Evan J. Smith
Freelancer
May 29, 2015

Any successful racing program requires testing in order to maximize performance. Whether it’s a NMRA Coyote Stock Mustang, a NASCAR Stock Car or an endurance racer, what happens behind the scenes is what makes on-track success possible. Of course, testing requires time and money, but it also requires development of the parts to be tested. Speeding up the development and testing process, give you a distinct advantage on track.

Ford has been leading the way in technology and development in its Daytona Prototype program that uses the 3.5L EcoBoost engine as the primer powerplant. And taking advantage of technology, the team, which includes Roush Yates Racing Engines, has been utilizing 3D printing to manufacture the intake manifold.

“3D computer printers have totally changed the development process for our Daytona Prototype race cars,” said Victor Martinez, 3.5L EcoBoost race engine engineer for Ford EcoBoost race engine, used in the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Daytona Prototype. “3D printing has advanced at such lightning speed in recent years that in a matter of hours, we can create real, usable parts for race cars. That’s exactly what we did for the 24 Hours of Daytona earlier this year.”

Ford began using this technology decades ago, purchasing the third 3D printer ever made, in 1988. According to Ford, the company first used 3D- printed parts for prototype buttons, switches and knobs. More recently, with improved technology and higher quality of finished 3D-printed parts, the parts become useable, where in the past they were mainly used for fitment and minor testing. In fact, Ford uses these parts on prototype vehicles built for durability testing, and on the Ford race car that won the 53rd running of the grueling 24 Hours of Daytona in January.

With such amazing capabilities, the rapid prototype lab at Ford is wide open with constant development. “We have the ability to design an entirely new part and, one week later, have that part in hand,” said Martinez. “This lets the engineers who develop our cars – both for road and track – spend more time testing, tuning and refining.”

“Toward the end of the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season, we began to design a number of revisions for our intake manifold,” explained Martinez. “In order to rapidly prototype and prove them out, we 3D-printed several intakes and tested them on our dyno and verified performance on the track. The iterations we created based on the 2014 intake manifold accelerated the development on our 2015 manifold, which is both lighter and brings improved airflow.”

This also includes parts for the Ford Performance Cobra Jet Mustang program, including the naturally aspirated 5.0 Coyote CJ intake and the version for the push-rod 429 “Ninja” engine.

“Leading up to the 2015 24 Hours of Daytona, Ford Performance engineers opted for a 3D-printed intake manifold for the Chip Ganassi Racing Daytona Prototype car,” added Martinez. “Employing the most advanced intake yet printed, in combination with carbon fiber intake plenums developed by Multimatic, a strong, reliable and lightweight intake manifold was created for the No. 02 Ford EcoBoost Target/Riley.

“The prototype manifold exceeded our expectations in testing, so in the essence of time we decided to use it for the race,” said Martinez. “We modified our intake with carbon fiber components, painted it, and then it was ready to go to the track.”

The effort culminated in a win by Chip Ganassi Racing, with Scott Dixon, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and Tony Kanaan, scoring the Daytona win.

“It was a great day for Ford and a great day for Ganassi,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. “We had a great car and great drivers. And, of course, we had really great power, reliability and fuel economy out of the EcoBoost engine. This is a great testament to the entire team. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”