Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of The X-files of Racing articles. Our intent is to highlight products or methods that can ultimately lead racers to better performance. Topics in this series will range from bumper to bumper in an ongoing effort to supply secrets for newfound power and/or performance.
What's The Goal?We scratched our heads in wonderment of where to start this series. With so many areas of a race car that have unlocked secrets for better performance, it was difficult to know which part of a race car to introduce first.
After a lot of conversation and consultation with and by some of the industry's leaders, we landed on a beginning position that is generic in nature but would provide a basic transfer of information that will lead to newfound energy possibilities.
Following that train of thought, we focused our attention on the engine and began a search on something all racers can do to improve their power output.
Next, we wanted to line up a leader in the industry to assist us in this search. We turned to Harold Bettes, senior vice president of SuperFlow in Colorado Springs. Bettes has assembled a staff that regularly pursues the kind of information we intend to pass along.
To set the stage for this series, we sat with Bettes for a conversation that laid the foundation for this and future discussions in our so-called "X-files of Racing" articles. The main theme of these articles is to provide some knowledge that establishes a trend. Our purpose is also to discover new facts that provide previously unknown opportunities for better performance.
In addition to the trend fact-finding, this series aims to prove as well as rebut certain accepted ideas via a straightforward look at a variety of subjects. In the scheme of good testing procedures, Circle Track will shed light on performance matters for racers, especially where they can be translated into help for Saturday-night warriors.
Since our stated goal is to provide new facts as discovered in a controlled environment (e.g. chassis dyno runs, engine dyno runs, Spintron tests, and the like), it is our duty to be vigilant in presenting high-quality research.
Tracking TrendsAs Bettes pointed out, the information presented in these articles will be of trends, not necessarily absolutes of power. This is true because the gathering of data in a controlled environment will not duplicate track conditions.
For instance, a dyno run using new and better parts may show power gains in the lab, but the same results may not be seen on the track due to other forces such as chassis setup, turn banking, and track conditions. However, when viewed in the context of "possibilities," the data and results from lab-time studies may give racers information that is adaptable to performance gains.
As good as the information gathered in this adventure is, it's presented as informational opportunities and is not a guarantee for improvements. This is because power is one thing; getting it to the ground is another. As Bettes said, "At the track, the race team, car, and driver is the stack of the final compromises. We may have proven some things here in the lab, but it's impossible to manage that information for any team at a distance."
How Do We Get There?First on the list for setting criteria of testing are proper procedures. "Good testing procedures are very critical issue in the relationship of being able to prove or disprove changes or modifications or combinations of a given package.
"It's very important to have good testing procedures in your data gathering so you will have faith that what you have is very reliable, and then there will be no fear in trying to apply new facts and ideas to a race program," said Bettes.
When it comes to testing a new product or new theory, a very judicial part of the process is for the tester to resemble a blank piece of paper. That is, an examination of this nature has to be approached with no prejudiced ideas. Bettes puts it more succinctly: "If you are going to be a good tester, you cannot have any preconceived notions because you will prove those preconceptions, thereby you may be presenting ideas that are wrong or, at the very minimum, biased."
Another major part of the testing criteria is retesting. This fundamental of testing is required because a single test will not provide the security of accu-racy. For instance, say some great numbers were found on a flow bench while testing a set of heads, only to learn that the plugs weren't installed. That would, of course, be bad data that appeared on a single test. So, other building blocks for any testing are test, repeat, repeat, and repeat. As Bettes said, "There is no substitute for testing, testing, testing."
All of these criteria have become the foundational philosophy for this first venture into the X-files and will be employed in upcoming features.
What Do We Test?We then moved to the chosen subject for investigation, engine oil-specifically, synthetic engine oil as it's compared in a race engine to mineral-based engine oil (also called petroleum-based). This became our first research in the X-files series.
With the subject decided upon, Bettes turned us over to staff members Todd Poirson and Kevin Bailey to show us how our search would happen.
What Do We Use To Test?Like many lab-type investigations, there may be more than one way to obtain data, which leads to a trend. For instance, in this exercise, it may have been possible to gather info on machines such as an engine dyno or other measuring devices. However, in the case of our first examination, we landed on a chassis dyno, since we wanted to involve the entire race car instead of just the engine, or some other limited style of looking into our chosen subject matter.
With a quick investigation of the equipment, it immediately became clear that the dyno at SuperFlow would truly provide quality, consistent, and reliable information on which to base this, the first X-files article.
The dyno used was SuperFlow's AutoDyn inertia unit. For those unaware, an inertia chassis dyno is one in which the inertia drum that the car's rear wheels' contact is free-spinning.
Simply stated, this dyno style permits umbilical accessory units to take measurements and readings that may be translated into data and graphics. The data and graphic output is the result of certain parameters set forth in the kind of information that is requested in a given test or dyno run.
We used an I.M.C.A. Modified car in the comparison. The engine was a claimer V-8 with iron heads-a typical Saturday-night racing engine.
How Do We Do The Test?For our first analysis, we decided to do a comparison test on the chassis dyno among straight mineral-based oil, mineral-based oil with synthetic additives, and pure synthetic oil.
It was thought this would be a straightforward and simple comparison, which could shed some definitive light on the use of mineral-based oil versus synthetic additives versus pure synthetic. We hoped that on a performance level, this test could reveal power gain or loss (if any) between the oil types.
With that direction in mind, the method of how to test was then established. The baseline would be provided by a top-quality, mineral-based motor oil. After the data was collected from the mineral base, it would be discarded and replaced with mineral-based oil with a synthetic additive. Finally, the oil was replaced with a pure synthetic lubricant. At the end of the data collection, a graph showing the relative gain or loss in power would be produced for the fact finding in this trial.