Engines Engines Engines

It’s been a while since I have pontificated on the new chassis, but there really hasn’t been much new news on that front and the number one news item was kind of lost in the wake of Las Vegas. We actually had the two engine packages on track at the same time during the championship weekend. I am not sure what the access to this run or test or show or whatever it was called but it didn’t seem as if we received a lot of information about it. Last week the two manufacturers were testing at the never closed IMS and fans got a few scraps of information.

James Black over at 16th and Georgetown was gracious enough to head out to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and take some recordings of a Honda single turbo engine and a Chevy twin turbo engine. He ever so awesomely posted these sounds for all of us to consume. I really think these things flew a bit under the radar, so I will piggy back off of him and attempt to bring them to the community’s attention again. We have been clamoring for engine noises, which we gave gotten, but never a real side by side comparison of the two until now. Partially, the reasons are that the tests have been closed, but thankfully Chevy has joined Honda in open engine testing and James was able to give us some really cool sounds.

We all had been praying for some kind of difference between the two engines, and at least initially, it seems like we got them. Obviously, with the absence of the Lotudd, a true sound comparison cannot be made, but given the similar twin turbo architecture as the Chevy engine, the noises belched from the exhaust pipes should be more similar than different.

With that said, I always have to recall my trips to the USGP at IMS during the years they were here. I attended during the V8 years of 2006 and 2007. During the 07 year, we had six different eight cylinder engines and you could hear a difference between them all, albeit a very small and discrete difference, but it was there nonetheless. I will say that the Honda lump literally shook me to the bone every time it roared past me the bass that engine put out was unreal. With this knowledge in hand, I am sure the two twin turbo engines, Lotudd and Chevy, will have their own aural nuances.

Now, back to the Honda single turbo power plant…

Honda has opted for a single turbo engine configuration. All six exhaust headers will be combined ahead of the single turbo charger to create power. I can only imagine that the downpipe, the tube that joins the turbo with the rest of the exhaust, is just massive before it splits into the dual tips. This one every big pipe, connected to a large turbo, really transmits the low end engine sounds very well. The Honda portions of the audio have a very deep and ballsy sound to them. The sound is very different from the screamers we had blasting across the yard of bricks back in the 90’s. It reminds me of an old school turbo engine, with lots of grunt and oomph.

On the other hand, the Chevy sounds as if it is a screamer. Two, smaller, turbochargers are used as opposed to the single, large unit the Honda uses. Each turbo in the Chevy engine is only powered by three cylinders; this will lead to smaller pipe diameters throughout the exhaust path. This, in turn, helps with the transmission of the higher pitched frequencies we can hear on the recordings. Although each bank, right and left, could be ran totally independent of each other, I am sure the designers joined the two exhaust stream before splitting them again to equalize exhaust port pressure between the two banks. This engine sounds the way I think a turbo racing engine should sound…like a screamer.

I know the decibel level of the previous Honda engine was a point of contention with many. It was not uncommon to see temporary mufflers and earplugs abound in the garage area. I have to disagree; racing engines should be ear splitting, earth shaking monsters. That’s what earplugs were invented for. Each of the two engines seems like they will fulfill each end of the spectrum; you shouldn’t need to hear to know there are racecars in the area. I know they will be quieter than the old engines but I can dream…

Finally, with the talks of decreasing downforce and increasing horsepower in hopes of creating a bit more separation on the big ovals, worry has arose that the small 2.2 liter engines will not be able to pump out that power. Way back in the mid 80’s, Formula One was running 1.5 liter turbo engines. I know these guys rarely had to last more than a race distance or even a few laps in qualifying, but that was over 25 years ago. Those engines made 900 horses in race trim and up to 1500 in qualifying trim. I am supremely confident that Chevy, Honda and Lotudd will be able to adjust accordingly if needed.

I really hope Lotus or Judd is able to find their way to the track sometime before December 15th or there will be quite a few unhappy teams raging through the paddock. Chevy and Honda have said they have contingency plans, but I am hoping it does not come to that. Reports of the Lotus hitting the dyno have been coming in for over a month, and with only HVM that I know of signed up for an engine deal, I am really starting to get worried. I hope some of these teams without engine contracts but with tubs on order are not left high and dry.

Worries aside, we are still in for quite the engine treat next year, even if our beloved aerokits are delayed until 2013. December 15th marks the date that open team testing can begin and Dallara has been taking a flurry of orders. It seems as though the grid may have 25+ cars, and a Lotus presence is needed now, more than ever. Unfortunately I was unable to make it out to IMS for the testing days myself, but am always thankful for hometown bloggers who take the time to share awesome stuff like James has with us. It would be a much lonelier place in indycarland with out. I just have a feeling that testing is going really well and we are going to have killer 2012 season. I just hope Lotudd shows up to play soon.

Eric Hall

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