As we inspected the facilities at the University of Northwestern Ohio on the first Sunday of October 2013, the scene was eerily quiet. In 24 hours we would be launching the year's biggest event for serious engine builders, the 2013 AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge. With more than a decade of history, the concept is well known to our regular readers, an open invitational competition where engine builders, both professional and amateur, bring their best engine-building effort and battle it out on the dyno for the crown of Engine Master. We lay down the rules many months in advance, setting the guidelines and specifications on what is a legal engine for competition, and the builders work within that framework to showcase their talent, skill, and innovation to outpower their rivals. For engine builders it is the purest form of competition, with the sole focus being the ability to make power. Everything else that influences racing is stripped away.

It would be difficult enough to compete for the biggest peak horsepower number, but the AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge scoring system digs much deeper into an engine's power producing capabilities. The scoring system takes the power produced over the entirety of a predetermined rpm range. For 2013, that rpm range was from 3,000 to 7,000 rpm, and the scoring system relies on the torque and horsepower output at every data point over that range. To allow for engines of varied displacements, the aggregate of the power numbers is divided by the cubic inches to get the score. To excel in this event, no part of an engine's power curve can be neglected.

Besides the glory of demonstrating a mastery of engine-building ability, the AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge offers the potential to walk away with a tremendous cash purse from over $80,000 in available contingency awards. Between reputations and dollars, there is definitely a lot on the line when our builders step into the dyno cell. As the final preparations are made, the crew from DTS/SuperFlow are making the final calibrations to the two UNOH dyno cells, validating the readings with a test engine to ensure that each deliver identical readings. Engines for the opening day's competition had already been mounted to the Powermark dyno docking carts, awaiting preliminary tech prior to being rolled into the test cell. Drums of VP100 unleaded spec fuel awaited in the staging area, as did a mountain of AMSOIL Dominator racing oil in a range of legal viscosities. In the morning, the thunder of competition engines would echo through the cool Ohio air.

Qualifying

With the first Monday in October came the first of four days of qualifying eliminations. Only the top five scoring competitors would advance to the Final Eliminations to be held Friday. Once an engine is at the ready on its assigned dyno, the engine builder must verify that the engine is ready to run, signing off on a detailed check list to ensure nothing is overlooked. This is the point of no return, when what is often months of preparation comes down to delivering the goods in competition. A five-minute clock is started to allow the builder to set the preliminary tune, and warm up the engine. A 27-minute clock follows. In this period the builder is required to make three scored competition pulls. The builder can use the time period to make any legal mechanical changes, adjustments, and test dyno pulls. The only requirement is that at the end of the allotted time period the builder has the three required official pulls for scoring. The final score is based on an average of each of these selected full competition pulls.

Day one of qualifying would see only three engines on the roster, beginning with first-time competitor Throttle's Performance, led by Mark Dalquist with a 428ci Pontiac. Although Dalquist was new to the event, the Throttle's Performance team was comprised of a long list of experts in their respective fields with some members being veterans of previous events. The well-developed Pontiac kicked off the festivities by laying down impressive numbers, with a score of 2,742.2 points, making as much as 738 hp and 653 lb-ft of torque in getting there. To follow was the 407-cube small-block Chevy of Chris Henderson, a Gen III Hemi fielded by Chuck Keech, and a second small-block Chevy when Bryce Mulvey of Dr. J's Performance elected to move his scheduled Tuesday run forward.

At the end of the first day of qualifying eliminations, we could see that the competition for 2013 was going to be stiff. No one matched the blazing performance of the Throttle's team, but every one of the engines to follow put down stout numbers. The Henderson small-block delivered a peak of 698 hp, and scored well at 2,679.8, while Keech's Hemi topped 677 hp, losing valuable score due to a misfire at the top of the rpm range. The Dr. J's Chevy was impressive in terms of peak output, with 711 hp and 629 lb-ft of torque generated, but a big hole in the bottom end torque curve clipped the score to 2,604 points.

Scheduled for the second day of qualifying eliminations was a field of six engines, representing a broad range of engine types. The lineup began with a 451-cube Mopar big-block from Randy Makik (running under the SKMFX banner), Auto Machine and Performance's Mike Philips with a 404-inch Buick, David Freedlander with a monster 572 big-block Ford, Barry Rabotnick running a 433cid FE Ford, and Eric Weingartner with a 541 Chevy big-block.