Project G.R.E.E.N. Camaro...
Project G.R.E.E.N. Camaro Super Late Model at speed on New Smyrna Speedway's half-mile oval.
When we began Project G.R.E.E.N. it's safe to say that everybody on the team had his or her own set of expectations. Those of us deeply rooted in oval track racing wondered whether or not the on-track testing phase of the project would validate the results we saw on the dyno. If you've already read "The Proof is in the Stopwatch" on page 26, then you know they did. If you haven't read it, please go back and do so. I'll wait...
OK, now you know that our little EFI/E85-fueled engine combination bested every other combination, some as much by 0.5 a second, an eon in oval track racing. Add that up over five laps and you get more than a 2-second improvement (now you know where the headline on this month's cover came from).The results of the test session were impressive though not all that surprising when you take an analytical look at torque curves and things of the such. But we left that analysis up to resident engine gurus Jim McFarland and Forrest Jehlik. What we'll talk about here is exactly what all this means to oval track racing, both from an industry perspective and a racer perspective.
Team owner Marty Zehr and...
Team owner Marty Zehr and Rob Fisher discuss the potential benefits we may see with the EFI setup in the car.
But rather than me sit here and spout off how great the EFI/E85 engine package was, we're going to the one guy who knows better than anyone-our driver Dalton Zehr. Longtime readers of this magazine will recognize that name. In the past he has driven several of our project cars and has been featured in the magazine. Dalton has raced and won in just about everything from Bandeloros to Trucks to Super Late Models. And while he's only 19 years old, he has more hours in the cockpit than some racers twice his age.
So, Dalton, what did you think?
As soon as I got on the gas, it would pull from the beginning of the run all the way to the end of the run. And it was a good, solid pull; it never pitched, it never burped, it pulled really strong throughout the entire run, which is what I loved. The power off the bottom (end) felt like I had 100 more horsepower, largely because of the way the torque curve is shaped.
Could you pick out where this engine combo would have the biggest benefit?
He's not just the driver-here...
He's not just the driver-here Dalton installs one of the Optima Yellow Top batteries that powered the Semtech Portable Emissions Measuring System.
It was very easy to tell that the real advantage of this engine combination will be in passing coming out of a turn. As I said, the torque off the bottom is incredible but the motor continues to pull all the way down the straightaway. It doesn't spool up and peak like a carb, there's gobs of torque available the whole way around the track. Plus, you don't have to gear the car way up to get the motor in the usable torque band. You're already there, so the EFI gives you more options.
Other than the lap times, what other differences did you find between the carburetor version and EFI?
Tunability for one. On the first run with the carbureted version of the motor, the motor would lay down coming off the corner. We started adjusting the carb, changing jets, and so on, but by the time we got the problem solved, it had begun raining and our whole day of testing was washed out. Now, we've had carb issues like that in the past, on race day, but having to add an extra day of testing because we spent too much time trying to fix a problem and no time on the track is no fun.
Now, on the first run with the EFI configuration, we were rich. I pulled into the pits, the guys plugged in a laptop and in less than two minutes they had the motor dialed in perfectly. That's the beauty of EFI, if you have a problem it's a lot easier and a lot faster to fix it and get it right.
How do you think it'll race?
AMSOIL's RD50 race oil kept...
AMSOIL's RD50 race oil kept our CT525 race motor well lubricated during the exhaustive test.
We plan on finding that out real soon (laughs). In race conditions, the lighter weight of the LS3 is a big deal and I would absolutely love to run this combo-the aluminum block will be a lot easier on the front tires. Because of that lighter weight and the torque the engine produces, there is a definite possibility that this car could run with a Super Late Model here in Florida. (Ed Note: Typical Florida SLM's use four-barrel engines putting out 600-plus hp while our EFI/E85 combo dyno'd at 540.) Remember, our best lap time on old tires was an 18.2, that's a respectable Super Late race speed around New Smyrna.
What about the E85 versus the race gas?
Some people might say that because we used E85 as opposed to gas that our fuel consumption would go up, which it did. But I could feel a noticeable difference when we switched the EFI configuration from race gas to the E85. And the stopwatch showed a difference too. So yeah, the fuel consumption went up, but my lap times went down. So in a race I have to carry more fuel, big deal, you just alter your rear percentage. I mean, a racer would carry a 55-gallon drum in the back if it meant extra horsepower. Not to mention the fact that E85 is half the price or better than race fuel."
Can you see any drawbacks to this engine combination?
Marty and team member Mark...
Marty and team member Mark Jones work on installing a fuel pressure regulator from Fore Precisionworks. Running EFI required us to make 60 psi of fuel pressure at the fuel rails, something easily accomplished with the right regulator.
In reality, no. There are only benefits-no loss. The only con is getting the tech officials to sign off on it and I think that's only a matter of time. Once the tech guys get used to checking these motors, they'll see tech will go even faster at the track. There's no reason why it shouldn't go that way. Think about it-there is a reason why every street car out there is EFI.
So you see this type of powerplant as the future of oval track racing?
I think this is where racing is headed, it's just a matter of how long it takes use to get there. Any time there is a gain in on the track, racers will want it, whatever that "it" actually is. The test shows that what we did made the car better in every way.
Team Owner's Turn
We unload our Camaro-bodied...
We unload our Camaro-bodied race car with high hopes for a good test session. Not only were our expectations met, they were exceeded. Check out the flow meter for the Portable Emissions Measuring System hanging below the right side of the car. We were mildly concerned that this $25,000 piece of test equipment would bottom out on the track. Thankfully it didn't.
Dalton races for his family-owned team, so we wanted to get input from the guy who writes the checks-his father, Marty. On-track performance is, obviously, critical from the standpoint of winning but we learned a lot of additional information during the test that makes EFI a natural fit for today's oval track racing. During the post test discussion with the team in the back of the hauler Marty had a very definite view about the winning engine combination saying, "Sign me up. I would buy one of these engines right now if I could race it."
Well, for starters carbs are finicky sometimes you want to take a 2-pound sledge to them, but we found that the ease of tuning the EFI setup saved us a bunch of time. And if you think about it, if something goes wrong with the module, having an extra module laying around is way cheaper than an extra carb.
So there's a financial advantage to this
Look at it this way, a good 9:1 motor to race down here in Florida will run you $25,000 to $30,000. There are engine builders out there who are selling 600-plus-hp LS3 fuel-injected engines for less than half that and they run on pump gas. It's a no brainer to me. As a team owner, save me money and I'll race more often, it's just that simple.
The Bigger Picture
Circle Track's Bob Bolles...
Circle Track's Bob Bolles and Rob Fisher discuss the impending weather with Forrest Jehlik from Argonne National Labs. Carburetor tuning issues pushed our backs to the wall and we'd get caught in a rain delay, which forced us to extend the test session by a day.
The test results clearly showed that EFI delivered superior lap times in an economical, easy to tune package. What is interesting to note is that neither Marty nor Dalton had any experience with EFI motors before this test-other than their street cars of course. They were not predisposed to being EFI fanatics, nor did they have any preconceived notions about which engine combination would be better, yet it took only five laps for both of them to be converted to major proponents of EFI, not to mention E85. Then, when Marty found out that a 620hp EFI motor using the same base platform as our CT525 cost only $13,000, he nearly fell off his chair.
The bottom line is that adopting EFI can make racing not only more cost effective, but it can also save you time time both at the track and in the shop. Think about this, the time we spent chasing the carb tuning problem pushed us (timewise) into a Florida thunderstorm. When those rains came we had to extend our test session by a day, and six people had to run back and change plane flights and hotel rooms in order to accomplish the task at hand. That also meant spending more money. Once you understand fuel injection and how to tune it, the process is far simpler which means you can spend time working on other areas of the race car or even something different altogether.
Will racers across the country ditch their carbs in favor of EFI? Of course not, but there is room for both engine configurations to compete against one another. And, in fact, they are already. There are a handful of speedways around the country allowing EFI motors to run with their carbureted cousins, but we believe that number will grow.
The Next Step
Throughout the course of Project G.R.E.E.N. we set milestones. First, there was the dyno test, then there was the track test. Now, we know you can figure out what our next step is. After all, we showed you that it worked on the dyno and now we have shown that it works on the track. We have the proof needed but we're all racers here at Circle Track and that means that it's time to shut up and see how this thing runs in a real event. Three grueling days of testing under the hot Florida sun is fine, but the real validation for the project will come when the checkered flag falls. So, just where will we show up? The Midwest? Southeast? Texas? You'll have to stay tuned to find out.
After one of the many hot...
After one of the many hot lap sessions, Marty and Dalton discuss the car's performance.
Our LS3-based EFI/E85 setup...
Our LS3-based EFI/E85 setup started the day as a CT525 carbureted motor. Other than fuels, the only items switched during the test were the induction systems.
One of the advantages of EFI...
One of the advantages of EFI versus a carb is the ease of tuning it. Too rich? Don't worry about changing jets, a simple key stroke on the laptop will solve the problem. While we had a bank of computers for our test, a typical oval track race team would need just one. What is even more exciting is that there are self calibrating systems out there that will automtaically adjust parameters like air/fuel ratio based on certain criteria such as air temperature, humidity, and elevation.