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How do they get nearly 700 horses out of a car that weighs about as much as a Mini Cooper?
IndyCar engines must weigh at least 248 pounds, and the car at least 1,570. So that's exactly what teams aim for and not an ounce more. We spoke with two of the men most responsible for the 2.2-liter twin-turbocharged Chevy V-6 that 2014 IndyCar Series champion Will Power will drive in the Indy 500 on May 24: Chris Berube (IndyCar Series Chevrolet program manager) and Ron -Ruzewski (technical director for Team Penske). They explained how they get 675 horsepower from a car that's half the weight of a Mini Cooper S.
1. Starter: This is where it would be if IndyCars had starters. The pit crew uses an external electric motor to crank the engine. One downside: If the car stalls, the driver can't restart it.
2. Exhaust: To reduce weight, IndyCars have short exhaust pipes, no catalytic converters, and no mufflers.
3. Structure: The engine is a component of the chassis, with a load-bearing block and cam covers. It literally holds the car together. The gearbox and suspension bolt to the back of the engine, and the driver compartment bolts to the front.
4. Fuel Injection: Most fuel-injected cars use nozzles to spray fuel into intake ports outside the combustion chamber, while some performance cars inject fuel straight into the chamber. To give Power's IndyCar the massive amount of fuel it needs, his engine does both.
5. Lubrication: Traditional cars collect oil in the oil pan and pump it into the engine, but a race car moves fast enough that, with that setup, the oil would slosh around, preventing it from reaching the pump. Instead, a dry-sump system pumps oil to a separate reservoir that keeps it constantly in reach.
6. Pistons: The pistons are handmade to exacting, highly confidential specifications. Because racers look for every advantage they can get, Power's team can't share more.
7. Cooling: Scoops on the sides capture air to cool the engine. If the car sits for much longer than the eight to ten seconds of an average pitstop, it can overheat.
Accessories: With so few accessories, there's no accessory drivebelt. Things like oil pumps are powered directly by the engine.
Life span: The league has stringent regulations on engine use. Drivers can go through a maximum of four engines per year. They can be replaced at 2,500 miles or if they will exceed 2,850 by the end of a race. A whole new engine before you'd even need an oil change.
Now you know: The real difference between IndyCar and Formula One is that IndyCars race primarily in the U.S., and Formula One is global. It's like Premier League and Major League Soccer: same basic thing, different fanaticism. Also, only IndyCars race on oval tracks.
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