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Spoiler warning: A fuel-injected engine completely stole the show at the 2010 AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge-and by a huge margin. Not only that, the
winning engine was a late-model, and a Chrysler Hemi to boot. Two years ago, if you had offered to bet me that a fuel-injected third-gen Hemi was going to run away with the show, I would've cleaned out my bank account to take those odds.
I think a lot of you would've too, because in spite of all the hype about EFI, we're used to seeing carbureted powerplants dominating on the street and at the track. Whether it's because of the sheer number of carbed engines out there or sanctioning rules that prohibit (or hog-tie) EFI engines, it doesn't matter, carb superiority is just a plain-faced fact.
Nevertheless, it's not surprising that an EFI plant won all the marbles this year. (Donning flame suite ...) That's because we stacked the deck against the carburetors so that a fuel-injected engine could win. Why? Because real cars have EFI motors and Detroit hasn't built a carbureted car since 1988. With the same carbureted stuff dominating year after year, we needed an injection of excitement-and we got that this year with a big dose of EFI. We helped out the EFI contingent by limiting carbureted engines to dual-plane intakes and 4150-footprint carbs while allowing EFI engines to run superior single-plane intakes and unlimited-sized injectors. Make no mistake about it; we were under no impression that our EFI-biased rules would guarantee a ton of EFI entries. In the past, we've moved the goalposts in the hope that competitors would respond with the intended results. What we've learned in the past is that just because you lead a horse to water doesn't mean he'll drink!
Case in point, when we changed from our displacement-specific format in 2006 (434 ci) to our open-displacement format in 2007, we expected a mad dash to engines in the 400ci range. Why? Based on the competing factors of mechanical friction and port flow efficiency, engines in this range "ought" to perform better, provided you're scaling performance over displacement (essentially horsepower divided by cubes). Nevertheless, in 2007 we had guys building engines as small as 307 inches, and as large as 503 inches. And it got wackier. By the 2009 competition, we had mills as small as 289 inches and as large as 573 inches-in spite of the fact that three years running, a 403-inch small-block (either Ford or Chevy) was the winner.
Fuel injection for the 2009 contest posed a similar problem. Would folks seize on the theoretical advantage of EFI and integrate it into their testing program to take full advantage, or would they walk past that $20 lying on the ground? In 2009, EFI's inaugural appearance turned out to be nothing more than an asterisk. My editorial vision of blurbing the "Ultimate Carb versus EFI Shootout" on the cover had evaporated. Stymied by the capricious choices of our competitors, we decided to make it really obvious that we wanted EFI in for 2010 by spotting the EFI guys the equivalent of 10 car lengths. The big lesson I've learned over the years is that it's not a magazine's place to force a trend, but still we try. If a guy wants to build a 600-inch Shotgun Ford Hemi because it's cool, and he's got one tattooed to his ankle, then so be it. Let the Blue Crescent rock, for crissakes!
As we look to next year's contest, we've got a great new EFI benchmark to help inform our 2011 competition rules. Without giving everything away, we'll be looking to even up the playing field in '11 and open things up for the widest range of engines you've ever seen. There will be room for engines big and small, old and new, carbed and EFI'd, basic and high-tech. Rather than try to force something, we're going to give guys a lot of choices that will help them shine in their area of expertise. This year was undoubtedly the coolest competition so far, but we're even more geeked about 2011. Stay tuned for details. In the meantime, let's put fire in the hole for the 2010 AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge!