Conquering The Mojave Mile, Texas Mile, and Bonneville with a Supercharged RS-46

Recent History
There's probably no way to write this story without somebody getting butt hurt and feeling like they're being thrown under the bus. The purpose of telling this story is neither: I'm not intending to hurt anybody's feelings, and I'm not trying to throw anybody under the bus. I've always been completely honest with the readers here, and so as I unfold and tell this story, I will give as many details as I can. There are certain details that I will still keep secret and will not disclose because disclosing them would do more harm than good. So the purpose is to tell the story honestly and give as much details as necessary for everybody to understand the project -- and in doing so, some details will still be kept secret.

Many of you may have seen the threads on MBForum and M3Post where I was discussing the Mojave Mile. You may have seen the typical naysayers and doubters add their $0.02. You may have also noticed I appeared a bit confident in my convictions. There was good reason for it: we plan to put a supercharger on the stroker, and attempt a very high speed run at the standing (Mojave, Texas) and flying mile (Bonneville).

You may have also noticed that my car is at ESS getting "tuned" and that we planned for 175MPH in the Texas Mile. 175MPH is a perfect cover story for the NA stroker M3 -- because that's probably exactly how it would perform. But it was a lie. The goal was never 175MPH, the real goal is 200!

Past History
Since my early 20's (not the 1920's as some of you may think), I wanted to take a car to Bonneville and set a class record. At the time, I worked at Drake Engineering -- 26-time Indy-500 winning company. We built everything from full blown racing engines, to our own turbo kits (the same turbo kit that made Callaway Turbos famous) and our own 16V racing heads for the VW Rabbit/Golf. At that time, I set my sights on setting a Bonneville record in a 1600CC NA VW Rabbit. I recall the record was 154MPH in class, and I wanted to break it. I acquired the racing motor when one of our customers went bankrupt, but my dreams ended when my car was stolen. I've always wanted to give it a try, and recently I began thinking about it again. This time, there's no dream of breaking a class record -- because that would be impossible with what I have to work with.

Deciding to Supercharge the Stroker
Many of you have been able to read through the lines and know something was wrong with the ECU tuning in the stroker. Instead of using the RD Sport ECU tune for the stroker, I went my own way with a custom tune. Afterwards, my car predominentely would cold start and enter limp mode -- even in the heat of summer; my car would occasionally stall while idling; and most embarassingly, my car would enter limp mode about one of every five times I would simply launch gradually from a dead stop. It was originally believed to be an idle valve problem, but after replacing $900 of idle valve parts we discovered nothing changed -- all of my problems were still there. That's when I programmed the ECU back to stock and discovered all of my problems went away. But this now left me with a bit of a dilema. I couldn't run the factory tune on the stroker, and I didn't want to give the same people a third chance at the tuning.

During the stroker tuning process, I had called ESS and asked if they'd be willing to tune the stroker. They knew the problems I was having and thought it would be a challenge to tune the stroker. They agreed and we worked out some business terms that would allow other stroker customers to have access to their tune. But instead of turning the car over to ESS, I decided to let Company-A "finish" the tuning process. I really felt comfortable with that decision because I was convinced I had an idle control valve problem, not a tuning problem (an assumption that later proved to be false). So after replacing all of the idle valve components, reflashing back to stock and discovering that my problems weren't solved, I knew I needed to call ESS and kind of beg for mercy. That's when I first got the idea of supercharging the stroker. But before calling, I wanted to do a bit of research.

Researching a Supercharger System
Before calling ESS, I ran some software simulations using CarTest to see what type of performance I could expect out of a supercharged stroker motor. CarTest already has a BMW M3 software model in it. Using that model as a baseline, I modified it by inputting my own stroker dyno charts (a feature supported by CarTest) and regenerating a set of speed test reports. Not surprisingly, it showed 175MPH in the standing mile. Next, I came up with an average weighting method to merge the ESS VT2-600 dyno charts with the stroker dyno charts to create a dyno chart that I was "hopeful" would represent the FI stroker motor. I played with all kinds of various final drive ratios to see if there was a magic bullet that would give me the best 1/4 mile, 60-130, standing mile, and flying mile results. It turns out, there was a magic bullet: placing the DCT 3.15 final drive in the stroker was the perfect ratio and actually gave me the fastest times for 1/4 mile, 60-130, standing and flying mile results. Here's a graph demonstrating the performance. Look at the 1/4 mile, 0-5280ft, and Bonneville speed projections.



Next, I contacted somebody who is an automotive expert and knows quite a bit about forced induction. I layed out the project proposal to him, and asked for his analysis of the various supercharger systems on the market. I never expected to get five or six pages of analysis in response. The response was so detailed, it even discussed the pros and cons of every intercooling system available and even at specific RPM bands. Then I called my former collegue from Drake Engineering (he built Mark Donahue's 1972 Indy-500 winning motor) and I threw the idea at him. His first response was "why in the F*CK would you screw up a $70000 BMW, go buy a $20000 sh*t box and do the same thing." But next he asked "who's blower are you using (Vortech V3), and what cooling system (air-water intercooler)." After answering those questions, he was very satisfied with my answers and changed his tune by saying "I can put you in contact with people who have done this before...but it sounds like you're on the right track."

Next up in the agenda: calling ESS to consumate the deal.
This may sound completely strange, but I really was looking for a face-saving way to get my ECU tuning fixed. ESS proved very successful with the GS car and I saw this as a sign that they could handle the ECU tuning of the stroker. I knew tuning the stroker was going to be expensive -- probably $3000 expensive. So at that point, I honestly figured I might as well spend the extra $10k and get the blower as well and be done with it. As it turns out, I discovered I'm not the only person who did the exact same thing. I think I'm actually the third person who restorted to adding a supercharger just to end their frustrations with a bad ECU tune. (No, not all of the same don't ask.) So I called Roman and worked out a deal for a NA ECU tune and supercharger combo package.

I asked ESS to give me two separate configurations: 1) High boost race tuned for 100 octane gasoline. 2) Low boost, tuned for daily driving and 91 octane. At first we toyed with the idea of having two separate ECU's with two separate tunes. We may still do this as a plan-B. Currently Plan-A is to activate some secret sauce inside of the MSS60 ECU that the boys at ESS discovered. This might allow us to run both programs (high boots/octane and low boost/octane) simultaneously without the need for changing the ECU.

Getting sponsors for the project
Now, with an enormous project on my hands and only four or five months to do it, I began calling potential sponsors. By and large, everybody I contacted was very responsive. My first call was to AutoTalent -- since I already had a working relationship with Sam, and I really could use some cheap labor for the project. It turns out Sam had an identical goal: Texas Mile and Bonneville. (Actually, the Texas Mile was entirely Sam's idea. I had never heard of it before he mentioned it.) It didn't take any convincing whatsoever: Sam was in for the project.

My next call was to DiffsOnline to line up the 3.15 30/90 Salisbury locking differential. Dan responded with an unbelievable price. That differential is already installed in the car.

Shortly thereafter I called Nick@JLeviSW to get some VRS carbon parts, Tom @ EAS for Recaro seats and lightweight battery, RD Sport for lightweight wheels, VBoxUSA for firmware enhancements to the Video VBox to allow me to capture CAN bus data while driving. Everybody was very responsive to the call and offered some level of support.

Secrecy starts to unravel
Shortly after contacting my first potential sponsors, the secrecy already began to unravel (October/November 2009). Alex @ Gintani called to discuss forum business, and dropped the old "a little birdie told me" line about the project. Of course I denied it...but I'm a really bad maybe Alex knew. But as time marched on, more and more people began adding 2+2 together. I began getting more phone calls, private emails, PMs, and a few open speculations in the forum itself. Since it was already known that I wanted to attend the Texas Mile, and my car was going to ESS for ECU tuning, it provided the perfect cover story to say the goal was 175MPH in the Texas Mile using a NA tune from ESS.

But this still wasn't enough. The speculation continued to increase. A few days before my car was due to be driven to ESS, Alex @ Gintani called again -- this time offering to supercharge the stroker. Alex's kit is very nice and there's many things about it that I like very much. But my decision was already made, and I discussed this with Alex at length and gave him the professional courtesy of telling exactly why I was declining his offer. Alex deserves props and a shout out for trying his best to land the project.

Recently many of you noticed I went over to MBWorld last week and engaged in a little banter. The banter was intentional because the project was full steam ahead. But behind the scenes, more things started to unravel. A small handful of people came out of the woodworks to tell me about their dreams and hopes for supercharging their cars and competing in the Mojave and Texas Mile. I'm really bad at hiding information, so it seems like I began disclosing the project to everybody who called or wrote. There was also one or two people that I initiated contact with to tell them about the project. That's when I figured there was no point in keeping the project secret any longer. I believe we got this far in the project with secrecy, now it's time to unveil the project and ask for your support to achieve our goals.

The Goals:
The goals are lofty. 200MPH in the standing (Texas) mile, and 225MPH in the flying (Bonneville) mile. I know many people don't believe in dyno charts and paper graphs. So when you look at these charts and graphs, the first thing to notice is there's virtually no room for margin in the standing mile. The software does a great job of accomodating wind resistance, tire slippage, drag, downforce. The software even allows me to model wing sizes and placement on the car (all of which I've done). IN every way, I've input the exact data for this car -- down to the exact tire sizes and expansion rates, not approximations or guestimates of anything (except the dyno charts).

According to the software, acheiving 225MPH in the flying mile looks like it's much more achievable than 200MPH in the standing mile. With only 6MPH margin of error -- assuming we hit my projected horsepower targets -- everything must be dead perfect in order to hit this goal. Therefore, I'm under no dilusion that we will hit it. I think it's far more likely that we'll top out around 197MPH, than it is we'll break 200.

Even though it's hard to tell what the class record is in the Texas Mile, as best I could tell, it appears to be 204MPH in my class. So with quite a bit of luck and a perfect run, we could be in line to break the class record (just not very likely IMO).

The first part of tuning for the stroker+supercharger is to get the ECU tuning correct on the stroker by itself. After the tuning process started, ESS called me with a perplexing question: "does your car always idle this bad?" I responded: "Idle bad? Are you kidding? It idles perfectly compared to what it did before." Within an hour, ESS called back: "the car idles perfectly now." They discovered the factory ECU settings were approximately 30% different than what the stroker really wanted. Those settings then became the basis for the rest of the ECU tuning process.

Building and testing a car for a project like this takes a lot of time and effort. First task is acquiring the rule books that give you mandates for safety equipment. For example the rules for Mojave and Texas Mile are nearly identical with one BIG exceptions. To exceed 190MPH in Mojave, you must have a fuel cell. That's where I draw the line and say "NO." So we'll end up using the Mojave Mile as a testing ground for the car in our quest to break 200MPH in Texas. Even going up to 190 will probably tell us everything we need to know about the car. I believe it will tell us how much power is left to break 200. If we reach 190 early, then we'll know we have a good shot at 200. If we barely reach 190, then more tuning might be required.

That's where having a good support team comes in handy. While I might be completely out of place in saying this, I know the ESS guys are planning to come to Mojave, so maybe if we're down on power, we can turn it up a little while we're there. Just to be fair in pointing this out, I have no doubt that Gintani would do the same thing for their customers without any hesitation whatsoever.

With testing in mind, this weekend I travel to Arizona to test the NA tune that's been placed on the car. Tomorrow, the car will be dyno'd. Since ESS takes a more conservative approach, I'm prepared for the car to lose a little power. After the dyno and final tuning session, we'll be driving the car around for a day before attempting some 60-130MPH runs on Sunday. On Sunday, we'll capture 60-130 VBox runs on a stock DCT, my NA stroker, and Roman's ESS VT2-600 DCT vehicle. Since we're up at 2500 feet altitude (or something like that), I have no idea if I'll lose time from my last 60-130, or gain time due to a diffent tune and density-altitude. But keep an eye out on this thread next week, because pictures and results will begin to be posted.

Conclusions and Hindsight
For those of you who doubted how powerful the RD Sport stroker is, let this be a warning. Within one day of receiving my car, the guys at ESS called to express their impressions of the stroker. They were overwhelmingly impressed at how strong the motor runs. In fact, they were so impressed, that for the first five or six days we talked, they had to mention it every single time. As they made the NA tune, it seemed like the stroker responded so well, that they kept calling me because they were so excited about it.

I know I've taken a lot of heat because the stroker has never been to the drag strip. Those are really cheap shots to begin with because if you look at the schedules of these events, the stroker wasn't ever available during any of those events. Even if it were, it wouldn't have changed my mind about the 1/4 mile...I still would care less about it. I might have gone if the car had been available, but I could have cared less about the results because it's primarily a driver's competition and not a car competition. So now with a supercharger on the stroker will I change my mind? Not in a million years. Even with all of this power, I could still care less about 1/4 mile times. In fact with all of this power, I'll probably avoid the 1/4 mile drag strip like the plague because I'm really not in the mood to snap drive shafts, half shafts, or burn out clutches.

What's next?
We still need things, we still need sponsors. I'm having a hard time finding suitable racing tires that are rated above 200MPH. I'm open to any and all suggestions. If any potential sponsors are reading this thread and think they have something to contribute to the project, by all means, give me a call or send me a PM.

The car will always have two drivers: Sam @ AutoTalent, and myself. I'm first and foremost, but I won't hesitate to use Sam as the pawn if I'm too scared to do it myself. (Make no mistake, I am afraid to go 200 MPH, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.)

I know this was a long post, so if I forgot any details, or screwed something up, don't hesitate to ask or point it out

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by published on January 21, 2010 1:53 PM.

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Driving impressions: RS-46 with ESS tune is the next entry in this blog.

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