The Future of Engine Bearings
The future is here for engine bearings. Two developments in the automotive industry will likely be shaking up the bearings you see on parts store shelves pretty soon.

During the presentation of Federal Mogul's Bob Sturk, the engineer revealed that Europe will be requiring all new cars to be easily recycled. This means that the lead that has been used in engine bearings for decades will no longer be allowed. Right now, this is a Europe-only rule, but it will also affect domestic automakers because if they hope to export their cars to Europe they must conform to the rules as well. Meanwhile pressure to improve fuel economy will be leading to more and more hybrid vehicles running combustion engine equipped with start/stop technology. Start/stop is the buzzword for an engine that shuts down on its own when not needed (like sitting at a stop light) and restarts on its own with the help of the hybrid's electric motor when you step back on the accelerator. This technology can help save gas, but it is also very hard on the engine bearings. Every time the engine stops spinning, the oil loses its hydrodynamic wedge and the crank and rods can settle against the bearings. Then, when the engine is restarted you can have metal to metal contact.

Combined, this means bearing manufacturers like Federal Mogul must create a new line of bearings that use no lead but are tougher than ever to handle 100,000 miles or more in a start/stop engine. As a result, Federal Mogul has been experimenting with many different polymers to replace the lead layer in conventional tri-metal bearings, and Sturk says the company's new IROX coating shows great promise. Currently, no one in the U.S. is planning to take away the conventional tri-metal bearings that engine builders have depended on for decades, but Federal Mogul is able to come up with a more dependable bearing material that's more resistant to heat and even short-term drops in oil pressure that could be a benefit for the racing industry as well.

The True Cost of Racing
Stock car racers are quite advanced when it comes to technology in many areas. Highly advanced shock packages and ultra-light engine components come to mind. But because of a ban on almost all kinds of electronics during a race, one area where the Saturday night stock car racer seems to be behind versus other forms of motorsports is data logging.

Granted, quality data logging equipment can be expensive, and many of us feel we can get all the info we need during a track test via old-school methods. But one point Racepak's Donny Cummins made during his excellent presentation is that we as racers need to understand the true cost of our activities.

For example, Racepak did some research into the costs incurred by a typical Late Model race team running on asphalt. Racepak assumed the team would run twenty 100-lap races over the course of a season and a fresh rebuild on their racing engine would be six grand. Here's the breakdown at the bottom of this column below Cummins picture.

Add it all up and you get 8 bucks every time the race car crosses the start finish line, and that's not even including the cost of wreck repair or replacing worn parts! Now consider the fact that your race car doesn't know the difference between a race and a test session and you realize that the costs are every bit as high when testing. Suddenly, spending some bucks on data logging equipment so that you are able to collect more data and learn what you need in few test laps starts to look like a very economical decision.

Engine $3.00 per lap ($6,000 total cost)
Tires $2.00 per lap ($400 per set)
Racing Fuel $1.00 per lap ($8.00 per gallon)
Non Car Expenses $2.00 per lap (travel costs, hauler fuel, food, etc.)