Carburetors and mechanical fuel injection remain the go-to choice for many sportsman-class and weekend-warrior bracket racers, thanks to their simplicity, affordability, and the existing knowledge of the end-user. Given recent advances in these age-old air/fuel mixing methods, that’s not likely to change soon. But, what if we told you that carburetor and mechanical injection racers can take advantage of the technology that modern EFI systems can offer their racing program, without changing their engine combination?
Adding an engine control unit, such as the FT450 and FT550 from FuelTech can provide a myriad of additional and useful technologies in one user-friendly location. It can also provide one a foundation for a move to EFI in the future if they so choose.
Why Use An EFI System On A Carbureted Or Mechanical Fuel-Injected Application?
Often thought of as just electronic fuel injection systems, FuelTech ECUs are all-in-one engine control units that do a lot more than just control the injection of fuel and ignition events. EFI is just one capability of their systems, and if you want to stick with your carburetor or mechanical fuel injection, FuelTech wants enthusiasts and racers to know that there are numerous reasons why using a FuelTech ECU is a worthwhile investment.
The simplicity of carburetion on an internal combustion engine has numerous benefits to the user. There is less, mechanically, to go wrong, tuning is usually accomplished with a screwdriver, and the price of entry is considerably less than electronic fuel injection. But, racers are always looking for ways to improve their craft and to find an edge over their competition. The result of these efforts includes using things like timing controls and datalogging to effect a change in performance, and to log those changes for use in future situations.
Racers often end up with multiple systems from multiple companies for ignition control, data-logging, delay box, and so on, which can create wiring nightmares, not to mention require the user to learn several different systems. Replacing multiple system controls with an engine control unit from FuelTech allows racers to simplify their wiring, provides easy access to make adjustments, and logs changes to their racing program.
“In many classes where a carburetor does the job on the fuel control, there are still many other demands to control that will make a lot of difference, and being all done in one box simplifies it a lot,” explains FuelTech CEO Anderson Dick.
It’s Official—Sanction-Approved Firmwares
“In regulated classes under sanctioning bodies such as NHRA, NMCA, PDRA and others, we have class-specific firmware to comply with the rules, removing all illegal features,” states FuelTech’s André Nuñez. “Our system is very tech-inspection-friendly. When you fire up the ECU, it will tell you right on the startup screen what firmware is being used.You can also pull up the data-logs and see what systems are being used, as well. We make sure it is easy to see that the vehicles are in compliance.”
Bracket Racing Features
FuelTech ECUs offer bracket racers both box and no-box firmwares, with all of the features they are used to. Racers have the option to add or subtract time to the countdown timer, and FuelTech also includes a Super Bump feature for when you need to take a bigger bump.
Pre-Staging Output Control, more commonly known as starting line enhancer, is built into the FuelTech system. A starting line enhancer helps control RPM during the staging process by activating an inline throttle stop that keeps the RPM low until a programable preset timer expires and then allows full throttle to be reached. Along with dedicated throttle-stop controls, and the dial board feature allows racers to automatically display their dial-in.
Bracket racers will also be keen to know that FuelTech ECUs also work with Crosstalk, taking the difference in e.t.’s into consideration and adding the difference of the e.t.’s to the existing delay to allow you to hit your opponent’s side of the tree.
Information And Control At Your Fingertips
FuelTech ECUs give you easy access to all of your ignition control, timing control, traction control, data-logging, and more in one place with its touch-screen digital display. The display allows you to monitor your vehicle, view the numerous settings you have configured, and make any necessary changes without connecting to a laptop.
Need more info than what you see on the screen? FuelTech’s FT450 unit offers four configurable screens that you can toggle through by touching the screen or by using an external button.
Ultimate Control Of Your Power Adder
If you have a power-adder combination, be it a blow-through supercharged/turbocharged engine or a nitrous oxide-enhanced powerplant, then an engine management system can do wonders for your program, as it includes boost control and nitrous activation strategies.
“If it is a turbo car, then we have all kinds of boost control, with CO2, or a three-way PWM valve and even newer electronic wastegate control — it’s very advanced boost control in the same box,” Dick notes. “Nitrous control is very complete, from dual-stage progressive to seven-stage pro nitrous control with all the precise timers and compensation.”
With the FuelTech ECU, it doesn’t matter if you’re using a traditional distributor, a single coil or have converted to coil-on-plug with a crank trigger — it can fire all of them. Beyond the basic parameters, FuelTech ECUs offer two-step rev limiter control, time-based rev limiters, ignition retard, individual ignition trim, as well as gear-shift power reductions, just to name a few features.
“With the ability to control individual coil-per-cylinder ignition on a carburetor or mechanical blower application, it completely opens the range of timing advance/retard capabilities that were never possible with a distributor, which is always mechanically limited to its phasing window,” Dick explains.
Staging your race car is an important part of each run, as how you do it can alter the elapsed time performance, whether you are looking for the best e.t. or are looking to be consistent. Turbocharged cars will find FuelTech’s staging control particularly useful.
“It allows for precise staging with any type of application, but most notably with turbocharged cars where you need to build boost at the line before staging,” Nuñez says.
You may have seen turbo cars “bumping in” and many of them rocking back and forth, often flickering the staging lights on and off. FuelTech’s staging control allows you to engage the line lock and adjust the brake pressure to mitigate that rocking effect, and it allows the driver to put the car right precisely where he or she needs to.
FuelTech ECUs offer many ways to control traction in classes where it is permitted. Some of these include active wheel-speed, a target wheel-slip percentage, as well as time-based controls. While it falls more under safety than traction control, wheelie control is also possible with FuelTech ECUs.
More and more racers are relying on data acquisition to improve performance on track, but in some applications, tuners utilize data to know what a vehicle can do in a particular set of track and weather conditions, which can ensure a solid performance, and in the case of bracket and index racing, consistency.
“Data acquisition is very relevant,” Dick tells us. “It records all the channels in a very easy-to-read way and all contained within the FuelTech dash and software, simplifying so much without the need of an external data-log system.
Along with all the convenient, built-in control functions, the FuelTech ECU line is completely capable of being a standalone dashboard and data-logger, while giving the user the ability to grow into controlling more and more with the ECU as they get comfortable with it. Having the ECU and data-logging program integrated makes it easy to quickly view data between rounds, and make adjustments all in one place.”
Many racers don’t consider using automatic safety features, often relying on a warning light and their own reaction to save the engine. FuelTech ECUs are full of safety features that can shut things down quicker than you can say, “save my engine.” With the right sensors and software parameters, the ECU can enact engine protection using oil pressure, fuel pressure, EGT, coolant temperature, and much more to determine an action.
Improved control can improve repeatability in any system, and controlling the transmission is no exception. FuelTech ECUs allow you to control how you stage with your transmission, how the transbrake works, and the actual gear shifting process.
“The FuelTech ECUs can control everything from simple, old school two-speed automatic transmissions to newer, electronically controlled, multi-speed automatic transmissions such as GM’s 4L80,” Nuñez tells us. The team at FuelTech has done a lot of research and development to be able to offer control strategies for almost any transmission.
Change Tuneups At A Touch
“Any of the FuelTech ECUs can store up to three totally different tuneups in the unit, and are user-selectable, either through the touchscreen or an external button,” says FuelTech’s Jacob Gaddis. “This gives the ability to anticipate track conditions and make a tuneup change while waiting in the lanes without getting out a laptop. That can also make testing day progress much faster. If the car spins, just back up, change the tune, and go again.”
Mechanically Injected Engine Features
FuelTech offers features such as lean-out control that are specific to mechanically fuel injected applications.
“On mechanical injection vehicles that want to keep it, like blowers, we have an MFI feature — mechanical fuel injection timers to control the lean-outs very precisely with fuel flow sensors inputs or the CO2 closed-loop control for all valves,” Dick says.
Tech Support Is Just A Call Away With FuelTech
“All of the FuelTech products come with the industry-leading support that we are known for,” Gaddis says. “So if you’re stuck on something or want to try something new, you can easily get support from guys who have real, hands-on experience.”
FuelTech support is readily available across multiple channels, including by phone, email, Facebook groups, and often at the track as the company attends over 50 events per year.
To get you started, FuelTech also offers educational classes and training at their Ball Ground, Georgia, facility using its on-site hub dyno. Courses are conducted throughout the year and classes are available in English and Spanish.
Which FuelTech System Is Right For You?
FuelTech offers numerous ECUs, allowing you to select the model that is best suited to your application.
“Generally speaking, the main difference between the FuelTech ECUs is the amount of channels available,” Nuñez states. “The features and software are the same, you just have the ability to do more with the higher level ECUs.”
“Typically, the FT450 and FT550 are a great fit because when you’re not controlling fuel injectors on a carburetor, less outputs are required,” Dick says. “For mechanically injected combinations, these systems will serve their purpose, but vehicles that normally run those types of combinations may benefit from higher-end systems that offer more outputs, such as the FT600.”
“For carb and mechanical injection guys, this is a good way to ease into the platform in case EFI is in the cards,” Dick concluded.