“Technology”…Just the word congers up thoughts of laptop computers, cell phones, GPS and all the small electronic devices, designed to make our lives easier. Technological advances have spread from the mundane, to the exciting, especially in the automotive world. We live amongst electric cars that drive themselves, and the safest modes of transportation in history, all thanks to technology.
In NO-PREP drag racing, the same applies. Technology has taken a major foothold on how the cars perform. Let’s start with the old saying, “There’s no replacement for displacement.” In other words, bigger cubic inch engines will always prevail. Perhaps that was the case years ago, but not anymore.
Technology in NO-PREP is incorporated into each aspect of the race car, but namely in the performance of the engine. There are 3 main methods of creating horsepower in NO-PREP racing, Turbocharging, Supercharging, and Nitrous Oxide (NOS) .
All 3 of these methods, create major air flow into the engine, by compressing the air. The more air in, the more fuel to be burned, and subsequently more power can be produced.
These 3 seemingly modern examples of technology have some pretty deep roots in history. Supercharging was used at the turn of the century in car engines, turbocharging has been on diesel engine for decades, and NOS was used on WWII German fighter planes, to help them outclimb Allied fighters.
When cubic inches were king, it was the same principal. Bigger engines could inhale more air and make that power. By compressing air by mechanical means (Turbo, Supercharging) or Chemical (NOS). Smaller displacement engines can make the same, or in many cases greater horsepower. But increased horsepower needs support systems to make sure they operate correctly. Without the support of fuel, ignition and timing, the compressed air methods will not work properly, or worse yet, destroy an engine in an instant.
Technology enters again, with onboard computing systems that are a must… These systems utilize sensors on each aspect of the race car, but primarily diagnosing the engine performance, at idle, full throttle, and under load running down the track. The results are recorded and stored in the onboard computers, that transfer the data to the driver’s/tuner’s laptop pc.
The laptop has become the #1 tuning tool in the world of NO-PREP. Not only because it allows the engine data to be analyzed, but also changed. There are look-up tables that allow for user input to change fuel curves, timing advance/retard, transmission shift points, launch boost, NOS activation, etc. Tuning the engine can be as easy, as dialing a cell phone. As data is collected from a race, it can be stored for comparison against subsequent runs. As the track and weather conditions change, a suitable “tune” can be loaded back into the onboard computer, and the car “should” react accordingly.
Technology…Our modern day lives depend on it. Or have we become too dependent on it ? In either case, it has a major impact on how the racing world is won or lost. Experience and hand tools, almost a black art nowadays, have been replaced by laptops and sensors. Who knows how far technology will take our sport…I suppose only time will tell.