In looking at and thinking about our current situation with short track racing, I have come upon a view of the situation that might make perfect sense. As with most things, it’s like when we get lost in the woods. For some unknown reason, we always seem to end up returning to the point where we first got lost. I think our sport is about to do just that.
I’m old enough to remember how it was, and lived some of it, back in the 1960s. Racers then built their own motors, constructed their own cars, welded the rollcage to the chassis, and did all of the maintenance themselves.
There were no turnkey cars or professionally built $30,000 motors or paid consultants back in the day. Why do you think Smokey Yunick was so popular? He spoke directly to, and was one of, those same constructors.
What we did have was a lot of interest in racing, sometimes huge car counts and legions of fans in the grandstands. What we have now, after “getting lost in the woods” is low car counts and nearly empty grandstands.
Maybe the answer is to get back to that time when you purchased separately all of the parts for the motor, carefully assembled it checking all of the clearances, and then torqued all of the bolts yourself. When you got done, installed it in the car, wired it up and cranked it for the first time, it was truly something special.
When you do it all yourself, you know everything about it, and you take a lot of pride in knowing it was your hard work and attention to details that made it run so well. And when you beat the competition, it becomes even sweeter.
It’s the same for the chassis. There were no chassis gurus back in the day, only innovation and hard work. Teams tried anything and everything to try to gain an edge on the other teams. We came out of all of that with new products and new technology.
What I’m afraid of is that our society has evolved in a similar fashion to the sport of racing. We have come to expect having things handed to us and the only sweat equity we have in our racing anymore is a signature on a check or a credit card receipt.
Maybe what we need are kit cars. I came across this very idea recently while looking through the first issue of Circle Track magazine printed sometime in 1982. The title was “Chrysler Kit Cars—The Short Track Stocker That Comes in a Box.”
The kits came, as described in a caption of a photo showing all of the parts laid out, “Pre-engineered and ready to race, every last detail of a Kit Car’s construction has been executed in hardware.” And there was even a kit car motor talked about in that article.
Right now you can buy a Ford Cobra kit car, a dune buggy kit, and more. Why not a race car kit car? It’s because nobody has taken the time to assemble the parts list and make it available. I think there are still many teams out there that can and want to build their own cars and motors from scratch.
The staff here at CT will be discussing just this topic in the coming weeks and it would be interesting to put our own motor together using a parts list we develop. We need to do this build ourselves and document all of the steps and procedures to demonstrate that this is either very possible, or not. And we’ll compile a price list covering all of the components to document exactly how much the build will cost.
What the industry has available today as far as the quality of parts is unbelievable. The CNC revolution and other machinery innovations have provided us with more exact dimensioning for our parts like never before. Again, back in the day, you really had to measure the crank journals, pistons and bores carefully and they didn’t always measure up.
In today’s world, I bet the tolerances are much tighter to being what is needed and so the parts go together much better. It would be much more appropriate now to attempt building your own motor than it was back then. It was a necessity in 1965, it would be cheaper and more fun to do a build today, even if money was no object.
I need to know your thoughts on this. Please email or mail me your ideas. There’s no need to put your name on your correspondence if you don’t want to, but don’t hold back your opinion. Are there still mechanically minded racers out there who would love to turn their garage into a mini-motor plant? I’m betting my piston rings there are.
If you have comments or questions about this or anything racing related, send them to my email address: Bob.Bolles@sorc.com, or mail can be sent to Circle Track, Senior Tech Editor, 9036 Brittany Way, Tampa, FL 33619.
Reverse Rotation Motors
On the mind at the moment is engine rotation and how the chassis reacts planting the tires and maintaining the traction. Clockwise verses reverse rotation engines. Would you guys be involving anything like this in an article in the future?
Smokey tried a little of that at some point in time. What happens now with the torque of the motor is that the engine tries to rotate the rearend in a counter clockwise direction when you face toward the front of the car. This loads the left rear tire upon acceleration. I know this because I put a car on scales, loaded the axle and watched the LR scale weight go up.
Because acceleration takes away some of the available grip from the rear tires, we need more grip to control the wheelspin. With this rotation of the rearend and the resulting loading of the LR tire, we also see a rise in the crossweight which tightens the car as well as providing a more even loading of the rear tires which produces more overall traction for that pair.
If we reversed the rotation of the engine, the opposite would occur and the car would become very loose off the corners. It would be better to leave things alone in that department.
Gear Ratio Information
I have a question pertaining to the gear ratios in a rearend. I somewhat understand it from the article “Rearend Gear Guide—Gear Ratio Rationale” (April ’09) but I’m still not sure of what I need.
I’m looking for the best rearend gear ratio for the best cornering performance. Which direction should I go, higher or lower (which way is which on the numerical scale)? I think I should go lower, but I’m just getting into all of the gearing and ratio stuff so I need some schooling on it.
First off, a higher gear relates to a lower gear ratio number. I think higher used to refer to a higher speed with the same engine rpm. A lower gear is a higher ratio number and therefore a higher rpm for the same speed.
Gear ratio has nothing to do with cornering performance. It has everything to do with getting off the corners. Choosing a gear ratio really depends on your goals. On dirt, if we are continually spinning our tires, we might need a higher gear to reduce the rpms and torque to the rear wheels to stop the wheelspin.
If we have plenty of bite, we might want a lower gear to provide a higher rpm and more torque to help accelerate the car off the corner. The downside might be that we run out of rpm in our powerband somewhere before we have to lift for the next corner.
There is a gear ratio for every application and racetrack that will produce the quickest lap time and you need to experiment to find it. Knowing your car’s powerband—where it begins making good power and where it falls off in the upper rpm range—can help you determine which gear would be best.