The 100th Ilmor 396 engine designed for ARCA competition just came off the production line, and in the two full years since the first one debuted, the engine remains undefeated – 40 races, 40 wins. According to ARCA President Ron Drager, this is a good thing.
“It’s not just that the engine has won all 40,” Drager says. “It’s that there have been 25 different winners and 18 first-time winners in those 40 races. We had two goals for the Ilmor program: one, to contain costs and make racing more affordable for everyone, and two, to improve the on-track product, the level of competition. It’s been a huge success on both. The engine has done what it was designed to do – allow a broader base of teams to reach victory lane.”
Drawing on years of experience in Formula 1 and IndyCar competition, Ilmor Engineering designed and developed the Ilmor 396 specifically for ARCA racing. It is designed to go more than 1,000 miles between rebuilds.
The ARCA official rule book specifies this as its engine requirements:
ENGINES i. The ARCA/Ilmor 396 as assembled by Ilmor Engineering is legal for use in competition. ii. The cast iron factory production engine blocks C3, D3, R5 and SB2 are the only blocks allowed. The above engine blocks may only be used within corresponding corporate manufacturer’s line. NO ALUMINUM BLOCKS. iii. Aluminum or cast iron cylinder heads with no external modifications are permitted. iv. Production type intakes only. NO “Ram” intakes. Electrical fuel pumps will not be allowed on carbureted engines. NO overhead cam engines. v. NO injection allowed on carbureted engines, turbo charging or supercharging. vi. Recommend crankshaft harmonic dampers which meets SFI specification 18.1. vii. The maximum compression ratio on any cylinder will be 12.0:1 at all events. viii. For the C3, D3, R5 and SB2 engines, the maximum cubic inch displacement is 360 and the minimum cubic inch displacement is 350. ix. Any engine change after a car is qualified for the starting lineup will result in that car starting at the rear of the field.
The ARCA Ilmor 396 uses a Holley EFI ECU to control the fuel-injection and ignition systems, as well as a number of other products from Holley Performance, including a Holley throttle body, fuel rails, and injectors; ACCEL coils and spark plug wires; Hooker BlackHeart Tri-Y long-tube headers; Earl’s hoses and fittings; as well as Holley fuel pumps and HydraMat fuel-reservoir systems.
Third-generation racer Chase Briscoe, driving for the Cunningham Motorsports team, took the 2016 championship in a landslide. Briscoe finished in the top five at 70 percent of the races, the top 10 at 90 percent of them, and won nearly a third. All told, he had racked up more victories (6), top 5s (14) top 10s (18), and laps led than any other driver in the series, just as Grant Enfinger had in his dominant 2015 campaign.
Nearly two-thirds of the field had the innovative new engine under the hood when the green flag flew at the its first race, the 2015 ARCA Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona International Speedway, including Enfinger, who collected the first of his six victories en route to the series title. By year’s end, every winner and every pole qualifier scored with Ilmor horsepower.
A year after its debut at Daytona, more than three-quarters of the entrants at the 2016 Daytona race ran ARCA Ilmor 396s, including eventual winner John Wes Townley and the Athenian Motorsports team. The consecutive-poles streak continued into 2016 as well, with Cole Custer and the Ken Schrader Racing/Haas Automation team winning the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell.
The 2017 ARCA season kicks off Feb. 18 on the world-famous 2.5-mile tri-oval at Daytona.