My home city of Adelaide rarely hosts a drag racing meet that has heaps of quick fours and rotaries. Sure, there are the regulars that turn up, but there's never a string of little monsters queuing up in the staging lanes. This all changed a short while ago when GemiSpares presented a show-and-shine and drag racing event for smaller cars. It was a pretty major thing, with some extra-quick small cars brought from across the State's borders ready to fight it out.
Now don't get me wrong, in ultimate terms, a big capacity engine will always pull rank over a smaller one - so long as they both have similar head flows etc. But the total ignorance and sheer disregard held by some of the track marshals towards these pint-sized cars was something to behold. These guys and gals were being paid to do their respective jobs on the day, so you'd think they'd show a little patience and tolerance. Wrong.
Obviously we aren't talking about all drag marshals around the world here because generally they do a great job - but sometimes someone lets the whole team down.
Down by the starting line a young lad with perhaps no drag racing experience would pull up in his mild RX7. He'd stop behind the timing beams waiting for further instructions from the marshals, only to be rudely instructed to wind his window up and move further forward. Not only that, one guy would yell loudly, shake his head and curse to himself before walking back to his position on the track. The poor dude in his car had just been blasted, made to look like an idiot in front of the entire crowd for not knowing what he was fully entitled not to know! I mean doesn't everyone on Earth know the procedure of drag racing?
Meanwhile, there was more activity going on in the scrutinising area. Not the slightest bit interested with this type of car, the inspectors would finish checking each vehicle and then wander over to their mates and exchange hushed derogatory comments on what they'd just seen. Talk about a hostile environment!
But the real shiner was a comment made by a more senior marshal - directed to the Editor and myself mind you! - that "this whole day is a waste of time and it's a lot of crap"! We just looked at each other in disbelief! By the time we'd recovered from this totally inappropriate comment it was too late to make any smart-arse wise cracks in return (one of the rare occasions!).
The fact that some of the genuinely street-driven cars were pulling 9 and 10-second passes obviously didn't register upstairs. In comparison, the usual mix of V8-dominant cars that arrive on the top of trailers and have their exhaust pulled off are lucky to crack a 10 second quarter. The mega-horse pure drag-cars do it easy, but that's not what we're comparing. Some people can't seem to see the line between a road car - and a drag car that the owner has just kept paying the rego on. When you can see this line, you can fully appreciate a genuinely fast road driven car for what it is - whatever's under the bonnet.
A big thanks to everyone that responded to my plea for information on turbo anti-lag systems - it was great. Someone who had actually fitted an ALS is one of our regular forum contributors, Heath Young, and the subject car (of all things!) was a carby-fed Daihatsu Charade turbo. It was done using only a dedicated spark plug and an ignition cut.
Here is an edited extract of two emails I received from Heath:
"When switched on, a random cylinder ignition cut was employed using a simple circuit consisting of a 555 timer and a power tranny shorting the coil (heavily heat-sinked!). The passed mixture was ignited using a spark plug that was tapped into the exhaust manifold, and was driven by an EHT circuit (I think it was the Jacobs Ladder power supply from memory). But we had pretty severe cracking problems that occurred due to the thermal stresses incurred by dissimilar metals placed together. I think that the spark plug expanded more. The carby was jetted so that it ran pretty rich too. The circuit switched itself off after the engine RPM hit 2500 (using the shift light circuit), and was switched off after the car reached third gear (micro-switch).
Once switched on, the combustion WAS controlled, and sounded like a bloody great V8 with only 6 cylinders firing. The exhaust manifold glows a pretty colour after about 30 seconds though (as did the turbo)! On launch, the car spat a 2-3 foot yellow-blue flame that was only really visible at night. For the best launch, the car was revved up to 2000rpm at the lights (keeping an eye on the boost, letting it build up to 7psi, and letting the wastegate do the work) then either a slip or a dump of the clutch. There were problems though. Once, on take off, the spark plug lead fell off and the car was pumping raw fuel into the manifold. It ignited, and blew burning fuel out the tailpipe all over the front grille of the car behind us. OOPS!
The engine ran like shit when the system was running - really lumpy - so the revs had to be kept up or it would stall. Mind you, the mixture wasn't exactly stoichiometric!
We were also experimenting with propane injection into the manifold. We actually had more success with this method - the explosions were more powerful thus making it more effective - but as the exhaust manifold finally blew itself to bits, we decided that it really wasn't worth the effort. But the main disadvantage of this ignition-cut only system was that the fuel charge would cool the manifold (we believed) causing thermal stress = cracking manifold. Air injection would still be a wise thing to try, we also tried pure oxygen injected into the manifold with limited success..."
Is this guy keen or what?!
Another reply came from John McKenzie stating that a while back he'd heard of a homemade anti-lag system one guy was using on his circuit racecar. His set-up didn't require either fuel or air injection into the exhaust - all that was required was to adjust the ignition timing to around 35 degrees (or possibly more) after TDC at low revs. A throttle position sensor was used to switch from this massive ignition retard setting, back to "normal" timing. "Obviously, setting up took a fair amount of trial and error, but the power out of corners (and indeed the significant increase in throttle responsiveness with regard to altering over/understeer) was well worth the effort", wrote John. Plus it gave boost at idle, which was at around 2500rpm when the system was engaged.
I also received word from Adrian Vos of Australia's Haltech management systems. He informed me that they actually developed their anti-lag system on a well-known Australian Lancer GSR running genuine 11.7s quarters. "The anti-lag has transformed this car" he said, "I think that it's great ET is mainly attributed to the anti-lag". "It has no problems lighting up all 4 wheels with slicks on bitumen, and it has 10psi before you even start to let the clutch out". (Wow!) However, he also went on to say the system took a lot of work to get properly sorted and that he'd be surprised if a good system could be developed without aftermarket injection. At least, not unless some auxiliary system was employed to dump fuel directly into the exhaust along with the EGR valve to bypass air into the exhaust.
He also pointed out some systems use a spark plug mounted in the exhaust to ignite the mixture but this isn't his preferred method as it necessitates extra igniters, coils, and spark plugs. One advantage of this system, though, may be more control of the ignition of the fuel rather than just igniting it by reaching flash point.
I've even been pointed in the direction of a couple of really interesting web sites. These are at http://www.rallycars.com/Cars/Mitsubishi_Evo_V/EvoV_3.html and http://www.grid.co.nz/toc.htm. The first URL gives a pretty good description of the system used on the Group A Evolution Lancers and a good general background.
But it was the second site just about made me have kittens. It is packed full of aftermarket trick controllers and computers for just about any application (but mainly for Nissans) and there is an aftermarket anti-lag control. Accela, they call it. It appears to be simply an ignition cut and it is only suitable for transistorised ignition vehicles. A launch control button is also included in the package, which is listed at US$490. Alas, the emails I've sent to the company asking for more info have gone unanswered - but rest assured I'll be filling their Inbox with a string of new messages!