Category: GT Racing

Some of us can remember when 300 Horsepower was a lot for the street, even some pretty exotic cars were fairly hard pressed to meet that number. But in case you haven’t heard time isn’t the only thing that has moved on.

My first GT1 car.

My first GT1 car.

The car in the picture was my first GT1 car. It had about 550 HP, on its best day, back in the late 80’s. Not bad for a club racer but its 351 engine was almost certainly the best thing about it. The professionals however wouldn’t have considered it.

By the time the second coming of the TransAm series ended they were running 310 cid engines with rev limiters. These engines were, at least for those at the front end of the pack, in excess of 700 horsepower.

But now things have really changed. The 310 has gone the way of the dinosaur, replaced by the 358 cubic inch V8’s. Initially a lot of these were refugees from Nascar. Bought for less than one could build a 310 and producing big horsepower numbers. Initially some people just changed the cam, and maybe something with carburetion and exhaust and went racing. Worked pretty well and now the horsepower numbers were over 800.

But today the bar has been raised again. Some people have realized that an engine built purposely for road racing will out perform a converted stock car engine. This despite the fact that the horsepower numbers are the same.

And what are those numbers today? One racer who reportedly has about 830 HP told me recently ” I can’t pass them (the top cars) on the straight, but they can pass me.” His opinion is that he is 30 horsepower shy of the top cars.

So times have changed my friend, times have changed.



This is going to be a great weekend. The winter is finally over, F1 is back! And in between sessions there is NCAA basketball.

The season opening Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne Australia is underway. The first two practices have been on a damp track, so its hard to tell who has what. However, the usual suspects are on top so far – McLaren, Red Bull, Mercedes, and Ferrari. Seems like McLaren is as usual pretty good, Mercedes has improved, and Ferrari may not be as bad as we were led to believe. The midfield looks close, and Williams looks better. The question is how good is Red Bull? They havent shown brilliance so far, but that was the pattern last year, nothing on Friday, but come qualifying look out.

More and more manufacturers are entering hybrids in international road racing. Audi and Toyota have entered prototypes in the 24 hours of LeMans. Honda and Toyota will go head to heat in the GT class. Makes sense as more and more hybrids appear on the street. I’m really interested to see the result of this one.

Nascar will be at Bristol, Tenn. this weekend. The first Nascar race I traveled to see was at Bristol back in 71. Used to look forward to it, but haven’t been in years. But I dont think that is why they haven’t had a sell out in 3 years.

Just a thought: What would you think about Nascar loosening up some of their rules, and do this. Allocate every team enough gasoline that the cars would have to get a certain mileage to finish the race. Say, 20 miles per gallon?  Anything you want to do, but this is the mileage you have to get. Put some real world engineering back into it again.  Dont do away with the templates, or safety stuff just mandate a mileage.

Crazy huh? It may take something like that to turn it around.

Lastly, name one major sport, other than Nascar or another form of  auto racing, that isn’t run by a commissioner appointed by the team owners.

The has been a fairly interesting thread over on the website recently. In the forum section an individual posted that, in essence, it was time for the SCCA’s GT1 class to be returned to the amateurs. That the class had been hijacked by the Trans-Am racers and had become so skewed that no amateur had a chance of winning. In the article he, to my surprise, named Tony Ave and Jim Derhaag as being the main perpetrators of this theft.

While I found it a little difficult to follow, it appears that he had three main complaints with the rules. One. The weight breaks were such that you had to have a 358 engine to compete. Two. The cost and complexity, of adjustable sway bars. Thirdly. The cost of a three link rear suspension, where the upper link extends up into the driver compartment.

Then, in a move that I really dont understand, he complained about the cost of a HANS device and the requirement that it be made mandantory. These were all items which he suggested should be rescinded for the good of the sport and the financial well being of the competitors.

Now I have no idea how you feel about this matter, or if you even care. To me however it appears to be so same old argument. “Racing is too expensive for the average competitor, and something needs to be done about it”. And you know that is correct. However, there is no turning back, once the technology is out there you cant do a Vulcan mind meld and force people to unlearn it. Short of that its probably a thing where if you cant afford it, you need to look for an alternative.

I do think that the SCCA and similar groups should examine ways to reduce the costs to the competitors. At the same time we dont want GT racing to become a spec series. If you really want to see out of control costs look no further than Nascar. There with basically a spec car series, teams are spending increasing amounts for really small returns. Why? because in a spec class it only takes a small advantage to seperate the winners from the losers.

In GT road racing, we are fortunate to have vintage racing. There the older cars can still be competitive with their peers long after their time of glory has passed them by. Maybe instead of trying to keep the times from changing, those who would advocate that, should give vintage a try.

But to quote Dennis Miller: “thats only my opinion. I could be wrong”.



If you follow motorsport, this is a bittersweet time of year. Until the Daytona 24 hours there is almost no racing, and in fact precious little testing. Therefore up passes for news is generally pretty uninteresting, and obviously was a streetch on the authors part.

The exception to this is the constant flow of information about the two largest racing series in the world, F1 and Nascar. Before anybody starts to aim their digital flamethrower in my direction, let me say that I know F1 is far and away the king of motorsport. And as you look at the news articles you can see why.

But every now and then somebody does something to make you sit up and take notice. This time it was Caterham F1,one of the newer F1 teams, formerly known as Lotus F1. But lets not get sidetracked as to why they are Caterham, and the former Renault team is now Lotus. I can explain, but I wont.

As you may recall, every year all the F1 teams unveil, or launch, their new cars. And this is one of the highlights of the winter doldrums. To finally get to see your heros and the all new car which will, hopefully, win the World Championship. Its the motor racing equivalent of when we were kids getting to see the new model Chevy/Ford/Dodge. Remember those days, when the cars were brought to the dealership all covered up so nobody could see them? Well, those days are gone, but not the F1 launches.

I digress however. So why if this happens every year was I impressed by the Caterham launch? After all these things happen every year, and they have been done in every type of location from exotic to mundane. From elegant and understated to way over the top. In fact, I was beginning to believe that the only way they could come up with something different was to shoot it out of a cannon and land it in a bunch of Hooters girls.

But instead they did something so different, yet simple that you have to wonder why nobody (that I know of) had done it. They simply announced that their launch would be the first of the year, AND it would be on the cover of F1 Racing magazine. Only the most widely read F1 magazine in the world. And of course they would follow with Facebook, and other digital media.

Of course some people got their issue early and the news was broken a day early. Which I’m sure caused a lot of crocodile tears at Caterham. And now ScarbsF1 has a great analysis of the car, F1 racing had a article to go along with the photos, etc.

All of this is just a long winded way to say that in a time where we wring our hands and blame the economy for every ill in motor sport what was this worth? In the name of full disclosure I must admit that I have been impressed by this teams PR savvy ever since its inception. That said,how much uncontested FREE publicity did those guys get from just having a simple idea? If you were a potential sponsor what would you think of such out of the box thinking.

So, if you’re out there trying to get somebody to help you with your racing, and your by the numbers presentation isn’t working, maybe you need to think about a different approach.

Scott Murphy at VIR 2008

Just a quick note to announce that the agreement to help provide information on the V8 Stock Car Series. As many of you know this one of, if not the longest consecutively running, non club, road racing series in the country. This will be the ninth racing year, and despite the economic conditions it appears to be stronger than ever. Currently they have four classes, and in addition will be running with the Nordic Camaro Series. These cars, based in Sweden, and featuring at least two ex F1 drivers, promise to put on an outstanding show.

So beginning later this week we will be running an article each week on one of their classes, as well as the rules, car types etc. Race results and links to associated articles will come as appropriate. It ought to be an exciting season.

So I encourage you to check out their website at

New old stock

Uprights in stock

I had every intention of having an article today to talk about the speed of todays Trans-Am type cars. Actually I was going to compare them to the cars which ran at the end of the Paul G. era of the trans-Am. Now the purpose here is not to “throw anybody under the bus”, but rather just to compare.

Briefly if you look at todays cars they have Goodyears latest and greatest “tall” radial tires. The engines are putting out not 700 horsepower from 310 cid, but 850 + from 358 cid. In addition they are not rpm limited as they were back then.

So the new cars must be faster, right? Not so sure there, Bucky. We will take a look as soon as I can get a few more stats. But suffice it to say you may be surprised. Then maybe not.

Above are some pictures of Mike Donahue’s TA 2 car. As you can see this is a nice example of the diversity we can expect to see at the Trans-Am Series races this year. You will see the full tilt Corvettes, Mustangs and Jags of the TA, cars like Mike’s Pontiac, and the new type pony cars of TA2, and then TA3 will almot certainly have an ample supply of Porsches.

As always this brings up the issues of costs. What does it really cost to race in a professional series such as the TA? Depends on who you talk to? For the TA, one owner told me that at a track where he spent the night in his own bed, i.e. no lodging cost, it cost him $5500 and that did not fiqure wear and tear nor did he have any damage to repair. The biggest expense he had was buying tires for the weekend. Another told me that over a year he estimated 12-15k per race. His biggest cost were engines, transmissions and tires. I suspect the real number is at least as high as the later, maybe more for a winning effort. I’m sure some teams are spending far more than that.
In TA2 the numbers are probably half of a TA car. Primarily because the engines are less expensive and more durable.There is one report of a rental for $5k per weekend plus a substantial deposit in case of damage. I assume this does not include tires. The biggest advantage they have in the cost area is that stock car parts are so much less expensive than road racing parts.
I wont venture a guess as to the Porsche’s as I’m not at all in tune with the cost of their equipment.

If anybody has some information as to the real cost of racing these cars I would be glad to hear it. As well as what do you think could be done to control the costs? Or, are you of the opinion that racing is expensive, if you cant afford it dont do it?

Mustang Vintage Racer

Mustang Vintage TA Car

Aerodynamics is probably the most important aspect of the modern race car. Those of us who are F1 fans see how those teams spend untold sums of money, expend more man hours in wind tunnels and employ unimaginable computer power to gain just the slightest advantage in down force or drag reduction. Who would have imagined a couple of years ago that the engines exhaust gases could be used to increase downforce? Or that how that was executed would be the difference between a world beater and a mid pack car.

But how, if at all, does aerodynamics effect our world, where the bodywork is made from carbon fiber or fiberglass, and all made from the same molds? The answer isn’t simple, and I will freely admit that I dont know everything that is going on here.

But we do know that in the days when steel roofs were required, things were creative.  A steel roof was required to prevent the cheating up of the windshield. However a stock roof will not fit the molded bodywork. Not only was the metal stretched, but it was sectioned. In other words a pie shaped section cut out so that the stock windshield fits but the greenhouse is as small as possible.

But you say that’s just vintage cars whats that got to do with the cars we run now? True, point well taken. But remember that the laws of physics are the same for an F1 car or a GT1 car. And  its all about managing the flow of air around the vehicle and underneath the car. So I will just point some things in no particular order. And remember, in making these points I am not accusing anybody of doing anything.

First, back in the old days of the Trans-Am series they required that the body not below the line of the chassis. As part of the tech inspection a straight edge be placed across the bottom of the car. The advantage of course being that dropping the body below the frame, (which has a belly pan) you create diffuser tunnels between the door and the frame rail.

Even if the body is even with the frame rails, you can do the same thing with the filler panels between the body and frame. This requires a little creativity so as not to be conspicuous.

Speaking of the area between the door panel and the car itself, I have seen some radiused pieces placed at the front of the filler panel. The purpose was obvious, but how do you get that air out from under the car? Its blocked by the rear wheel tub, so wouldnt it be better to get it out at the front wheel opening?

A few years ago one of the major Ford teams cars cars appeared to be a little different. Just by observation it seemed that the rear undertray had more of a slope than the other Fords. Of course the part had the proper approval stickers.

The mesh on the grill opening can effect the amount of downforce on the front of the car. Of course the finer the mesh the less air can get through. And using one consistent mesh is just a matter of convenience right?

Speaking of Fords, the 93-up Mustang had a huge flat rear deck. That made these cars more responsive to body rake. By getting that deck exposed to more airflow, you increased the downforce. Almost like using a larger spoiler. Other makes may have the same issues.

Dive planes of course are useful in tuning the front end.

And the primary goal is doing anything possible to first prevent air from getting under the car, secondly to exhaust the air that does get under the front of the car. I had a steel bodied Mustang, that used a steel hood, with a scoop, that had all the reinforcement removed. Down the straightaway the rear of the hood would rise up to the full extent of the hood pins. Perhaps 6″ in the center. If we could have prevented that it could have meant some nice gains. Food for thought.

If its allowed by the rules, opening up where the rear license plate was allows a place to exhaust air from the rear. many people  use this as a place to place an oil cooler for the trans or rear.

And of course the wickerbill on the rear end can be used as a tuning tool, as well as the angle of the wing itself will increase rear downforce.

Like anything else when you change one end of the car it effects the other as well. We’ve just thrown a few things out there, and obviously just scratched the surface of what may be going on. But if you look closely there may be things that make you say “hmmm?”

Left front of Trans-Am car

Left front of Trans-Am Car 2010

GT1 MustangThe GT1 Mustang of Tim Lyons, crew chief Darryl Hunter


Get your mind out of the gutter, I’m talking horsepower here.

Whats the first thing people talk about when discussing racecars? How much power the thing has of course. And few things are more misrepresented. Regardless of what it is everybody feels compelled to believe they have the most powerful engine out there. (unless you get beat when the engine was down on power, of course).

But what numbers are we really talking about? There was a time not too long ago, when a really strong 310 CID engine would put out around 700 HP. Some of course did a fair bit more. But these were limited to one or maybe two teams. And while they would sell those engines, they didn’t seem to do as well with the new owners. Some say the heads were changed before the motors were delivered, but I digress.

Then with the introduction of the e Nascar 358 engines, horsepower went up to around 800 +/-. And a whole new world appeared. Transmissionssuddenly became a problem, as did tire management.

A couple of years ago, when the new generation of engines arrived in Nascar the old SB2.2’s, and Ford’s w’Yates heads became obsolete. The teams needed a market so some of them found their way to the road aracing scene. And for prices that were too cheap to pass up. And now the power level was up to 835 approximately.

Last year things progressed even further. People found that even with that power they couldn’t keep up at the power tracks. Why, you ask? Well it seems that there was a generation of cylinder heads produced, by both Ford and GM, that was not approved by Nascar. These heads, or at least some of them have found their way onto the track. And by the way they are completely legal. But one builder told me they were worth 25 horsepower on his engine. His driver said that he can finally run with the top cars after the upgrade. Power? 850 +.

So whats next in the quest for “more power!”