This is a photo of the cracked...
This is a photo of the cracked connecting rod that engine builder Keith Dorton used as an example in his discussion on finding the true reason for part failures in order to build better racing engines.
The next wave of development JE and other leading performance piston manufacturers may take advantage of is special coatings that are actually "printed" on the piston skirts in specific patterns. Golya shared some research that has shown certain raised patterns actually help reduce friction by controlling oil in the cylinder bore. We're very interested to see how this one turns out in the next few years and will keep an eye on it for you.
The Value of Coatings
Several presenters also touched on the value of coatings in various areas of the engine. Engine builder Bill Schlieper pointed out that hard-coating your valves can actually help improve valve control in dirt environments.
Gary Stanton surprised attendees...
Gary Stanton surprised attendees by bringing along an SLA model of the clean sheet head he has designed for Midget racing and allowed everyone to handle it and ask all the questions they wanted.
Dirt racing is hard on the entire induction system no matter how well you try to seal the engine and filter the incoming air, but it can be especially damaging to the valve seats. The dirt can actually increase the rate of wear of the seat causing the valve to sit deeper in the head. Many racers will simply reset the valve lash and keep going, but this also causes the installed height of the valvespring to be taller. This, in turn reduces the spring pressure and can lead to valve bounce and float. Schlieper says he has seen this phenomenon reduced by using valves that have had a DLC coating applied to the seats.
The Fight for Efficiency
Dr. Andy Randolph of Earnhardt Childress Racing pointed out research that showed just how much more horsepower could be gained in the racing engines we're building if we can only increase the efficiency at which we burn the fuel by just a few percentage points.
For example, in a modern NASCAR Sprint Cup engine, the fuel flowing through the carburetor is capable of producing 2,430 horsepower. But because of incomplete fuel burn, heat loss, parasitic losses, and other inefficiencies, only approximately 850 to 900 horsepower is making it to the end of the crankshaft.
Our own Rob Fisher took part...
Our own Rob Fisher took part in a roundtable discussion that centered on utilizing new technology in circle track racing, and our Project G.R.E.E.N. initiative was a large part of the discussion.
Some of those losses are unavoidable, like the power required to pump fresh air and fuel into the combustion chamber and then push the spent gasses from combustion out the exhaust port. But others, such as drag from all the moving components can still be reduced. Thermal efficiencies are also an area where a smart engine builder can still find power. After all, think about all that heat the engine is producing that you have to pump water to cool, then pump that water to the radiator just to cool it off too. As the science of performance coatings continues to advance as well as the concept of individual cylinder tuning becomes more accepted, the modern race engine can become considerably more efficient at turning that expensive race gas into torque at the rear wheels.
Overall, the 2010 AETC conference was a great success. Many in attendance said that they could take the information presented right back to their shops to improve performance of their own race engines. It definitely gave us plenty of ideas for future stories to help you go faster and suffer fewer engine failures.