Simple advice for beginners -
By Archie Bosman:
“The biggest misunderstanding among Sportsman racers, particularly in short track oval competition,” says MSD’s Erik Brock, involves spark plug gaps—many of them believe the bigger the gap, the more power produced. But this is not the case.
“If it’s a mildly tuned engine it may not matter; the ignition system will usually do the job—especially if it’s ignited by a capable ignition box and coil—even though it has to work harder. But if it’s a race engine with compression ratios of 13 or 14 or 15:1, with 0.030in or 0.040in plug gaps, the ignition system is greatly disadvantaged. Generating a spark that’s compelled to jump a wide plug gap is inviting trouble. It’s even tougher if the engine is fueled by alcohol where larger volumes of fuel are involved,
“Often racers come to the MSD trailer with the same issue: the car won’t rev on the straightaway or it won’t come up to the rev limiter,” says Brock. “I ask them their compression ratio and their plug gap? Often they’ll tell me it’s 0.045 or 0.050in. Nine times out of 10 when they close the gap by 0.010in the car runs better. By closing the plug gap they reduce the load on the ignition coil. But this also reveals a weakness in the ignition system and at this point they realize they need a better coil.”
Grounding and welding
By nature, circle track cars get clobbered with mud and then blasted with water in the car wash. Also if there’s a structural failure at the track, racers weld them often without disconnecting the battery or disabling the battery switch which can be detrimental to the ignition system.
“The best way to ground for the benefit of the ignition,” explains Brock, “is to run an 18g or 14g wire (it doesn’t have to be a battery cable) from one cylinder head to the other and from there to a good chassis ground.
“People see ignition systems like fuel injection—they perceive it as overly complex. It isn’t. The most common troubles with circle track cars include using incorrect plug gaps and incorrect coils. Ignition isn’t magic, it’s basic.
“When you increase compression or cylinder pressure by adding boost or nitrous the plug gap has to be reduced accordingly. Turbo and blower cars running substantial boost on alcohol perform their best with plug gaps of around 0.019in.” On mildly tuned engines Brock recommends 0.030in to 0.035in.
El Paso, Texas