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What Goes Into Racing Engine Design?

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Even non-car people know that the heart of any racing car is its engine. The powerful motor is not the only thing attributing the car’s performance and success on the track, but it is the start, and without a thoroughbred of a powerplant under its bonnet, no race car will ever win a race. The engine is also a perfect starting point when making a race car from scratch and absolute proof of engineering expertise. However, making a racing car engine is a unique process full of challenges. Here’s what goes into racing engine design...

The Difference Between Race and Road Car Engines

Race and road car engines might use the same type of fuel, have the same number of cylinders, and the same configuration, but that is where similarities end. The design, materials, and requirements are entirely different since the purpose of them is the polar opposite. Road car engines are designed to be frugal, durable, dependable, and easily serviceable. They are constructed from everyday materials and use well-proven technology. They can last tens of years of daily use if properly maintained and are quiet and easy to live with.

On the other hand, racing engines are none of those things; they are highly-strung machines, loud and powerful, more complicated to maintain, without any concern for fuel economy, and designed only for one thing – winning races. This is precisely what makes them incredible and why race car builders are true artisans.

Race Engine Basics

When building a racing engine from scratch, the team of engineers must know exactly what kind of engine they want and for what type of racing. If they are planning to run in an endurance racing series or Le Mans event, they need a powerplant that can withstand 24 hours of torture at high-revs. Of course, not all races are that long, and the majority of events are far shorter, which also affects the design. However, there are some other extreme examples. The Top Fuel dragsters have engines designed to perform at full power for just a couple of seconds, which is how long it takes to go down the quarter-mile strip.

Although one might think that power is the primary concern of race car engineers, durability is far more critical and crucial if you want to win the championship. It is relatively easy to achieve high horsepower and torque ratings, giving you a competitive advantage on the track. However, that advantage is useless if your engine blows up in the middle of the race and you are faced with DNF. That is why dependability and quality are the key ingredients of any successful race car engine.

Modern Technology And Materials

Even though we lust after and admire gorgeous race car engines from the past, modern technology and materials really put race engine design on another level. Modern race engine specialists can better understand the processes at high RPMs, controlling the forces inside the engine, air-fuel mixture flow, and even precisely calculating the exact power of each cylinder at different RPM levels. This kind of precision allows engineers to construct highly efficient machines and predict their behavior. In fact, modern race engines can also be adjusted to have a different character, modular power, and torque bends and to be better suited for various tracks and driving styles.

Lightness is one of the critical factors of any race car since low weight means higher speed and more agility. That is why all race car engines are constructed from advanced materials like special aluminum alloys, magnesium, or even titanium. Those kinds of materials are too expensive for road cars but not for racing cars since they make the whole engine more durable and extremely light.

Very often, in the race engine construction process, innovative patents and parts are used. There is an old saying, “racing improves the breed,” and we can assure you that it is very accurate. Numerous things like turbochargers, fuel injection, or variable valve timing, were first introduced as racing engine components and tested on countless races all over the world before finding their way into everyday cars. It is safe to say that race engines give an interesting foresight into the future of internal combustion motors.


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Race Engine Essentials

Regardless of the displacement, number of cylinders, or configuration, there are several features that all racing engines have. First of all, it is the dry-sump oil supply system found on some high-end road cars, but it is, in its essence, a racing patent. A dry-sump system allows better oil flow and maintains high oil pressure, and it is unaffected by lateral acceleration. Second is oversized oil channels in the block and head, keeping the whole unit well-greased and reducing heat and wear at a high RPM. A well-designed cooling system with high-flow channels and a radiator is essential since the amount of heat generated during racing is enormous.

Besides that, almost all race engines have an oversquare design, which is a crucial ingredient if you want high RPM and a broad torque curve. Oversquare means that the bore of the piston is wider than the stroke. This allows the pistons to move faster, generate less inertial stress, and also be equipped with faster valve timing. Such setup allows to inject more air and fuel into the engine and achieve higher RPMs, resulting in drastically more power than if you had a square (same bore and stroke) or undersquare (longer stroke and shorter bore) engine.

Driven to Excellence

We have established ourselves as a renowned engine designer, manufacturer and supplier to various motorsport teams for over 40 years. We have taken on some of the best in the world and have come through with numerous successes. Our engines are designed, developed and manufactured to compete at the front of the field in categories like DTM, F3, BTCC and Classic Car Racing.

Currently, we’re building a truly innovative 4.0-litre V10 engine for The Rodin FZERO. Find out more about this here.

Learn more about our race engine design and manufacture services or get in touch today.

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