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You are here: Home > ModMax In the NEWS > Reality Racing - Inside Robert Yates Racing Engine Shop

Reality Racing - Inside Robert Yates Racing Engine Shop

Robert Yates makeshis living racing Ford engines--he'd like to race the engine Ford builtthis century
photographer: Tom Wilson
In this world of ever-accelerating change, it's strange but true that in many respects the giant automanufacturers 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.

Horse Sense: Robert Yates Racing Engines' latest shop is new, clean, andboasts a lobby the size of a small house. But it's a racing shop, nomatter the tile, carpet, plants, trendy black furniture, andreceptionist. As soon as you walk in the door, the racer's perfume ofwarm racing oil washes over you. It's incongruous at first, this smellof racing engines in what resembles a hotel lobby, but in the WinstonCup world of Moorseville, North Carolina, it's the norm.

Robert Yates (left) backs his company's future with John Maddox (right),the main man in RYR Engines' Special Projects engine room. Passionateabout engines--and Fords--Robert knows the future is modular.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 PrototypeMultimatic Motorsports' Focus Prototype was First in class and Fourthoverall at The Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. Broken throttle return springsand a cracked exhaust header had drivers David Brabham, DavidEmpringham, and Scott Maxwell driving flat out for about 20 hours tryingto catch up. The basic engine didn't seem to mind the day-long sprintpace.

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 carracing 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.

Mounted amidship in the Focus Daytona as a nonstressed member, the RYREngines' Four-Valve uses some production bellhousing bolt holes, alongwith mounting ears built into the oil pan, and a new bracket in thestock alternator location for engine support. Obviously the exhaustsystem is unique to the midship mounting, but the truth is, all engineaccessories--right down to the custom wiring looms--are affected by themidengine configuration.
John Maddox is the head man with his hand on the wrenches in Yates'modular engine program. Good-natured, but intense about his work, John'smajor engine experience before coming to Special Projects at RYR Engineswas top-fuel powerplants. This front view of his handiwork shows how theheavy accessories are mounted low and wide.
Robert Boahbedason is the Special Projects cylinder-head specialist. Hehas the enviable job of having to find only 500 hp worth of airflow fromthe Four-Valve heads, and the not so great luck of having to valve-job32 valves on every engine.

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 run- ning 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.

A durable Goodyear Kevlar six-rib serpentine belt was chosen to race on.A hundred laps of shakedown testing left a stock belt so stretched theoil pump pulley would turn by hand--yet oil pressure was good. TheW-shaped bracket with the idler pulley is also an engine mount--it wasdesigned and built at RYR Engines. The harmonic damper is a six-rib ATIunit (it should be an off-the-shelf-item when you read this). The timingcover is a stocker with modifications to accept the stationary,adjustable belt tensioner (not spring loaded). The water pump is an '00Cobra R unit because it has larger bearings than other modular pumps.Accessories not seen here include a Tilton starter motor (it mounts onthe bellhousing, not the engine) and a 5-inch, four-disc clutch. Thealternator is a reverse-rotation Bosch unit.
Big-league engine shops have interesting ways of spotting problemsbefore they manifest themselves. For example, RYR Engines has a stereolithography-like machine that uses two intersecting lasers to buildprototype parts. Such parts can be full size or scaled down, such asthis block Robert is holding. It was used to check fitments of otherparts. In action, the machine generates small flashes of blue lightningstraight out of a sci-fi electronic attack. A piece such as this blocktakes the machine all night to generate, but once programmed it works onits own.
As are the head bolts, modular cross-bolts in the main bearing caps arestretch-to-yield fasteners. They may be torqued four times beforerequiring replacement, so there are bin boxes full of these bolts atSpecial Projects. The FR500 blocks use Romeo-style side bolts.
For unquestioned durability John went for stock-length Carrillo H-beamrods with Carr SPS bolts. The piston is a full-skirt,antifriction-coated CP forging from ModMax. Per the rules, it gives 11:1compression. The piston pin is made of proprietary material by Del West.It's a massive 0.150 inch thick. The ring package is off-the-shelf stuffwith a 1.5mm Total Seal top, a 2mm Napier second, and 3mmHasting's-style oil control rings. This entire rod/piston/ring packagedoesn't spare the weight, but it goes for the durability beef.
Oiling the connecting-rod bearings begins with the main bearings, shownhere. Because of the angle at which the stock crankshaft main-to-rod oilpassages are drilled, it's necessary to partially groove the lower mainbearing inserts to ensure oiling the connecting rod at the criticaltime. Federal-Mogul sells these tri-metal bearings with just such a /4groove," which is what John uses. This oil-timing trick is importantonly at higher rpm.

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.

ModMax developed the 4340 billet crank in the foreground for dragracing. A stock Cobra forging is in the rear. Both have a 90mm strokeand both have been used by RYR. John hasn't failed the stock cranks atthe relatively low 7,000-rpm redline the GrandAm engines turn, but then,he's detailed all the journals and shot-peened the crank. The ModMaxcrank, however, boasts "performance oil timing," meaning the main-to-rodjournal oiling is drilled to automatically oil the rod at the necessarytime. All journal diameters are stock.
RYR builds its own dry-sump oil pumps for WC, and Special Projectsbuilds its own pumps for the modulars. The pumps are a four-stagescavange/one-stage pressure design that bolt directly to the RYR oil panso there are no external oil-suction lines. A centrifuge is built intothe pump to separate the air and oil before the oil is routed throughthe oil cooler and then the tank. Having the air taken out of the oilbefore the cooler improves heat exchanger efficiency by 60 percent, Johnsays.
The Yates dry-sump pump turns one-half crankshaft speed via this pulleyand driveshaft, also built by Yates. Besides the gear ratio supplied bythe serpentine belt and sprocket, the pump also includes internal gearreductions. Slowing down the pump  is necessary as the scavenge sectionsdon't like the 8,500 rpm they'd see otherwise, and oil vaporizes at alittle less than 35 inches of vacuum anyway, according to John. Thisdriveshaft is stepped down to save weight as the torque loads diminish.
Turn the RYR modular upside down and the nearly flat bottom of the slimoil pan is about all you see. The oil-system capacity is nominally 31/2gallons, depending on the dry sump tank. There is also an accumu-latorto add both oil and water during pit stops. John runs consumption testsduring practice to plan how much water and oil to add during the race.At Daytona he added a liter of oil at midnight (12 hours), and anotherliter at 10 a.m. Sunday.

"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 43/4 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.

Seen on the bench, the billet aluminum oil pan's slim 11/2-inch heightis apparent. The pan is just deep enough to let the connecting rodsswing. The three flow diverters are visible on the pan floor, while theabbreviated windage tray is a little more difficult to spot because itblends into the background. It's on the side closest to the camera,which is also the side to which the oil pump bolts. The routed-outpassages on the pan's outer edge direct oil from the sump to the pump.The tube standing up directs pressurized oil through the hole left bythe missing stock Gerotor pump to the main oil gallery. This oil panalso provides engine-mounting bolt holes at both ends. RYR Engines isworking on an oil-pan casting. That RYR is willing to invest $30,000 ona cast, dry-sump oil pan tells you something about the company'sthoughts on the modular engine market.
This bit of CNC art is the "wet plate," or combination oil-filteradapter and water neck. It's necessary because the low-mountedalternator covers up the stock water and oil-filter pads. Wicks (an RYRsponsor) is working on an oil filter for this engine, but just forDaytona the now- discontinued FRAM HP3 filter was used. It's tiny, butit flows 14 gallons per minute. The only other oiling mod was replacingthe OEM cup plugs in the oil galleys with threaded pipe plugs to easeblock servicing.
Straight out of the FRPP catalog are the dual-variable-runner magnesiumFR500 intake and the Cobra dual-bore throttle body. Also stock are thevalve covers--there was no strong corporate direction on how to badge theengine, so one cover gets a Blue Oval and the other an RYR Enginessticker. Carbon-fiber covers are coming from Yates, however, and they'llbe available to the public. There was no word on price.
Yates made its own fuel rail for the FR500 intake because it says it'sthe only rail that holds the Four-Valve's dual-cone fuel injectorsstraight relative to the port. These fuel rails will also be availablefrom RYR Engines shortly.

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.

Durability was the goal in prepping the heads. The guides were allknocked out and replaced with Yates-spec bronze pieces, and the exhaustseats were replaced with Tucker Engineering chrome steel inserts. Thestock intake seat is retained. Here we see a head in the middle of thevalve job. This work also allows Robert to locate the valve centerlineand seat concentricity to his specifications.
Durability was the goal in prepping the heads. The guides were allknocked out and replaced with Yates-spec bronze pieces, and the exhaustseats were replaced with Tucker Engineering chrome steel inserts. Thestock intake seat is retained. Here we see a head in the middle of thevalve job. This work also allows Robert to locate the valve centerlineand seat concentricity to his specifications.

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. 5.0

Three transducers for the EFI Technology engine-management system arerubber shock-mounted on the rear of the intake. At left is a MAP sensor,at center is an oil-pressure sensor, and at right is a fuel-pressuresensor. Aerospace mil-spec connectors and custom wiring are featuredthroughout the management system.
Let's remember that RYR Engines invented the "Yates" cylinder headspowering all those Windsor overachievers out there and the company isimpressed with the airflow from these FR500 castings. Straight out ofthe FRPP catalog, these heads get light casting cleanup, minimalexhaust-port roof-exit modification and an RYR valve job, of course. At"only" 7,000 rpm and with such small 38x32mm valves, a heavy, durableFerrea stainless steel, stock height valve package is used. "I can'ttell you anything about the springs," Robert says, referring to thesecrecy around trick, high-rpm valve springs these days. At least weknow the retainers are 7-degree, single-groove Stealth titanium units,and that the head's spring seat is enlarged to accept larger-diameterRYR springs. In case you think GrandAm's 0.500-inch valve-liftlimitation is weenie, the boys let out that they've packaged the modularengine 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 potentialhere. In Le Mans Prototype 900 trim, for example, this engine is legalat two-bar supercharged, without restrictors. Yikes!
In Special Projects, Robert has this Neven valve and seat machine tohand-build his heads. This is low rent by WC standards, and once theFour-Valve head design is stabilized, all porting, streamlining andvalve seat cutting will be done in one operation on RYR Engine'sCNC-machining centers--way trick. Robert says the valve job is worth 35percent of the flow of a cylinder head. Out-of-the-box flow is greatwith the FR500 heads, but it can change dramatically with the height ofthe valve job--where the valve seat is sunk into the chamber or port, inother words.
Robert has both Sean Hyland and FRPP experimental cams in-house. Yatesused the Ford cams, such as this one, at Daytona. These are expensivebillet cams, not composite units such as the stock modulars use. Thecomposite cams are good, says RYR, but the desired valvetrain geometryand lobe profiles aren't available in that construction. The SHM methodof grinding down the base circle and using a longer valve to get lift isalso not viable for endurance racing because of the resultingvalve/rocker geometry, according RYR. That's more of a drag racingtrick.

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