Josh Tennis, head technician at GPM Race Engines in Eagle Rock, MO, and one of Engine Builder magazine’s new advisory board members, said speaking from his experience, it’s up to the shop to investigate engine-related rule updates.
“We haven’t seen communication between customers, sanctioning bodies and engine builders to be very good, unless you have an exceptional communicator for a customer or you as the engine builder do all the leg work,” Tennis said.
And that can be tricky, especially if you are a shop like GPM, which builds engines for just about anything under the checkered flag.
“We build engines for local bracket racing, circle track (late model, modified, factory stock, mini stock, etc.), pulling trucks, and even single cylinder go-cart circle track,” Tennis said. “I’m sure there are some minor changes, but as of yet, none of our customers have made us aware of them.”
For some racing associations with numerous classes, issuing updates to all engine builders and race teams is unlikely. However, technology from the Internet has helped.
Chris Blum with the Sports Car Club of America, recommends racers and engine builders refer often to the association’s website – www.scca.com – for latest rules and news updates.
“As far as SCCA Club Racing goes, there have not been any big changes to the engine prep rules, but the rule books are updated on a monthly basis,” he said.
Blum said the SCCA oversees 26 different classes ranging from stock engines to highly built engines, and all have their own specific set of rules they must follow. “The overall procedures for most of the classes have been the same, but there are minor details that may be changed at any time through out the year,” he said.
And though it’s uncommon for racing associations to send notices to the engine builders on upcoming rule changes, each year, something somewhere is bound to get an update. However, some feel those little changes can at times, end up creating more issues down the road.
“Unfortunately, most rules are not written by a committee of knowledgeable people familiar with all aspects of what the rules cover,” Tennis explained. “In the interest of ‘keeping costs down,’ innovation is stifled, and it actually makes costs go up when special parts have to be developed to be rules compliant, giving racers willing to spend the money an advantage. And you can’t blame the developers for making the parts; that is simple economics.”
There are some in the racing community that feel while the sanctioning bodies seem to want to keep everything fair, there needs to be more effort by the association to make the rules simple, easy to enforce and cost-effective to follow and leave no avenue for enterprising individuals to circumvent them.
“Many of our circle track customers report very minimal tech inspection, and even less than expert tech ‘officials’ at the tracks,” Tennis said. “Why even list rules that you aren’t going to enforce? This is the practice that creates the most ill will in my opinion, as one car gets hit with a seldom-enforced rule, while others get away with it.”
Tennis acknowledged that most track officials are volunteers, but offered suggestions to make racing rulebooks simpler, easier to follow and cheaper for the racer and the track.
• Making stock rocker arms or stock replacement required. This will keep spring pressures down, in turn camshaft events less radical, as well as reduced RPM. Therefore, the rotating assembly can be of less expensive components.
• Mandating hard tires of narrower width. With the harder compound and the narrower width, traction is limited so car setup and driver skill plays a bigger role than all out horsepower. This can be more cost-effective for the racer in both engine and tires.
• Having a lottery where all competitors racing for a championship willfully subject their vehicle to a thorough tech inspection at least once during the season, with at least three officials conducting the inspection. Ideally, officials could comb over one or two cars at every event with the aim to inspect 80% of competing cars during the season.
Over the years, racer concerns with engine rules and increasing costs have driven more and more racing environments to consider spec or crate engine classes, but that doesn’t mean that these engines are any different from the problems listed above.
“The highly controlled environment of a crate or spec class seems attractive since tech will be so much easier but that doesn’t seem to be the case,” Tennis said. “If anything, they can be far worse for the racer’s bottom line and lots more trouble for the track. Fraudulent seal bolts hiding illegal engines, spec engines with inflated component costs or even racers purchasing multiple crate engines in order to find the best one of the bunch,” he said.
However, many racing organizations realize that in order to keep and grow racers, they need to address this affordability factor for current and new teams.
United States Racing Association, based in Webster City, IA, acknowledged that with change comes cost and it wants to keep as few changes as possible.
“There was some grey areas that still need covered and drivers, crewmembers really need to read the rules to make sure you are within the rulebook,” according to USRA. “Drivers are always looking for that little extra edge and sometimes it may not be written in the rules so be sure to check out the 2015 rules.
In the Modified division, USRA added in a concept engine that will get a 50# weight break. In the USRA Stock Car division, a new Holley Ultra HP carburetor will be allowed to compete with updated the rules.
Rules for these and other components are on the USRA website at www.usraracing.com.
The International Motor Contest Association (IMCA), organized in 1915, the oldest active automobile racing sanctioning body in the U.S., says its mission is to provide affordable, entertaining and competitive auto racing as a sanctioning body.
IMCA recently announced that it entered into a new agreement with RaceSaver to develop a national rules system and help promote the group’s sprint class division. Through the agreement, RaceSaver founder French Grimes allows IMCA long-term use of RaceSaver rules for its weekly, regional series and special events.
IMCA, in return, provides administration, support and promotion of new sanctions for the sprint car class that will be known as RaceSaver, a division of IMCA.
“The signing of this historic partnership strengthens RaceSaver and IMCA, and secures our position as the largest sprint car sanctioning body in existence,” Grimes said. “RaceSaver brings more than 1,000 sprint cars in 17 states and IMCA brings an organization that has supported local weekly racing with a national structure.”
“French has developed one of the most cost-effective and innovative engine packages in sprint car racing and it fits well with our philosophy at IMCA for the past 99 years,” said IMCA vice president of operations Brett Root. “This agreement is great for RaceSaver, it’s great for IMCA and it’s great for sprint car drivers. They will receive the same benefits as 8,000-plus drivers in our other divisions.”
According to IMCA, all aspects of RaceSaver pertaining to rules, record keeping, cylinder heads, engine cert hard cards, engine sealing and tech officials will remain unchanged and under control of Grimes.
Root also addressed rules updates for 2015, noting they were mostly clarifications to the rules from 2014.
For instance, a fuel shut-off is now recommended for the Modifieds, Stocks, Hobbies and SportMods, and one Edelbrock aluminum intake option, part no. 2176, will be legal for use with the Chrysler option in the Stocks, Hobbies and SportMods.
Also, Hobby Stocks can’t use surge tanks or cooling lines, and cap screw connecting rods will now be allowed for use by Southern SportMod drivers competing with the claim engine option.
“The market is changing and the product is being improved,” Root noted. “The cap screw is a more accepted fastener as opposed to nuts and bolts.”
It was also announced that Modified rules will allow for the use of a quick change rear-end. Vacuum pumps, however, are considered an engine performance enhancement and won’t be allowed.
For more on the partnership and IMCA, visit www.imca.com.
Tennis said while everything isn’t all doom and gloom, many racers will choose to run an open engine over a crate strictly out of principle. And, some sanctioning bodies are now realizing that the crates need to have tech emphasis as well, due to widely publicized cheating.
“All of these factors just means that our duty as engine builders is that much more important,” Tennis said. “The engine builder needs to make sure that they are capitalizing on everything that they can.”
In a historic, proactive vote at its 2014 annual meeting, the track operators of the WISSOTA Promoters Association – wissota.org – recently voted to allow new engine options for its racers to provide them with lower-cost options starting in 2015. In a cooperative effort with the region’s engine builders, the track promoters – who make all race car rules in WISSOTA – installed new rules which allow specific “WISSOTA Concept Engines” to be used by competitors in nearly all V8 engine divisions beginning next year (not Super Stocks).
In a letter signed by the owners of 27 engine shops within the region, the builders said, “A variety of WISSOTA country engine shops volunteered to finance, assemble and test locally-built concept engines to show you as promoters, and your racers, that we can produce a lower-cost yet still very reliable racing engine that will compete with those currently allowed in WISSOTA’s rules.”
Early last year, WISSOTA’s board of directors and tech committee gathered a group of prominent builders from the area to discuss ways to reduce engine costs. Several committees of builders were formed and they developed and tested “concept” engines throughout the 2014 season. As a result of the development and testing program, WISSOTA’s promoters were asked to vote to allow these WISSOTA Concept Engines in the Late Model, Modified, Midwest Modified and Street Stock classes; the group voted nearly unanimously to allow the new WISSOTA Concept Engines beginning in 2015.
According to WISSOTA’s promoters, the engine builders group provided a variety of convincing reasons for installing the new engine rules, including:
• Local builders provide better service for the racers.
• Locally-built engines can be quickly repaired and put back into cars to keep them in action at your tracks; crate engines cannot.
• Locally-built engines can be freshened each off-season rather than being discarded for a new one, which is common for crate engines.
• Local builders can produce these lower cost engines for all of your drivers in all of your classes.
• Local builders explained they support many of WISSOTA racers and many of its tracks through sponsorships. “We are your partners in WISSOTA racing and have just as much interest as you in keeping the sport healthy.”
Racers may also choose to continue running their existing engines, which will be completely acceptable under the rules as they have been in the past. “That’s part of the beauty of this program,” said builder Kevin Schuelke of Sturdy Engines. “No one has to make any change at all if they like their current engine and their current builder. But, if someone is interested in making a change, or if someone new is coming into the sport, there are now lower cost, locally-built engines for them.”
Mark Spatenka of Sput’s Racing Engines echoed Schuelke’s comments and added, “WISSOTA has shown real leadership on this new engine rule. In fact, within a couple days of the vote to allow these engines, other sanctioning bodies called me to ask about the engines, the testing program WISSOTA went through, and how a similar option could be developed for them.”
Information on these engines can be found on the WISSOTA website.
In the WISSOTA Modified class, the promoters also voted in some changes to the 0-410 claimer engine. The minimum weight for competitors using the 0-410 was reduced to 2,500 pounds and stud mounted roller rockers and stud girdle will now be allowed. Offset roller rockers will not be allowed. There will be a 1.5 maximum rocker arm ratio. In addition, they set a maximum RPM of 7,200, which must be controlled by ignition box (i.e. chip).
“Although the new rules will also allow the sealed crate engines to be used, we really feel the WISSOTA Concept Engines are the better low-cost choice for WISSOTA racers. We believe the local builders are a vital part of our racing community and we want to see them succeed and continue to be a valuable resource for our racers,” said Terry Voeltz, WISSOTA’s executive director.
Are you a performance engine builder who has had good or bad experiences with local race sanctioning body? Send us your comments to [email protected]