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.
The first engine in qualifying eliminations set a high standard for the engines to follow.
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.
Hosting the annual AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge is the University of Northwestern Ohio
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.
An ample supply of AMSOIL Dominator Racing oil was on hand to fulfill each competitor’s re
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.
Each of the two UNOH dyno test cells were equipped with an exhaust system featuring giant
Noteworthy was the number of competitors running EFI at the 2013 AMSOIL Engine Masters Cha
In the second day of qualifying eliminations, Accufab’s four-valve Ford Cobra engine shock
The wild card on Tuesday was the entry from first-time competitor John Mihovetz's Accufab. For the first time at the AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge competition, the rules were opened up to allow the Ford four-valve modular motors. Mihovetz is a recognized expert in these late-model Ford powerplants, in fact running a record-holding drag car propelled by one of these high-tech engines. Nevertheless, Mihovetz races with high-boost turbo engines displacing well under the 400ci minimum required at the Challenge. How would the turbo drag race experience translate to a big displacement naturally aspirated four-valve? We would soon see.
The largest engine in competition was the 572-inch Ford big-block from Freelander Race Eng
SKMFX broke the morning silence as the first engine up for eliminations, actually running a big-block Mopar engine borrowed from fellow competitor Randy Malik when a pre-event parts failure took the team's planned entry out of the running. The big Mopar posted 676 peak horsepower, but represented no threat to the Throttle's leading Pontiac. Likewise, the Philips Buick put down strong numbers, but scored well below the leader. Freelander's big Ford was probably just too large in displacement to score with the leaders, but the Kaase P-51 headed brute churned out huge output, topping 870 hp and 815 lb-ft of torque.
All eyes were on the action in the dyno cell as Mihovetz prepared to run the four-valve Ford. Getting over 400 ci from the small-bore 5.4 Cobra Mod motor is a challenge in itself, and although the team had invested considerable time in the build, the Accufab team had very little pre-event dyno time prior to the Challenge. In fact, after just one day of testing, the engine was loaded in a van and driven from Los Angeles to Lima, Ohio, just in time to meet the delivery deadline. Mihovetz's modular Ford powered against the dyno with the sound of a jet turbine, and the power recorded created a sensation, showing peak numbers of 736 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque from just 401 ci. Tallying the score, Accufab had blown the competition wide open, posting an unbelievable 2,938.5 points. Two other builders had selected the four-valve Ford as their competition engines, Tony Bischoff and Jon Kaase, both four-time event champions. This was going to get interesting.
With competitors crowding the maximum allowed compression ratio of 11.5:1 while producing
Tuesday's action continued with the beautiful 433-cube FE Ford from Barry Rabotnick's Survival Motorsports. This engine served to debut an all-new set of aftermarket cylinder heads from Survival, noteworthy for the fact that they are a direct bolt-on replacement in the medium-riser format. With output reaching peaks of 711 hp and 612 lb-ft of torque, the combination was exceptional, but no threat to Accufab's four-valve. Weingartner's big-inch RHS-headed Chevrolet also delivered big numbers at 866 peak horsepower, but was well behind the leaders.
Eight engines were up for qualifying eliminations on Wednesday, all of them more traditional two-valve combinations. First up would be the 435-cube LS Chevy from Gregg Brown, out of the Jon Kaase Racing shop. Malik would compete with a 436-inch big-block Ford, while Jesse Robinson competing under the RRAM banner had yet another Mopar big-block, this time his development engine at 466 cubes. Cory Short brought the only traditional Mopar small-block, an Indy-headed 434. Semco Performance entered a 409 Pontiac, while the RCS crew was set to run with a deadly CHI-headed 432-inch Cleveland Ford. Rounding out the field was an Indy-headed 401 AMC from Kustom Kemps, and Adney Brown's Performance Crankshafts with a 433 big-block Chevy.
After the staggering performance of Mihovetz's Ford on Tuesday, Wednesday's eliminations would show if any two-valve engine could even get close. Brown's LS seemed to be a favorite, and was slated as first to run for the day. The modern Chevy was clearly a well-developed piece, and the output was outstanding throughout the curve, peaking at 741 hp and 670 lb-ft of torque. The 2,768.6 points was enough to bump the Throttle's Pontiac out as the leading two-valve engine, but the score was well behind the mark set by Mihovetz's four-valve Ford. As each engine ran in succession through the day, each delivered impressive output, but nothing came close to threatening Mihovetz's mighty four-valve. Brown's LS Chevy finished the day holding onto Second Place, but an astonishing 170 points behind.
The AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge is an ideal venue to display engines and parts for all
The last day of qualifying eliminations would be one for the books. Two more four-valve Mod motors were on the list, a 409 fielded by Kaase, and Bischoff with a 401. Both of these guys came in as four-time EMC Champions, with three Second Place finishes and one Third Place in previous events. We had some experienced professionals stepping up with LS Chevy engines, including Ron Shaver at 427 cubes, Bret Bowers at 417, John Lahone from the BES Racing shop at 401 cid running variable cam timing, and last year's champions, the School of Automotive Machinists, at 436 ci. If the two-valve engines had anything for the Fords, today would be the day to see it.
The final day of qualifying eliminations began with Shaver's carbureted LS, a stout 738hp performer, but short of the leaders with 2,720 points. Bret Bowers and the Racing Engine Design team's LS followed with a score of 2,630.7. Lahone's LS was next, setting a new high mark for the two-valve contingent, delivering peak numbers of 748 hp and 621 lb-ft of torque for an impressive 2,837 points, closing the gap to the four-valve to just over 100 points. Chris Thomas from the Kaase shop broke the chain of LS Chevy engines with a 409-cube Kaase Boss '9 and an impressive 717 hp and 2,794.6 points, but it was still short of the top two-valve from Lahone and BES Racing. A pair of traditional small-block Chevys followed, with Joe Carroll's 401 posting 2,703.2 points, and Robert Peters finishing with a 2,521.8, neither posing a challenge to the LS engines.
Gregg Brown turned up the heat on pushrod engine power with the first GM LS engine to run
The Ford four-valve Cobra R engine from Jon Kaase rocked the event. From the trick Cobra R
In the final day of qualifying, John Lahone’s Also BES racing entry once again showcased t
Kaase was next in the cell with a four-valve Ford Mod motor. Kaase had stunned the crowd in the staging area when his engine was uncrated. The appearance of the Kaase engine was as beautiful as it was intimidating, detailed to perfection with smoothed and chromed valve covers, fitted with a radically reworked GT-R induction, and a simply amazing 16-pipe, four-merge, custom-built header system. Discussion of this Kaase-built header system had those in the UNOH staging area awestruck, and photos of the arrangement had automotive Internet sites across the country on fire. At 409 ci, the Kaase engine was the largest four-valve cobra engine ever built—but now nothing mattered but the number to be recorded on the dyno.
Without a doubt, the 16-pipe Kaase-built custom header arrangement left spectators and com
Kaase coolly worked through qualifying eliminations, again proving the validity of the four-valve Ford. Topping out at 720 hp and 666 lb-ft of torque and achieving a score of 2,916.9, Kaase's engine confirmed the domination of this engine type. Though not quite catching the performance of Accufab, Kaase seemed unconcerned, telling his crew that the score achieved was enough to be assured a spot in the finals, and electing to complete the qualifying elimination with very few extraneous pulls.
Bischoff followed with the third and final four-valve Ford in the competition. The AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge had often come down to a battle between Bischoff and Kaase, and they came into this year's event with exactly matching records for previous wins, Second, and Third Place finishes. Bischoff's Ford differed from the other two by having a single-plane–style intake manifold with a central throttle body, as opposed to the Plenum Ram Cobra R intake used by Kaase and Mihovetz. In terms of outright peak power, Bischoff's engine just sizzled, with an unreal 775 peak horsepower and 632 lb-ft of torque, however, when the score was added up, the low-end torque advantage of the other two Mod Fords put Bischoff in Third Place in the qualifying standings with 2,867 points.
Last year’s AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge champions, the School of Automotive Machinists
After the pair of four-valve engines ran, we had Mod fours in the top three qualifying spots with just two more engines to run: the 417 Gen III Hemi of Bradley Nagel, and the LS Chevy from the School of Automotive Machinists (SAM). Both of these have been highly competitive engine types in the past, and both of these competitors have been previous AMSOIL EMC event winners. Bradley's Hemi put on an impressive display of this modern engine's capabilities, pulling 778 peak horsepower and 642 lb-ft of torque, scoring an impressive 2,807.4 points. As last year's champions, the SAM LS would be the last engine to run in qualifying eliminations. The 436-cube LS proved to be an incredible piece of work, topping out with 775 hp and 677 lb-ft of torque. The SAM engine's enormous power curve put it at the top of the two-valve engines in competition, scoring 2,844.8 points, and qualifying in the number four position behind the four-valve Fords.
Into The Finals
Final eliminations in the AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge are run in a sequence determined by a random drawing, with the top five qualifiers making the final field. Kaase's Ford four-valve would run first, followed by SAMs with their LS, Lahone and the Also BES team with an LS, Accufab with their leading Ford, and then finishing with Bischoff's BES Racing Ford four-valve.
Multi-event AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge champion Tony Bischoff also brought a four-val
Kaase took center stage as the finals kicked off, going in significantly behind the qualifying score posted by the Accufab entry. Kaase knew he had to tune in some serious power to meet the top place mark, and what followed was pure magic. It seemed Kaase could do no wrong, with the mod motor responding to every tuning move by piling on the score. Torque production down low was just off the charts, twisting an unbelievable 630 lb-ft at just 3,300 rpm down low, and running up from there. If there was ever doubt about a four-valve making torque, Kaase buried that myth. Kaase left the cell with a score of 2,961.7, a gain of over 42 points from his qualifying number. Kaase was clearly going to be hard to beat.
The LS from SAM was strongly at the top of the two-valve engines in qualifying, and their crew was intent upon hanging onto that position through the final eliminations. Working their Holley EFI system, the team methodically added to the score with perfect precision, finishing 14 numbers above their qualifying mark. SAM clearly played their hand well. The only pushrod engine that had a chance to catch them was the LS from Lahone and the one from Also BES, but the SAM effort had extended their lead substantially. It was going to come down to the Also BES team's ability to tune in more power via their MegaSquirt engine management system. Lahone and the rest of the crew did a fine job in the final elimination pulls, tuning in a substantial 16.6 points. Even with the increase in score to 2,853.7, it was just a little short of the SAM LS.
Top qualifier Accufab was next into the test cell. The Kaase effort in final eliminations put the pressure on; they had to find power to stay in the game for the win. Taking note of Kaase's air entry stack in qualifying, the team scrambled early Friday morning to build a makeshift air bucket to help direct the air from the dyno chute to the front-mounted throttle body. This kind of device was judged legal by event officials, and Accufab was looking for any possible edge. Despite the improvised air bucket, the score seemed to lag the team's qualifying numbers. Working the tune with the air bucket in place, it became clear that they were not going to meet Kaase's score. As a last ditch attempt, the bucket was removed, but that only resulted in a loss of about 10 points in score. As the clock wound down, there was no chance of replacing the device and trying to retune, sealing their fate to a best of Second Place with just Bischoff yet to run. Accufab completed final eliminations with a score of 2,931.
Drawing lots, Kaase drew the first running position in the final eliminations. Interesting
Needless to say, during the post-event teardown and tech inspection, the Kaase Ford drew a
The engines that finish “in the money” at the top three places are put through a thorough
Kaase had gained a substantial lead on the field, with just one competitor that could still challenge for the crown. Bischoff's four-valve Ford qualified Third, and although it produced the most peak horsepower of the three Mod motors, the others produced a fatter torque curve and a greater score. Bischoff went in with retimed intake cams to try and improve the overall power curve, but the move cost them horsepower on the top and brought down the overall score. With just minutes on the clock, Bischoff and crew yanked the cam covers and moved the cams back to their previous clocking and buttoned everything back up without a hitch. The lost power came back, but the final score of 2,863.7 was down a few points from their qualifying score and was not high enough to catch the four-valve Fords fielded by Kaase and Accufab. It was, however, good enough to secure a Third Place standing.
The 2013 AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge 2013 proved to be one of the most remarkable competitions we have seen in recent years. From the incredible output of the pushrod LS engines, to the outright domination of the wild card four-valve Mod Fords, the competition kept us riveted throughout the event. In the end, Kaase once again proved his supreme ability to capture the title of "Engine Master." Look for a full feature spilling the details on his game-changing Ford four-valve in the next issue of Popular Hot Rodding.
Thursday Night Banquet
At the conclusion of qualifying eliminations on Thursday night, students, staff, sponsors, guests, and competitors gather for the AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge banquet and qualifying awards ceremony sponsored by Competition Cams. Here, Freelander Race Engines receives the Torque Monster award from AMSOIL's Ed Newman (right). This was the first time the banquet was hosted at UNOH's new on-campus UNOH Motorsports Team Racing Complex.
|COMP CAMS BANQUET QUALIFYING AWARDS
|Popular Hot Rodding Editor's Pick
|Engine Masters Magazine Editor's Pick
|Announcer's Pick (The "Clarence" Award)
||Chuck Keech (KTC)
|Spirit of the Competition Award
|"Meet The Field" by SuperFlow
||Henderson Power Sports
||Freelander Race Engines
||Freelander Race Engines
|FINAL RESULTS 2013 AMSOIL ENGINE MASTERS CHALLENGE
||Jon Kaase Racing
||BES Racing Engines
||School of Automotive Machinists