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Longevity and performance

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When Honda Performance Development (HPD) began plans to enter the Indy Racing League in 2003 with the Honda Indy V8, it built an engine that would have a service life of 600 miles, made to last from Carburetion Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway through the Indianapolis 500. Much has changed since then, as HPD became sole engine supplier in the 2006 IndyCar Series season. Now the engines have a service life of 1400 race miles or 1600 absolute miles, as Roger Griffiths, manager of the...

Revolutions in Rings

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For as long as I can remember, it has been considered best practice to position the ring gaps equidistant around the piston. The theory is that in doing so, gas leakage will be minimised so that it stays within the confines of the combustion chamber, expands and generates more shaft power. For some reason - and I no longer understand why - it just made common sense and was never really challenged. At the risk of stating the obvious, gaps in piston rings are a physical necessity to aid...


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Aluminium offers many benefits to mechanical engineering designers, and racing engine designers have long been keen to exploit its low density and good strength. There are now aluminium alloys commercially available with tensile strengths well above 700 MPa (>100 ksi) and the development of alloys for specific properties has accelerated in recent years. One disadvantage with aluminium, however, is its propensity to oxidise - anyone who has left their motorcycle outside in a British...

'Optimising' the gasoline engine?

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Perhaps the most common word used today in engineering is 'optimise.' Now, my memory may be a little bit selective, but until about 20 years ago the word was rarely used. But I have a theory. In the past, engineers were probably far too busy concentrating on getting things to work in the first place than working to their optimum, or perhaps it's because today's engineering 'tools' - and by that I mean software - are far more discriminating, allowing finer degrees of...

Transmitting power

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With the adoption of independent, or de Dion rear suspension by racing car constructors during the 1930s, some means of transmitting the torque from the transmission into the wheel hubs had to be devised that accommodated the vertical motion of the wheel. When using a swing axle, this was usually achieved by using a ball-and-socket arrangement integrated into the differential output shafts, while fully independent and de Dion systems required some form of universal joint at each end of the...