There was no denying that one engine combination dominated the 2006 Engine Masters Challenge: the Windsor Ford small-block topped with CHI's 3V heads and intake. As it played out, five of the six finalists made use of this combo, and it definitely paid off. Bischoff, Reincarnation, McKeown, Performance Unlimited, and the School of Automotive Machinists all recognized the potential of this deadly setup, and they were rewarded with a spot in the finals. Ironically, the number-one qualifier was Kaase, getting there with a Pontiac engine. In the final rounds, the ladder would run in the reverse order of the competitor's qualifying score, with the top qualifier running last.
Opening the finals was the School of Automotive Machinists. Though the team did no tuning in qualifying, it came out of the gate with a jet change. During the warm-up, this CHI-headed Windsor looked strong. Taking advantage of the 20-minute tune-up pulls, the SAM team made changes to both the total timing and the ignition curve. Power seemed positive in the tune-up pulls, and a final tuning change was made before the money pulls. Something in the settings hurt the team's score as the scored pulls unfolded, and surprisingly, the engine was down on power compared to the numbers turned in moments before during tuning. The effort ended with a 1,026.4 final score. Performance Unlimited came in with a tuning strategy, addressing both the fuel and ignition. Several adjustments and tuning pulls were made early in the tuning period. For first-time Engine Masters competitors, this crew accomplished plenty by making the final field, showing skill and poise in tending to its Ford Windsor entry. The tuning leaned toward flattening the early portion of the torque curve, but the numbers were slightly down from qualifying, resulting in a score of 1,027.7. The score locked in at least a Fifth Place finish.
Team 37 consisting of Reincarnation High Performance, Pacific Engine Rebuilders, and AD Performance Parts, combined its three businesses and specific talents to build its Windsor Ford entry, and the plan seemed to work. Those talents were again revealed when the team tuned-in some power, gaining 5.9 points from qualifying to finish with a composite score of 1,059.9. A great deal of engine building talent and knowledge went into this effort, and the added score gained in the finals would play well for this group in the final standings. As it stood, the team had at least a Fourth Place finish locked in.McKeown Motorsports consists of a husband-and-wife team whose motto is "scientific performance," and this duo took advantage of modern innovations like no other. Working with programmed ignition and their own mixture monitor, it seemed like the pair was ready to tune-in some serious points. With the initial changes, their score was already on the way up, with over 1,066 points showing. Then something totally unexpected occurred when a replaced oil filter lost its seal to the block, spilling most of the contents of the lubrication system onto the cell floor. The clean up ate significantly in their 20-minute tune-up period, and resulted in a loss of reference for the oil level in the sump, possibly leading to an overfill. McKeown ended with 1,059.2 points, putting them behind team 37, with two more entries yet to run.
BES Racing was next in the cell, and these guys are experienced at extracting the most from an engine. With the Ford Windsor/CHI combination, Bischoff extracted more of what this setup had to offer, finishing eliminations with a higher score than any other team using this combo. The only question in the finals was how far to push the engine to try and take the overall win. With 714 peak horsepower, the BES entry was a little behind Kaase on the top end, but had a definite advantage at the bottom of the rpm range. Bischoff remained cool in the tune-up period, deciding to make minimal tuning changes, and save the engine for the money pulls. The strategy paid off with a solid 1,080.3 score, a gain of 5.3 points from qualifying. The only question was whether it would be enough to hang on for the overall win. At this point, it would come down to one competitor. As was the case last year, once again the top position in the Engine Masters Challenge came down to the last pull, on the last day, with real tension in the air. Once again it came down to what Kaase's engine would do. Five of the six finalists had run, and the event's top qualifier was up to bat. Without a doubt, the standings-right down the line-were dependent upon the performance of Jon Kaase's Pontiac. No one understood this fact better than Tony Bischoff of BES Racing, who was sitting on the top spot with one more player to run. Tony had posted a score of 1,080.3, and was well aware that the Pontiac had shown its ability to run at that level or better.
If the mighty Pontiac had one weakness, it was in the initial roll in at the bottom of the rpm range, where Tony's engine maintained a clear advantage. However, at the top of the curve, the Pontiac was the stronger motor. How these factors played out in the final three pulls would be the decider in this event. The ever cool BES team maintained a poker face as the Pontiac pulled down for the first of its final series of three scored runs. It was apparent as the dyno dials spun that the Pontiac came in a little under the performance turned-in minutes before during the warm-up. Some power slipped away at the extreme low-end, but would it be enough? No one could say for sure which way this would end, but it was going to be extremely close. BES racing had taken the event with a 1,080.3 score to Kaase's 1079.3. The event was decided by a single point.
Saturday, the six winning competitors returned for tech inspection. Although rumors had been in the air all week, and many of the competitors fretted the compression ratio measurements, all were ruled legal by our expert tech inspector, Wesley Roberson. This closed the competition with the standings as listed. The event was overwhelmingly positively received by our top six finishers, as well as the participants and visitors. The top six finalists earned a total of approximately $95,000. With the power, glory, and money on the line, and one of the most exciting finishes ever, this year's event will go down as one to remember.