Tom Wilson
March 1, 2003
Photos By: Sidell Tilghman

Horse Sense:
Robert Yates Racing Engines' latest shop is new, clean, and boasts a lobby the size of a small house. But it's a racing shop, no matter the tile, carpet, plants, trendy black furniture, and receptionist. As soon as you walk in the door, the racer's perfume of warm racing oil washes over you. It's incongruous at first, this smell of racing engines in what resembles a hotel lobby, but in the Winston Cup world of Moorseville, North Carolina, it's the norm.

In this world of ever-accelerating change, it's strange but true that in many respects the giant auto manufacturers are not trailblazing the technical path in motorsports development. You are. It was more than 10 years ago when dedicated enthu-siasts pioneered hooking laptops to Mustangs, while Ford, NASCAR, and other performance giants have stuck to changing the jets in their Holleys every time the weather changes.

Knowing the price of progress is trouble-you can't blame a well-oiled machine such as NASCAR for not dropping a computerized monkey wrench into the Winston Cup clockworks. Fender-rubbing excitement is NASCAR's product and you don't need computerized engines to do that. You don't need overhead cams either. In fact, you don't need anything Dearborn sells to have a good race, as suggested by the recent talk of going to generic bodywork and simply applying Ford grille and headlight decals to tell Taurii from the rest of the herd.

Because you consider auto racing more than costume wrestling, we wager you feel differently than the marketing majors at the sanctioning bodies. Should a Ford get into the winner's circle, you-and we-would like it to be sufficiently a Ford to matter. So would Robert Yates, and to that end he's warming his wrenches and technicians on what will inevitably be the next Winston Cup engine, the electronically fuel-injected Four-Valve V-8. Seeing how the pushrod-and-carbureted Yates shop was working on a paradigm-shifting development such as the overhead cam, multivalve, EFI modular engine, we packed the camera and headed to Robert Yates Racing Engines to investigate what these powerplant experts were up to.

Daytona Prototype
The vehicle for the Yates Racing Engines modular program is the Multimatic Ford Focus Daytona Prototype. This car runs in the new Daytona Prototype class sanctioned by GrandAm, the sports car racing arm of NASCAR. Envisioned as a cost-contained prototype similar to those traditionally running at the Daytona 24 Hours, Le Mans, Sebring, and other sports car classics but for less money, Daytona Prototypes are supposed to resemble their namesake cars by using stock head and taillamp assemblies and other trim parts. Still, you really have to squint to get even a hint of an SVT Focus when gandering at the low, voluptuous bodywork of the Multimatic Daytona Prototype.

GrandAm mandates the proto-types not use the engine as a stressed member of the chassis, so the car must be able to roll across the tech shed floor without the engine in the car. Also, GrandAm wants only limited horsepower in the prototypes, to the point where they told the interested manufacturers to submit engines to the sanc-tioning body with 500 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque using a 7,000-rpm redline. These engines were dyno tested to verify the power, then torn down by GrandAm for an internal inspection, followed by issuance of a specific rules package for each manufacturer. Among others, BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Porsche, and Toyota are participating.

Specifics to the Four-Valve 4.6/5.0 Ford modular engine are a modest 0.500-inch valve lift limitation and no more than five speeds in the transaxle. The Ford redline remains at 7,000 rpm, while some of the smaller engines in the class were allowed higher redlines and six-speed transmissions.

It's worth noting that at the only race run by our deadline-the 24 Hours of Daytona-the Daytona Prototypes were all barely competitive with the lower GTS and GT3 classes. In fact, the overall race win was taken by a GT-3 Porsche (a modified 911), and clearly we expect GrandAm to free up the prototype engine rules some before too long.

Who's Involved
While we know Robert Yates is personally interested in promoting the modular engine for Winston Cup, no one expects him to tilt at the NASCAR windmill using nothing but his own development money. Enter Ford supplier Multimatic, which wanted to play on the big stage with its own chassis but needed an engine, and Dan Davis, head of Ford Racing Performance Parts, who has wanted to develop the Four-Valve modular V-8 into a racing engine for years now. With Yates already making Davis' engine parts look good in Winston Cup on a weekly basis, it's not difficult to imagine a short conversation between them to get a limited modular engine development program running and on-track via Multimatic. We assume some help from Ford in the way of parts, information, and limited funds was put forward, but as this is mainly a Multimatic/RYR Engines show, we doubt there is significant Ford money changing hands.

At RYR Engines, Jon Giles, not incidentally late of FRPP, was hired as liaison with the company and its modular specialists, such as engineer Andy Schwartz. While he was hiring, Operations Manager Mark McCardle at RYR Engines also brought in John Maddox to serve as the Head Engine Builder, Special Projects, and spearhead the hands-on development of the Daytona Prototype engine. Working with John is Robert "Bob" Boahbedason (known around the shop as "Bobbydawson" or "Double Bob") to be the Special Projects Cylinder Head Technician on the modular program. From a daily, hands-on basis, it's John and Robert putting in the hours on the modular program.

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The Engine
At one level, it's scary how stock the Yates modular engine is. The block, heads, and intake are all FR500 parts. These are limited-run performance Four-Valve V-8 engine bits originally seen on FRPP's three FR500 Mustang development cars a few years ago and now mainly available through the company's catalog. To these basics Yates adds its own dry-sump oiling system; a modi-fied front engine dress to accommodate the engine mounting and accessory packaging required by the Multimatic chassis; a small amount of port work for increased airflow and power-it isn't difficult to get 500 hp with Four-Valve airflow-along with seat and guide changes for 24-hour racing durability; custom camshafts for power; custom cranks, rods, and pistons for durability; and, of course, numerous detail changes for midengine mounting, ease of maintenance, and so on.

So, on another level, the engine looks considerably different from what's under the hood of your Mustang Cobra, and indeed there are few identical parts between a stock Mustang Cobra and the Yates Four-Valves. By the time all the massaging and bulletproof parts go in, the finished product is far from production. Yet stock and Yates Four-Valves are remarkably similar engines, much more so than the small-blocks in Winston Cup are to 5.0s, or 5.0s are to anything racing for money at the World Ford Challenge.

To get its engine program running immediately and to avoid wearing out their expensive, hand-built-prototype and rare Ford-supplied parts, RYR Engines bought a Sean Hyland Motorsport Four-Valve 5.0 to use as a dyno mule and test bed. The only modifica-tion to the basic SHM package was going from the SHM copper gasket and O-ring head sealing to a shim gasket because of water leaks. This stock production-based engine is still being used for parts development work at RYR Engines.

For the eight RYR Four-Valve engines built so far (two development engines, four race engines, and two Panoz Esperante race engines-they're another story), RYR is using aluminum, 94mm bore, steel-capped FR500 blocks from the original run of these blocks. These CM-6010-D50 blocks are not in the FRPP catalog, and apparently you really don't want one anyway. Originally spray-bore 5.0 units, these blocks have had the spray-bore (a neat idea that unfortunately hasn't worked) machined out and liners installed-all these blocks break in the water jacket, leaking coolant into the head bolt bosses. John has his tricks to make these early, essentially first-run prototype blocks live, but like everyone else around high-zoot modulars, he was waiting until May 2003 for "production" FR500 blocks from Ford. These improved units are being built in production Ford facilities, foundries, and machining lines and won't have any coolant issues.

John adds ARP main and head studs to the blocks. Admittedly, this is partially a "just because" move on his part, seeing how the stock fasteners work quite well at 500 hp. However, the OEM head bolt is a stretch-to-yield fastener, and because these engines are regularly torn down and reassembled for servicing, that would have meant buying head studs by the carload. Hence the ARP studs.

"We went over the top on this engine to run 24 hours...," John says, "[later] we'll be bringing the level of parts down to meet the realities."

Head gaskets are multilayer, stainless-steel-shim-style from Cometic. With these, John is trying something new as a guinea pig for the Winston Cup engine shop. He says the sports-car racing makes a great 24-hour durability test, and he's found the Cometic gasket's beading works quite well.

Another place the stock engine works great but is nevertheless highly modified is oiling. To lower the engine in the chassis for an improved center of gravity (the crankshaft centerline is only 4 3/4 inches above the pavement), reduce windage and thus increase horsepower, and provide significantly more oil capacity to reduce the number of trips each oil molecule makes through the engine in 24 hours, a dry-sump system replaces the stock wet-sump design. Aside from simply removing the stock oil pump, all the changes are either in the oil pan or externally in the RYR pump, lines, tanks, and so on. In other words, the internal oil passages are left stock, and oil flow to the top of the engine is not restricted "We're not that smart yet," John says.

Initially, the timing chains gave John fits-he was melting chain guides. The cure is what he's using now, stock chains from manual-transmission Cobra engines. Yes, there are automatic- and standard-transmission chains, something John didn't know until a few days before the 24-hour Daytona race. He was getting donor parts from all sorts of sources at FoMoCo-some from Marauders, some from regular Cobra engines, and probably even the odd Navigator piece. It turns out the Cobra chain is polished on the backside where it rubs against the guides and tensioners so it doesn't wear them out at high rpm. The tensioners are the same in all engines, and the Yates engines use stone-stock tensioners.

The cam sprockets started off as modified stockers at the Daytona race, with John working on custom RYR sprockets for future engines. The only issue is cam adjustability-he needs a finely adjustable sprocket for precisely dialing in the cams.

So far, John has tried cams from Andy Schwartz's experimental pile, along with a Comp Cams grind. All the specifics are confidential, naturally. "Just call it a 12.5mm cam," says John, who went on to say there was nothing too radical and the result was a huge, flat torque curve.

As are the chains, much of the rest of the valvetrain is stock, including the finger followers and hydraulic lash adjusters. The girdled cam bearing caps have to be modified for clearance with the large lobes. "Nothing a hacksaw won't take care of," John says.

Also surprisingly stock is the cooling system, including the water pump. An air pocket forms in the cylinder heads during the coolant fill, according to John, and his cure is to drill an orifice between the outside water jacket and the cylinder head, across the top side of the exhaust seats to discharge the air pocket behind the exhaust seat. "If you could stand the engine up when filling it, this would not be an issue," he says.

Engine management is a speed-density design from EFI Technology, a respected system in professional racing circles. John says its Windows-based software is user-friendly, and it's self-learning from Lambda input (closed loop). It can apply its closed-loop memory to the default programming map, if desired, so it helps write its own software, if you will.

The ignition is stock Mercury Marauder coil-on-plug "or whatever we can get our hands on." That's another way of saying most of the late-model coil-on-plug Ford ignitions are the same, so a Cobra ignition would be the same thing. Bosch spark plugs and stock '03 supercharged Mustang Cobra injectors are used. Another stock part is the half-speed, or cam-position, sensor. The crank trigger is a modified SHM or billet RYR part depending on the engine.

The stainless steel 4-2-1 headers are from Burns Stainless Exhaust. The only issue was going a bit wide to clear the external oil pump.

So Far By our deadline, the single Multimatic Motorsports car fielded had only run the Daytona 24 Hours, finishing Fourth overall and First in class. A minor problem kept the team from the overall win, so the trend seems positive.

Indeed, the indications point to a powerful, durable sports car engine from the modular family. FRPP has to be pleased to finally have the Four-Valve step up to big-time racing and begin what will certainly be decades of development. When will it become the Winston Cup engine? "The day the manufacturers insist on it," Robert Yates says. "They would have to all walk in the door and say unanimously, 'We want it,' and then it would happen in a couple of years. You could take it to the restrictor tracks first, and help bring it along.... I think we'll see it in the next five years. It really is up to Detroit."

Winston Cup rumors say Toyota is currently providing the technology push. It's already announced its NASCAR race truck, and word is Toyota's goal is Winston Cup in 2007, with fuel injection. It's all part of a plan to win everything that runs at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, according to the buzz.

In the meantime, you can keep leading the technology way, now knowing the big boys are beginning to take your lead.

Multimatic Motorsports
Unless you're inside the world of automotive manufacturing, the Multimatic name may be unfamiliar to you. But to OEMs, Multimatic is well known as a Canadian automo-tive supplier, one of the nine largest doing business with Ford. This heavy involvement in the auto industry gives the company the resources and impetus to be involved in major-league auto racing. It is responsible for building the Multimatic Focus Daytona Prototype chassis and operating the team. Robert Yates Racing Engines is developing and servicing the Four-Valve modular engines used in the prototype. At deadline, two chassis and four race engines had been built.

Inside RYR
It takes only one quick walking lap of Robert Yates Racing Engines-the largest engine shop in Winston Cup-to understand that Winston Cup is racing on an industrial scale. Erase the "team" idea with its connotations of several guys pitching together and replace it with "factory." Think of specialists-lots of them-supported with the best equipment and working conditions in a shop that just opened in November 2002. In feel, and in many ways even to the eye, the interior of RYR Engines is more hospital-like than anything else. The corridors are large enough to wheel the entire race car down-not that there's ever a car in the 75,000-square-foot building save for the chassis dynos. Every door, every window pane between hallway and specialist room, every light fixture, storage rack, and hinge is industrial heavy-duty. It's clean-really, really clean. It's brightly lit. It's filled with warehouse racks of raw parts and finished assemblies, and above all, the people are uniformed, squared-away, and working with that confident air that comes with being on the first string.

Of course, RYR Engines is there to support the powertrain needs of Elliot Sadler and Dale Jarrett's Winston Cup cars. But there is also a Busch engine program in the same building, as well as the Special Projects department for anything else RYR might be interested in working on. The modular engines are in Special Projects.

Furthermore, each department functions as its own profit center. Special Projects personnel don't waltz into the main CNC machining center where WC work is done in volume and pop a program and raw cylinder heads into a machine. Special Projects has its own, more modest prototyping machine shop for its limited run work. Only after the project hits the big time and needs a large volume of parts machined would it be scheduled onto the multiple CNC machining centers.

Winston Cup, Busch, and Special Project engines are physically separ-ated too. There are individual engine-assembly rooms for each of the WC and Busch engines. Perhaps even more amazing, there are separate assembly rooms for the short-blocks and cylinder heads. The two steps are considered too specialized and take up too much space to combine into one room. There is a room dedicated to just oil pumps, another for exhaust systems, another for quality control, another for transmissions, another for differentials, and on and on. We were shown two engine dynos and two rolling road drum-type chassis dynos, for developing the engine/chassis dynamic and to provide driveline tests to determine power losses between the flywheel and the rear tires.

We weren't cleared to roam this huge set of shops with our cameras, so we don't have photos to show you, but believe us, it's quite the place. And keep in mind that within half a mile of RYR Engines there is the RYR chassis shop and the RYR anodizing shop...

Robert Yates, Ford Man
Our most pleasant surprise of visiting RYR Engines was meeting Robert Yates. We've shaken hands with all the high-pressure, $1,000-a-minute horsepower tycoons we'd really want to during the years, and it was refreshing to find Mr. Yates as laid-back and approachable as his reputation suggests.

Even more unusual in this age of soulless, corporate racetrack marketing, it is clear Robert is a true Ford enthusiast. An engine man at heart, he has never forgotten his days as a dealer mechanic and the joy of personally wrenching together a com-petitive powerplant. Easily at home talking about FEs as well as small-blocks, the burn he has to race what Ford is building today came through bright and clear.

And while he is a huge force in Winston Cup, don't think Robert's unknown outside of the Southeastern United States. It used to be NASCAR types didn't have much respect for those dilettantes racing sports cars, but that was back when moneyed European privateers ran things. Le Mans, Daytona, and Sebring are big factory bragging rights these days, and there's money to be made there.

So, while you may stereotype Robert as a good ol' boy with a plaid shirt and a Craftsman toolbox, he's actually already well entrenched in endurance sports car racing. His Windsors have powered all the successful Panoz LMP cars, and in June 2002 the racing team Riley & Scott went to Le Mans with RYR pushrod aluminum power in their prototype. Yates power is respected on both sides of the Atlantic, and we might add, it provides the most incredible sonic V-8 discharges ever heard for 24 hours. Loud, brother-really loud.

Track Car and Trailer Queen
It's good to remember the pros work hard at racing too. To shake down the Multimatic prototype, a test was scheduled at Kentucky Motor Speedway in January 2003, but this was weathered out so the test was moved to Road Atlanta in Georgia for the following day. Jon Giles recalls making the necessary phone calls from Kentucky to set up the new test, then driving back home to Charlotte, North Carolina, to shower, get fresh clothes, catch a nap, then get back on the road at 4 a.m. to meet the Multimatic truck at Road Atlanta at 8 a.m. The transporter had driven straight through the night to get to the Georgia track.

Let's remember that RYR Engines invented the "Yates" cylinder heads powering all those Windsor overachievers out there and the company is impressed with the airflow from these FR500 castings. Straight out of the FRPP catalog, these heads get light casting cleanup, minimal exhaust-port roof-exit modification and an RYR valve job, of course. At "only" 7,000 rpm and with such small 38x32mm valves, a heavy, durable Ferrea stainless steel, stock height valve package is used. "I can't tell you anything about the springs," Robert says, referring to the secrecy around trick, high-rpm valve springs these days. At least we know the retainers are 7-degree, single-groove Stealth titanium units, and that the head's spring seat is enlarged to accept larger-diameter RYR springs. In case you think GrandAm's 0.500-inch valve-lift limitation is weenie, the boys let out that they've packaged the modular engine to accept a 0.670-inch lift, and with such lift and full porting, these heads outflow the current WC stuff. There's real beast potential here. In Le Mans Prototype 900 trim, for example, this engine is legal at two-bar supercharged, without restrictors. Yikes!

The car ran about 115 shakedown miles at Road Atlanta to prove nothing leaked and all systems functioned. The transmission gave a bit of trouble, which was cured with a simple adjustment, but that was about it. All this was to get ready for the official tests at Daytona in February, followed by the actual 24-hour race.

So, the car, which was built in Toronto by Multimatic, traveled from Toronto to Kentucky to Road Atlanta, then back to Toronto, then down to Daytona for the official tests, then back to Toronto, then back to Daytona for the race, and finally back to Toronto afterward. Even after completing a 24-hour race, the prototype has no doubt logged more time and mileage in the truck than it has running!

It's Cheaper to Rent?
Jonesing for some real horsepressure? You can buy it from RYR Engines should you have the wallet to match.

Asked what one of the modular engines we've detailed in the main story would cost, John Maddox horsebacked, "Oh, $55,000 for one of these." But on buying your way into an RYR Engines WC Windsor small-block, John was more certain of the number. "Two million for 34 races in Winston Cup," he stated. And that's just to lease the engines, not to own them, tear them apart to study their internal secrets, or anything such as that. That's $58,823.53 per weekend to rent the sealed engine, put it in your chassis, race it, then return it to RYR Engines for freshening. Kind of makes an FRPP 392 crate motor look cheap, eh?

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