Project Blown Z06: Wiring Process Simplifies A Complex Race Car

A multiplex of engine control, data recorder, and driver-operated gadgetry go into today’s state of the art race car. These individual components are not only controlled via switches but also need to communicate with one another via the electrical wire.

To coordinate this complex task on interconnection, we spoke to the specialists from Speedwire Systems, Racepak, and Jordan Innovations concerning the orchestration of component wiring on Project BlownZ06.

The fundamental task of making peripherals light up was charged to Gil Zeneri from Speedwire Systems.

“A big advantage with our systems is that the installation is very straightforward. We can consult with you to build a system that will suit your needs. Our systems are not one-size-fits-all,” Zeneri describes. “We have made systems for all applications from turbo, blower, multi-stage nitrous, and with or without EFI options. The switch panel is connected to the main relay controller via a streamlined data-style cable. The end user at this point will only need to connect main power, ground and the output wires needed for each output. Your relay controller will come labeled from us. It’s plug-and-play.”

With careful measuring and entry of the dimensions into a 3D CAD system, Jeff Jordan precisely creates the electrical harness sections without needing to see the Corvette again until final assembly.

The Speedwire relay controller replaces the typical automotive fuse and relay group with 30-amp circuits featuring LED status lights to immediately identify an electrical issue at a glance by the driver. Each circuit LED will turn from yellow to red if there is a blown fuse. There is also an output LED to show activation of the relay to allow quick identification of an issue between a component and its electrical supply. This action eliminates the need to pull out any meters for rapid diagnosis of electrical system problems at the track.

The Speedwire switching and controller hardware was then handed off to Jeff Jordan, owner of Jordan Innovations. Jordan manufactures military-spec wiring harnesses and electronics packages for racecar chassis. One of his key talents is to design and construct highly involved connectivity between today’s sophisticated electronic fuel injection, power-adder control, ignition, traction control system, and data recorder. How do you properly design an electrical harness system to interconnect these complex units? It’s all in Jordan’s computer designs.

This Speedwire controller package has a programmable microchip controller that can be configured to control two to five stages of nitrous and from two to ten timers. The ten-circuit switch panel is linked via a streamlined data-style cable to the main relay controller shown.

The starting point for the wiring layout for a tube chassis racecar like BlownZ06 is careful measurement.

“When the bare tubular chassis was nearing completion, I went and physically measured the tubing and took a ton of pictures,” Jordan explains. “We then began to map out the entire wiring system with our harness software.”

“The next step is very complex. Since many EFI systems perform similar functions, we needed to determine with driver James Lawrence which controller he wanted to perform each specific task,” Jordan explains. “For example, the FuelTech FT600 engine control unit (ECU) will record specific data, but so will the Racepak unit. The ECU analyzes wheel-speed; which one does it need to run through first? Substantial discussion of priorities takes place at this point.”

Although many Engine Control Units have data recording capabilities, the Racepak V300 SD can record that data along with additional driveshaft rpm, wheel speeds, shocks functions, and acceleration G-forces into one overlay on your laptop.

With the “what wire goes where” priorities worked out, it was back to designing the complex harnesses. Some connections require a different type of wire, as well. The ECU requires specific shielding of some wires.

“One wire has a shielded buffered input whereas another has a raw input,” Jordan says. “I map out the harness with computer-aided design (CAD) software – that’s where we designate which wire goes from which pin to which pin, wire color, numbering, and type of wire. With this laid out on the computer, the final harness assembly is very exact.”

Speedwire Systems switch panels are CNC machined out of billet aluminum with 6, 8, and 10 switch configurations. The panel is connected to the main relay controller by a streamlined data-style cable (arrow). One cool addition is an LED interior light built into the bottom of the switch panel.

“Working with James and the car builders, the 3D CAD system allowed us to precisely add sub harness connectors and aerospace bulkheads at many points,” Jordan says. “For instance, James wanted to keep the engine harness completely stand-alone, so he could undo a couple of connectors and swap engines. These many connector points are precisely designed together with the CAD system.”

The Jordan Innovations harness designs can be so exact as long as they are supplied with proper measurements of the racecar to be plugged into their 3D CAD work. In some instances, Jordan’s shop has not physically seen the project car; they essentially designed the wiring system with the actual chassis sight unseen.

“In the case of the BlownZ06 Corvette, we did not see the car again until the chassis was back from powder-coating and entering the final assembly,” Jordan illustrates. “The wiring system installed on the chassis without issue and we just had to custom install a couple of circuits that could not be factored into the CAD system such as the headlights and taillights that are part of the body, not the chassis.”

Individual wiring harnesses were developed by Jordan Innovations with aerospace wiring couplers and bulkhead connectors. Now the ignition and EFI harnesses are quickly detachable while additional harasses are preinstalled on a spare engine.

The Racepak system can marry all the data from the multiple sources like individual sensors to channels within the FuelTech ECU unit.

“An ECU manufacturer is not going to record shocks or so many other additional parameters,” says Racepak’s Tim Anderson. “Many engine control units can record points of engine data which is great, but using a central point like the Racepak V300 SD on the Dragzine Corvette can monitor up to 67 channels of data. It can overlay ECU engine data with the transmission, wheel speeds, shocks functions, and acceleration G-forces into one point on your laptop.”

A clean wiring system consists of proper connectors at each junction point. Aerospace grade connectors are not only weathertight, they are constructed with heat and abrasion-resistant wire loom covering to increase race car reliability.

“With the constant development of electronic controls and monitor software in racing, we are typically busy learning how to match our recorders with the parameters coming out of other products,” Anderson adds. “Our Datalink software takes all this compiled information and puts it together. You now have your many sensors, your memory card, and a ‘clock’ between them. That time reference during your pass allows you the knowledge of knowing exactly when all these readings happen at what point during your pass.”

Perfection when it comes to your harnesses is one thing, but durability and safety are at yet another level. Zeneri notes, “What sets us apart from other racing relay controls is our use of flameproof encapsulating epoxy material for the enclosure.”

“By using this epoxy material, the enclosure becomes flame-retardant with a rating of Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 97. That rating is for fused power-circuit devices in accordance with the National Electrical Code and has our products being utilized in countless industrial and transportation machinery around the world. It’s a quality standard that racers should appreciate,” notes Zeneri.

Jordan also described the overall durability of the products used in his wiring harness construction.

“All racecars should be considered a harsh environment when it comes to wiring exposure to fuel or other chemicals or even the extreme vibrations,” he says. “We used real-deal aerospace bulkheads at the firewall, for the engine control harness, and even the ignition coil wiring. We also always use a heat-treated loom material that is abrasion-resistant, heat-resistant, and the wire providing maximum protection from chemicals and high temperatures. Our harnesses can be bathing in oil, brake cleaner, or whatever and the harness doesn’t care. It won’t get gummy or start to fail.”

The Project BlownZ06 wiring harness is as much about communication wiring as well as switched circuits. Jordan Innovations shows us some of the intricate connectors with heat protective covering over the labels.

Racepak cables and connectors are comprised of a “smart data” transfer network. The Racepak cables can give you the ability to transmit multiple signals from each sensor using a single cable. This network results in a more compact wiring system for the data logging process. Whether using a single gauge or a full data acquisition system, all components are attached using modular snap-together weather-tight connectors.

If you can call a wiring system “bulletproof,” this is what it would look like. The team of three companies put together a system of wiring to interconnect the driver’s switching, data acquisition, and computer control now capable of resisting anything the Project BlownZ06 radial-tire Corvette can dish out.

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Todd Silvey

Todd has been a hardcore drag racing journalist since 1987. He is constantly on both sides of the guardwall from racing photography and editorship to drag racing cars of every shape and class.
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