Race to replace
2.On a visit to AutoSport International 2015, drivers explain how remanufacturing processes help to keep their motorsport dreams alive.
Autosport International is the annual curtain raiser for a new season of European motorsport. It’s an event that showcases the latest and best in racing car technology. Visitors can feast their eyes on cars from just about every racing discipline.
Amy Barker had just missed out on a special award from the British Women Racing Drivers Club after retaining her British MX5 MK1 Racing title last year. If something goes wrong with the engine on her car, it’s just not possible to buy a new one:
‘I race in a 1989 Mk1 Mazda MX5. It still has the original engine. If there’s a problem it’s a case of remanufacturing what we already have.’
Her race engineer is Keith Worthington. He says the last engine reman job was three years ago, which means further love and attention is not far away. That will be provided by a remanufacturer who specialises in race engines and it’s a process that brings with it significant benefits:
‘Remanufacturing the old one it gives us the opportunity to get improved performance for another couple of years – that means more reliability and far more compression than the original specification would have had.’
Over at the Ford RS Owners Club stand, Ron Walker was exhibiting a ‘concourse’ car. These are cars that have been restored as close to original showroom condition as it is possible to be. From a remanufacturing perspective, he was interested in suppliers that could deliver on looks rather than performance.
‘Take a Mk1 Ford Escort from 1974, for example,’ he says. ‘You can’t buy a new wing or panel, or if you can, it costs a fortune. The track racers will buy cheap fibreglass copies that don’t last and that don’t look anything like as good as the original. That’s no good for a car like this.’
His 1993 Ford Escort Cosworth looked more like an ornament, especially inside the engine compartment, which gleamed. It was something that you just wanted to stand and admire – and a lot of preparedpeople at the show were to do just that.
‘For a car like this, the panel has to be right or you end up spending more money just trying to make a bad part fit. Remanufactured panels are the only alternative.’
Mark ‘Buff’ Luney is a driver with the Belfast-based SATS Motorsport team. His Toyota Supra is running in the Maxxis British Drift Championship this season, a discipline where travelling sideways around a bend is one of the best ways to impress – and where the remedial maintenance incurred is likely to be expensive.
For example, the differential on the car is likely to be replaced 2-3 times in a year.
‘This car is 20 years old. When the diff becomes a problem, we can’t get new parts anymore. They don’t physically make them, so we have to use the services of remanufacturers. It’s the same with gearbox repairs and the cylinder head.’
Last season, Chris Andrews drove for the RF Motorsports team, which has won no fewer than eight European FIA Championships. He doesn’t race around corners. He drives a Top Fuel Dragster. Top Fuel dragsters are prepared for speeds of more than 530km/hr. A fine-tuned engine is critical to success. It’s all about racing just over 300 metres in a straight line.
‘The engine comes out after every event. We re-measure everything to ensure the tolerances are not exceeded and the pistons and rods are a prime example of this. The stretch of the rod has implications for the whole engine in terms of balance, combination and compression levels. We will remanufacture and re-use them as long as we can. It’s the same with valves, springs and various other components.’
He says that finding a remanufacturer with the expertise and the inclination to take this kind of work on is not always possible:
‘There are some very good engineering companies in the UK and Europe, but few of them actually support drag racing, which makes them very, very expensive to use. Our alternative is to ship the parts out to the US, but the re-shipping costs make that prohibitive. So, although it’s not a very efficient use of our time, we have to do much of it ourselves. I’d love to hear from any remanufacturers that could help us out.’