afford to buy an Ed Pink Ford which was the thing to have at that time. So being a tool maker as a trade, and in the marine engine business at the time, I started looking for alternatives."

Espousing a "do no harm mentality," Iaia is quick to point out that he isn't here to replace any engine or any engine builder. He's merely trying to create another alternative for racers, a cost-effective alternative specifically to the high-end Midget engine technology. He wants to provide an avenue for younger racers to step into a Midget without having to shoulder a big financial burden.

"We've got millions of kids out there running Karts and Micros and Quarter Midgets and all that stuff," says Iaia. "The natural place for them to go is into a Midget and most of them don't. Why? Because at the national competition level, a). the complexity (of the engine) is enough to scare most dads way far away. It's a very complex, very difficult engine to keep running. And b). most dads don't have the better part of $100,000 a year to put into the engine maintenance aspect of their racing program. And it scares them off. At least this (motor) provides them a place to get them from a kart into a Midget."

It's the classic stepping stone and just what Iaia's other projects-the lesser-known Honda Midget motor and the wildly popular Ford Focus program-were also designed to accomplish.

But the Ecotec program has taken the concept of affordable Midget racing to the next level, both in design and reality.

The Drawing Board
Working with GM engineers, Iaia started with a stock 2.4-liter Ecotec engine which is the standard powerplant in the Chevy Malibu and HHR as well as the Saturn Sky, Aura, and Vue. In its stock configuration it produces between 164 and 176 hp and features chain-driven dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder. It was an excellent foundation on which Keith would work his magic. But when he got the green light from GM to use the proverbial clean sheet of paper on the design, his initial thought was somewhat traditional.

"I'm old school," he explained. "So, right away I looked toward mechanical fuel injection to see what it would look like on this thing-the guys at GM were patient with me but before I got finished they tapped me on the shoulder and said 'hey, let's take a look at doing it this other way here.'"