This is interesting. These engines use lots of "standard" naterials and parts. On the other hand, they are race engines, so they are tuned up to get maximum horsepower. It is interesting that they are using the smaller block engines. I understand that standardizing on engines cuts costs. I would think though, that for a series that originates in the US would be more into the big block V8. I expect that the cost would be lower with that type of engine.
Nice article, Chuck. With all of the effort and dollars poured into the development of these high performance engines, is there any spillover into commercial and consumer engines? I would think and automaker would like to get more out of this than doing well at Indy.
That's a really good question, Rob. GM told us that that the tie-in between racing engines and production engines is very strong. A lot of the processes and procedures are carried over from the racing side to the production engine development side. Also, because much of the technology is now the same (i.e., overhead cams; four valves per cylinder; direct injection), both sides can benefit. GM also places an engineer on site at Ilmor Engineering, which engineers the race engine. O'Blenes told us: "Everything he learns will be brought back to help us work on our production products."
700 horsepower seems a lot, but is it?These engines get these numbers by flowing a lot of fuel and air through the engine.The real question is:how efficiently is that fuel used?Let's see a comparison of stock and various race engines with their brake horsepower per pound of fuel per hour to really judge these engines. Most gasoline engines are about 25% efficient, but I wonder how efficient the present-day Indy engine is?
Another comment: the way the Indy Car series is run, car construction and engine design is so tightly mandated that the "spectacle" is reduced to a "spec racer" series with virtually no room for creativity in these design areas. Gone are the exciting days when a chief mechanic could wave his "magic screwdriver" over the engine or chassis to wring out a few more miles per hour in qualifying. Now we have contrived rules to help make a "show."How about setting a max (but reduced from the gumballs used today) tire width and a maximum front/rear wing area, and max engine displacement, and let the boys and girls have at it.Reduced tire size and downforce-generating wings will mean the drivers will have to lift the throttle to round the turns and thus put driver skill back into the equation.The cars of today have enough of that fabled down force to drive upside down (if you had an inverted road), thus drivers can and do drive flat-out around IMS's four turns.So, let's put more of the driver into the show.I truly love the beautiful Miller cars of the 1920s and 1930s, but their tremendous speed combined with running on steeply banked board tracks produced a high speed parade that left fans bored. Today, Indy cars run in a procession with passing mostly done during fuel and tire stops.Is this racing?Let's hear your thoughts....
At this point, I think the rules are driven by survivability of the driver. NASCAR has the same issue. They keep choking down the horsepower to a level that keeps the speeed at about 200 on the "super" speedways. Today it might be fairly easy to create a car that would exceed 300 mph on the straights at Indy, but every wreck would kill the driver. So, they are relegated to creating rules that keep the speed down to a relatively survivable 200-230 MPH. This tends to make the competition rather boring at times.
Maybe it would be more interesting if they would opt for some kind of governor system that would simply limit the speed, and allow the teams to decide what power profile to use. For example, some teams might go for a lower power, but higher mileage profile, others for brute acceleration, etc. The high mileage teams would try to make up time by skipping pit stops, and the high power teams would try to make it up out of the corners, etc.
Myron raises an interesting point, but it's bit more difficult to compare than expected. Indy cars run on alchohol, not gasoline, so the power/fuel profiles are different. It also affects cooling and lubrication, since alchohol burns cooleer and 'drier' than gas.
I've been fortunate in my hobby (check my label); one of my friends is a former Indy mechanic, so i know a tiny bit more than most. He got out of it because of the changes in engine rules. He builds engines and is independent - not much for him to do at Indy any more. He spends his time building Bonneville engines and helping build the occaisional friend's personal engine - like mine (grin).
If you want to make racing apply to production cars, Let them do anything with the cars but limit them to a fixed number of gallons of fuel to make the 500 miles. Thedn you will see them tune the cars like real world cars with performance per gallon burned.
If you want to make racing apply to production cars, Let them do anything with the cars but limit them to a fixed number of gallons of fuel to make the 500 miles. Thedn you will see them tune the cars like real world cars with performance per gallon burned as the crieteria.
Instead of worrying about drivers getting killed at 300 MPH, why not start using robotic vehicles? Driving a car around a track provides me with as much amusement as watching grass grow, but for those who enjoy it, a robotic car competition might bring back some of the excitement.
Alcohol as fuel, who knew? I'd rather drink than drive.
I agree with the sentiment that perhaps the INDY rules should try to include some measure of efficiency, such as limiting fuel tank size to a small volume to impose a minimum MPG threshold (more pit-stops penalize low MPG cars). It all boils down to what focus the race is intended to have.
For example the "Race of Champions" uses identical cars and therefore is all about the drivers. In the 1980's...formula SuperV (SCCA race class) allowed only minor variations in the basic VW engine and heavily specified other variables like tire size - focusing on keeping costs down and of course making driver skill paramount....with only a minor role played by the engine tuners. It was still fun to watch.
Of course, there is the Shell Eco Marathon and the Automotive X-Prize, which focus on efficiency (but nearly eliminate the driver skill aspect and certainly any wheel-to-wheel racing maneuvers). This is mainly about the design of the car and the skill of the tuner. These are also completely boring to watch as spectator sports...therefore useless as a replacement to the spectacle of INDY (or Stock Car or F1) racing.
I would suggest limiting displacement to a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder, which represents an engine that can power 90% of the cars on the road (with turbocharging). As someone who has been a racing enthusiast my entire life - I agree that historically there have been a number of things that have transferred between racing and everyday cars (such as the first turbocharged car in, I recall 1968?). However, engine technology has now gotten so advanced that I'm not sure there still is much transfer. For example, the Formula 1 "KERS" units (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) were similar to hybrid technology....but only remotely applicable to real-world cars. Last I heard, the KERS units have been legislated out, because costs were out-of-control, benefits minor, and also added safety risk (high speed flywheels).
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