PRI Magazine July 2012 : Page 44
As more than one pundit has quipped, NASCAR is finally putting the “stock” back into stock car racing by making the rather bold switch to electronic fuel injection for the 2012 season. And while the complex and unique nature of NASCAR engines means their EFI systems aren’t exactly the same as those found in today’s production cars, they’re at least in the same ballpark. Yes, skeptics of the move abound, but others embrace the switch. “The switch to EFI in NASCAR has been great for racing overall,” stated Drake DeVore at MoTeC Systems East, Mooresville, North Carolina. “There are currently still some categories that do not allow EFI in some classes; there are others that do allow it, but the racers have just not embraced the technology. The overall success of the changeover in NASCAR has helped the education process. It has shown racers and fans that there are beneﬁ ts to EFI, and that a carbureted engine can be converted over without losses.” Sitting atop every Cup engine this season is a throttle body emblazoned with a very famous name in carburetion: Holley Performance Products of Bowling Green, Kentucky, the very same company that supplied the mandated carburetors for more than 40 years. “NASCAR’s switch to EFI hasn’t dramatically changed the racing industry, except that it has sparked interest in EFI from people who otherwise wouldn’t have considered it,” said Holley’s Liz Miles. “Our representatives have been approached with questions regarding an EFI conversion coming from guys who thought they would never consider anything but a carburetor. When NASCAR ran its ﬁ rst fuel-injected race without incident, EFI’s success in oval track was validated.” “Comp Cams and its FAST Fuel Injection product were involved in the early concep-tual testing of EFI in NASCAR,” said Scooter Brothers of Competition Cams, Memphis, Tennessee. “Years ago, we were asked to outﬁ t a typical NASCAR engine with EFI to prove that it made sense to continue the program. It worked quite well, and was the pre-cursor to the EFI we see in Sprint Cup today.” NASCAR’s switch “has all leagues and sanctions of racing looking at the possi-bility of making the move,” said Dan Caciolo of Continental Corp. (VDO), Allentown, Pennsylvania. “Change is hard, but if it can be done on the scale of NASCAR, many are thinking they can make the change as well. For pushing the limits of performance and improving control and feedback of what is actually happening in your engine, EFI is a must. It’s the future…embrace it!” Others Embracing EFI “The future for EFI is very bright,” mused Andrew Starr at Hilborn Fuel Injection, Aliso Viejo, California. “The advancement in this technology is still happening by leaps and bounds. Current EFI technology has made it easier for racers by shorten-ing their learning curves and provided unprecedented control along with critical data needed to increase performance. Racing series that have only allowed carburetors or Performance Racing Industry 44 | July 2012
Efi's Powerful Sales Opportunities
With NASCAR onboard, more of the racing world is headed to EFI, opening up significant sales and service opportunities for retailers, engine builders and tuners.
As more than one pundit has quipped, NASCAR is finally putting the “stock” back into stock car racing by making the rather bold switch to electronic fuel injection for the 2012 season. And while the complex and unique nature of NASCAR engines means their EFI systems aren’t exactly the same as those found in today’s production cars, they’re at least in the same ballpark. Yes, skeptics of the move abound, but others embrace the switch.
“The switch to EFI in NASCAR has been great for racing overall,” stated Drake DeVore at MoTeC Systems East, Mooresville, North Carolina. “There are currently still some categories that do not allow EFI in some classes; there are others that do allow it, but the racers have just not embraced the technology. The overall success of the changeover in NASCAR has helped the education process. It has shown racers and fans that there are benefits to EFI, and that a carbureted engine can be converted over without losses.”
Sitting atop every Cup engine this season is a throttle body emblazoned with a very famous name in carburetion: Holley Performance Products of Bowling Green, Kentucky, the very same company that supplied the mandated carburetors for more than 40 years.
“NASCAR’s switch to EFI hasn’t dramatically changed the racing industry, except that it has sparked interest in EFI from people who otherwise wouldn’t have considered it,” said Holley’s Liz Miles. “Our representatives have been approached with questions regarding an EFI conversion coming from guys who thought they would never consider anything but a carburetor. When NASCAR ran its first fuel-injected race without incident, EFI’s success in oval track was validated.”
“Comp Cams and its FAST Fuel Injection product were involved in the early conceptual testing of EFI in NASCAR,” said Scooter Brothers of Competition Cams, Memphis, Tennessee. “Years ago, we were asked to outfit a typical NASCAR engine with EFI to prove that it made sense to continue the program. It worked quite well, and was the precursor to the EFI we see in Sprint Cup today.”
NASCAR’s switch “has all leagues and sanctions of racing looking at the possibility of making the move,” said Dan Caciolo of Continental Corp. (VDO), Allentown, Pennsylvania. “Change is hard, but if it can be done on the scale of NASCAR, many are thinking they can make the change as well. For pushing the limits of performance and improving control and feedback of what is actually happening in your engine, EFI is a must. It’s the future…embrace it!”
Others Embracing EFI
“The future for EFI is very bright,” mused Andrew Starr at Hilborn Fuel Injection, Aliso Viejo, California. “The advancement in this technology is still happening by leaps and bounds. Current EFI technology has made it easier for racers by shortening their learning curves and provided unprecedented control along with critical data needed to increase performance. Racing series that have only allowed carburetors or mechanical injection are now allowing EFI applications to compete. Will everyone switch out the carburetor? I don’t think so, but I feel that EFI has integrated itself firmly into racing.”
Starr added, “Our 3-inch big block Chevy injector, which is also available in smaller bore sizes down to 2 7/16, is finding a home as a very consistent induction system for NHRA Super classes. Smooth staging, consistent lights and repeatability are the benefits.”
“EFI is being accepted by more and more racers and performance enthusiasts,” suggested Todd Ryden at MSD Ignition, El Paso, Texas, supplier of Atomic EFI. “Manufacturers are creating systems that are more user-friendly. There are more racers and teams that aren’t intimidated by the technology and who, in many cases, crave the technology. Tuning and changing a program on a laptop is as acceptable as changing jets and timing to other racers. For those reasons, EFI sales are going to continue to grow from racing down to the street cars and cruisers.”
Joe Krivickas of Precision Turbo & Engine, Hebron, Indiana, cited drag racing as the leading US marketplace for EFI, dating back to the mid-1990s. “NHRA racers’ use of EFI in stock, super stock and comp classes is pretty common, and it’s slowly creeping into the super classes, too,” he said. “NMCA, NMRA and ADRL all have several cars in competition each week that are EFI-equipped.”
Krivickas told us that PT&E works in collaboration with Advanced Fuel Ignition Systems (AFIS), which will be releasing an entry-level, stand-alone EFI system featuring nitrous oxide control, as well as boost control, and will also contain selflearn software.
“With NASCAR leading the way in oval track racing, more and more series will find it valuable to switch over to EFI,” said Brothers. “Some of the lower class oval track cars are now experimenting with a modified version of the FAST EZ-EFI system, which is a very quick and simple conversion from the typical carburetor setup and is totally self-tuning. This system holds a great deal of promise with the local oval track racer.”
Noting that EFI is big in both drag and road racing, Miles said the team at Holley, “feels the last group to change will be the dirt circle track guys, though they have been creeping into the EFI market as more of them see firsthand how simple the systems can be to install and use.”
A wide range of customers have purchased Holley’s user-friendly, self-learning EFI systems since their debut, according to Miles. “Those looking to swap their carburetor out for a simple throttle body injection unit have gravitated to our Avenger EFI. Once they’re more comfortable with the idea of fuel injection, they can upgrade it with the HP software that’s available free on our website, allowing them to tinker with the additional features the software provides,” she said.
The Dominator EFI is Holley’s most advanced system, aimed at higher levels of racing but also perfectly at home on the street. “The 47 inputs and 36 outputs allow for a nearly infinite combination of controls and logging abilities,” said Miles. “It’s perfect for a build using a GM LS engine because it is set up to control one or two drive-by-wire throttle bodies, 4L60E or 4L80E transmissions, and to use data from all of the factory sensors.”
Mike Pinsker of Zero Tolerance Industries (ZTI), Warrenton, Virginia, said, “If racing organizations will allow EFI, the racer will benefit in the long run. The engine is easier to tune and will operate more efficiently. As users learn fuel system technology and are not distracted by color options, cost or brand, they will be drawn to design function and the science capability of the different manufacturers.”
ZTI recently introduced its Pinsker Electronic Fuel System. The Pinsker System is a stand-alone variable venturi system that was designed to not interfere with any OEM on-board emission controls or computer systems. The Pinsker System offers complete altitude compensation for high-performance applications, according to Pinsker.
Jerry Hoffman from DIYAutoTune.com (Hoffman Innovations), Suwanee, Georgia, described EFI business opportunities as endless. “It’s where the industry is going. There’s immense tunability and control in a proper engine management system, and particularly of value is the ability to eliminate the half-dozen black boxes that are Band-Aid correcting everything from ignition advance under boost to fuel pressure to launch control to boost control, and bring all of that and more together, under the control of a single EMS that does the job of all these ‘black boxes’ and does a better job of it.
“On top of eliminating all of those ‘black boxes,’ our EMS solutions all include full data logging capabilities to let you know what’s really going on inside your engine,” Hoffman added. “RPM, throttle position, intake and coolant temperature sensors, manifold pressure, O2 sensor readings and more are all standard, but you can add just about anything you want and log that information as well.”
“The advantages of fuel injection are numerous, and now NASCAR can take advantage of all that knowledge and experience that companies like Roush, Ganassi and Penske already have in this area, so there will be a very limited and cheap learning curve for the NASCAR teams,” said Phil Ellisdon at ASNU, Bushey, Herts, United Kingdom. “I predict that it will not be long before NASCAR switches to GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection). It’s the natural progression for them as many of the major OE’s are switching to GDI.”
Ellisdon noted that ASNU offers testing and servicing of gasoline injectors. “We have many race engine builders around the world using our equipment—Roush Yates and TRIAD are users of our equipment as well as the UTI NASCAR campus in Mooresville, North Carolina. Even though NASCAR didn’t use fuel injection until 2012, they have been training the students on it for a number of years at the NASCAR campus.”
“The initial switch to EFI will l kely cause many teams some growing pains, as they will need to relearn some aspects of tuning,” explained Jon Welfringer from RC Engineering, Torrance, California. “As they adapt to the new systems, they will find that the finer control of their engine management will bring some newfound power while at the same time saving fuel.
“The sophistication of current ECU systems not only gives racers the ability to finely tune their motors, but it also gives them the ability to monitor their EFI tuning in real time and make more rapid system adjustments,” he added.
Simon Joyce of Jenvey Dynamics, a manufacturer of fuel injection throttle bodies and induction systems in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, United Kingdom, told us, “In Europe, EFI is used in just about every category of motorsport, from your small oval race cars up to Formula 1. There are now very few categories of racing where carburetors are mandatory, and in open series nearly all cars have swapped over to EFI because it not only makes for a better race car, but is better for the environment. We have been using EFI in the UK for years and would never go back,” he stated.
“At the moment, we are working heavily on the LS range of engines, with several systems from simple fly-by-wire replacement to a full crossover. We also have crossover systems for the Mustang V6. The other thing we are working on is multithrottle- bodied engines using electronic actuation for the control,” he added.
“Sports car racing is where EFI seems to be used the most,” said DeVore. “Grand-Am, ALMS, IRL, V8 Supercars and many of their feeder series have been using EFI technology for many years. This is largely because of the wide range of engines used and the push for modern, production-based platforms. There is anything from four-cylinder turbo engines to V12 naturally aspirated, and now the growing popularity of diesel.
“Capturing the benefits of modern engine features such as drive-by-wire, variable camshafts, power recovery and direct injection requires the use of advanced aftermarket EFI systems,” he continued. “ADRL has made a big step this year in allowing EFI in its most competitive professional category of Extreme Pro Stock. As more of these classes open up to EFI and show the benefits and conquer the misconceptions, the growth should become exponential.”
MoTeC has been testing its new family of ECUs, called the M1, on various vehicles around the world, and the first commercially available package was poised to hit the market in late April, according to DeVore. It is available in a pre-set configuration or as a fully configurable, open platform ECU.
FuelTech in Porto Alegre, Brazil, claims 70 percent of Brazilian market share, and is entering the US market in search of “dealers who want to explore a new segment of the market: people who want to tune their own cars but never had the opportunity because the available systems were too complex,” said Anderson Dick.
The company’s premier product is the FT400 EFI, which is a complete standalone unit with very advanced features in a compact package, including sequential ignition, dual-stage fuel injection, seven auxiliary outputs, drive-by-wire integrated controller, lambda, oil and fuel pressure inputs, progressive nitrous controller, boost controller and more. “It has a 4.3-inch LCD touch screen dashboard and a powerful 23-channel internal data logger,” he said. “It is simple to tune without a laptop; all of the parameters are adjustable on the touch screen on the fly.”
Haltech Engine Management Systems in Wetherill Park, New South Wales, Australia, with a US location in Lexington, Kentucky, is offering a new electronic throttle control device, and the company continues to produce fully programmable, stand-alone engine management systems for a wide range of applications. “Our best-selling product in this market is our Platinum Sport 2000 ECU,” Matt Wright said, with 14 channels for controlling injection duties in most modern engines (including three rotor engines) with multi-coil or conventional distributor ignition systems, as well as aftermarket CDI systems. The unit is capable of controlling sequential injection on four-, six-, eight-, 10- and 12-cylinder engines, and direct fire ignition for engines up to six cylinders, or wasted spark ignition of engines up to eight cylinders.
Wright told us the company specializes in import racing and drag racing. “However, you can expect to see us providing some competition in the domestic market over the next year as we develop closer relationships with a number of domestic race teams,” he said.
Proliferating Product Offerings
NASCAR’s switch to EFI “has impacted our business positively,” said Lawson Mollica at AEM Performance Electronics, Hawthorne, California. “We recently released our 4-Channel Wideband UEGO Controller and have a specific unit that is able to communicate with the McLaren ECU in NASCAR via CAN. It provides the ability to monitor air/fuel ratios and finetune fuel trims in each cylinder. It offers great value to NASCAR teams, and we have them available for all other forms of racing,” as well.
Products from GoTech EFI, Pompano Beach, Florida, include the GoTech MFI and MFI PRO stand-alone management systems. The company’s newest unit is the top-of-the-line MFI PRO-X with a faster processor and many other upgraded features. For example, “The unit has built-in coil drivers and is usable with low-ohm and high-ohm injectors without any hardware change,” noted Joe Katic, who told us all of GoTech’s products are designed to be easily understood and used. “We’re trying to let the end-user be able to do a lot of things himself,” he said.
On the Kinsler Fuel Injection website, you’ll find that Jim Kinsler of the Troy, Michigan-based company has posted a 26-page article devoted to NASCAR EFI plumbing issues. “Each part must be approved by NASCAR, so a limited number of vendors are participating, and we are very pleased to be one of them,” said Brad Cauzillo.
“We did further development on our model K-140 Pressure Relief Valve for NASCAR use,” he told us. “We added a 3AN port to the side of the tower and microlapped the pintle and seat for true bubble-tight shutoff. We do extensive flow testing on each valve before shipping and record all of the data. About 85 percent of the Cup cars are now running this valve because it has very precise fuel pressure control and excellent durability. All of the Indy 500 cars have run it since 1997 without a single failure.”
Cauzillo also told us that Kinsler has developed a new fuel filter element for its Monster series of filters in order to give NASCAR teams extremely fine filtering for their EFI systems. “This is a dual-layer element with a 10-micron paper top layer and a three-micron precision-matrix fiberglass layer under that.”
FAST’s XFI fuel injection system has undergone constant development over the past 15 years, with updates such as traction control and power adder features. “This design was originally intended for a ‘race only’ application, but has since seen itself bleed over into the high-end street machines,” reported Brothers. “The Gen II XFI is now in the late stages of development, and will take advantage of all the new technologies available today,” he said, pointing to FAST’s proprietary fuel injector flow bench as an example. “Most flow benches simply measure fuel flow with the injector wide open, but this unit actually pulses the injectors to precisely simulate fuel flow on a running engine. We’re introducing new products— fuel systems, injectors, controllers, throttle bodies—to take full advantage of the latest technology.”
MSD launched the Atomic EFI system this year in an attempt to make the switch to EFI simple. “It’s a throttle body based EFI system designed for street rods and muscle cars,” explained Ryden. “However, we’ve seen great interest from hobbyist circle track racers, as well as bracket racers. There is no laptop programming required, very limited wiring connections, and it can even be run as a returnless fuel system. It is limited to engines with about 525 horsepower (600-plus with a higher power fuel pump), so it is limited in racing applications.”
“EFI is used in a wide array of racing applications, and its future in motorsports seems to be very big, because racers can save in fuel consumption, which has a positive impact on their racing budget. It also allows them extra average power and torque,” said Rob Koller of the ACCEL/ DFI division of Mr. Gasket/Prestolite Performance, Cleveland, Ohio.
One of the company’s preeminent products is the Thruster EFI, an entrylevel system capable of running engines up to 1200 horsepower, with nitrous, a turbocharger or supercharger. Features abound, including the ability to run 11 different ignition configurations and built-in data acquisition and self-diagnostics.
Koller explained, “Self-tuning throttle body type systems are the hot item for street applications. Our ACCEL kits with the 1200-cfm throttle body can handle from 350 to 700 horsepower applications. In fuel consumption savings alone, the system would pay for itself in a matter of time, especially for the street/strip applications that see more street than strip.”
“EFI gives you much greater control over fuel delivery than the best mechanical device,” said Zbigniew Szwalgin, of Zeitronix, Torrance, California. “Tuning carburetors requires a great deal of experience and knowledge to get it right, but EFI can do it with much greater precision in a wider range and compensation for environmental factors.”
He explained that Zeitronix products work on both carbureted and EFI engines, and the company offers wideband AFR and data-logging systems, plus E85 ethanol content analyzers.
Fuel & Air Delivery
“NASCAR making the move to EFI is really a sign of the times,” said Jesse Powell of Aeromotive, Lenexa, Kansas. “It is already a well-accepted platform, especially in drag racing. We run a 3000-horsepower EFI Pro Mod, and the days of carburetion in that category are going by the wayside. And if you look at entry-level drag racing, whether it’s NMRA or NMCA or something like that, they’re primarily made up of late-model EFI cars because that’s what the guys can afford. The LSX Shoot-Out is a great example.
“The rules are pretty much what dictate whether you need to run a carburetor or you can run EFI. Ironically, now that it is so common and so prevalent, sanctions are having to change their rules, because if they want car counts to grow and new people to come into the sport, they’re going to have to allow it,” said Powell, who added that the technology has been a boon to new and younger competitors who need to have a dualpurpose vehicle.
Powell told us that 90 percent of Aeromotive’s product output these days is EFI related. Among the company’s new offerings are its Stealth drop-in fuel pumps for late-model muscle cars: the new Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs.
DeatschWerks in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, specializes in the sport compact market, where owners are focused on drag racing, autocross and road racing, with growing reach into the modern muscle car and European sports car arenas.
“We started out entirely as an injector company,” explained Greg Brungardt, “and high-performance injectors and fuel pumps are largely what we do. Nearly all of our products are drop-in fitment. Most people who want to upgrade their car’s performance are going to have to put in a turbocharger and a new fuel pump, as well as larger injectors, and we supply them with injectors that match up, that they don’t have to modify. If you order the injector for your car, you just take it out of the package and put it in the car.”
The company is constantly adding new applications. “In the past, we mostly offered injectors that were 1300cc and below, but within the last few months we released some 2200cc injectors for Honda applications only,” said Brungardt, and will soon include Mitsubishi Evo and Nissan R35 GT-R, with more to follow.
“VDO has fully supported the advancement of EFI in the racing industry and offers a large portfolio of injectors in different configurations, from 44 to 220 lb/ hr,” explained Caciolo. “Our newest addition to our product line is our 80 lb/hr short injector, perfect for engines with very little manifold to rail clearance.”
Injector Dynamics is a strategic alliance between Yaw Power Products of Phoenix, Arizona, and T1 Race Development in Rowlett, Texas. Injector Dynamics’ fuel injectors are the result of batch testing large quantities of specially modified fuel injectors, and then carefully matching them into sets based on their dynamic flow across the pulsewidth range. The result is improved cylinder-to-cylinder consistency, even at very low pulsewidths, according to company sources.
In addition to receiving tightly matched injectors, racers or engine builders will be provided with dead time compensation values across the entire pressure and voltage range of the injector. This data will ensure that the compensations in the ECU work properly, and the air fuel ratios will remain consistent as atmospheric or voltage conditions change.
Injector Dynamics sells matched sets, and within each set the dynamic flow rate (slope) will vary no more than +/- 1 percent, and the dead time (offset) will vary no more than +/- 20 microseconds, which is equivalent to +/- 1 percent at a pulsewidth of two milliseconds.
A supplier of universal digital tuning tools, Innovate Motorsports in Huntington Beach, California, continues to see success with its popular LM-2 air/fuel control device, which can be used in both EFI and carbureted applications.
“We also have simpler wide band control devices that can universally communicate with pretty much any aftermarket engine system and some of the OEM systems that can be remapped,” said Adam Davis. “In my opinion, you’re going to see more and more remapping of factory engine management because the factory ECUs are actually very, very good. Tuners and aftermarket companies are utilizing access to those systems to reflash and do updates. That’s very dominant in the import market, and pretty strong on the domestic side of things as well, remapping, say, a Camaro or Mustang ECU to add a supercharger or change a cam.”
Overall, Davis said, “EFI is going to make a lot of people’s lives easier—and they’re going to break less stuff. With an aftermarket EMS, or with the current OEM technology and aftermarket engine control technology, you can effectively dyno tune a guy’s car, send him an ECU, and then at different altitudes and barometric pressure changes, the ECU and the sensors that it references will determine where the fuel map or ignition map needs to be and compensate for that. There’s still going to be minor tuning required, but it’s going to be a lot easier for someone to sell a turnkey engine package. There are going to be fewer people coming back saying they broke something and blaming the engine builder.”
“EFI, probably more than most other product categories, requires a significant commitment to customer education and product support, offering a huge opportunity to performance retailers, speed shops and engine builders,” stated Scooter Brothers at the FAST Fuel Injection division of Comp Cams, Memphis, Tennessee. “Unlike the larger distributors, they can offer firsthand advice and tips on EFI installation and operation. They can provide hands-on help in the conversion and take some of the magic out of the EFI concept. The only way to make this work is for them to become educated in EFI systems,” he said.
Joe Krivickas of Precision Turbo & Engine, Hebron, Indiana, agreed. “Tuning help is the big opportunity as more and more people want to race with EFI but aren’t sure how to properly and effectively implement it,” he said. “If you can supply your customer with a complete package from product delivery to end-user tuning, that cuts down on the overall process and will give you a leg up on your competition.”
“Learn what it takes to run a fuel injection system,” stressed Todd Ryden of MSD Ignition, El Paso, Texas. “Stock or have available parts that EFI requires, including fuel pumps, filters, regulators, lines and fittings. There are a lot of parts a racer needs to make the move, or even support an EFI system. Not to mention the connectors, fuel rails and other sensors. Engine builders need to be able to help with intake/ injector combinations, and having the ability to assist in setting up the ECU and program for a customer would certainly be a worthwhile selling point.” —Virginia DeMoss