CHAMPCAR/CART: Mercedes-Benz Engines Submerged for Success

MONTVALE, N.J. (May 25, 1999) -- You might think of it as a baptism for a racing engine. Before christening a metal component worthy of assembly into a Mercedes-Benz IC108E Phase III (E3) Champ Car engine, each individual metal engine...

MONTVALE, N.J. (May 25, 1999) -- You might think of it as a baptism for a racing engine. Before christening a metal component worthy of assembly into a Mercedes-Benz IC108E Phase III (E3) Champ Car engine, each individual metal engine part is bathed and carefully examined by hand, to ensure that it meets the rigorous standards of perfection necessary for successful competition in the CART FedEx Championship Series.

The testing process is similar to the one used for Mercedes-Benz production engine components to ensure superb reliability and peak performance for Mercedes' coupes, sedans, roadsters and sport utility vehicles. At Mercedes-Benz's production vehicle facilities in Stuttgart, Germany, and Tuscaloosa, Ala., elements of the component testing process are partially automated. But at Ilmor Engineering's technology center, Mercedes-Benz's race-engine design and manufacturing facility in Plymouth, Mich., each of the more than 2,500 metal parts on a racing engine are bathed and inspected by hand.

With eight race cars running the powerful Mercedes-Benz E3 V8 at the Milwaukee Mile on June 6th and a build schedule for the race of at least 18 engines, Ilmor's engineers must test more than 45,000 individual components.

"Engine components are subject to an incredible amount of stress," said Paul Ray, vice president of Ilmor Engineering. "Each and every one of them must be flawless in order to ensure maximum performance on the race track. Our rigorous, by-hand testing insures that each and every Mercedes-Benz engine will operate with superb reliability for our teams."

All ferrous metal and aluminum engine components are put through the testing process. For ferrous metal parts, which include steel crankshafts, drive gears and cams, each part is washed thoroughly to ensure that no extraneous debris resides on the surface. Next, the component is magnetized on a special Magnaflux machine by passing an electrical current through it, effectively turning the component into a bar magnet. The part is then bathed in a special, water-based fluid that contains tiny particles of metal treated with fluorescent dye. If there is any crack in the part, the dyed metal flakes polarize into a north-south line along that fissure on the magnetized metal. The technician then carefully examines the part under an ultraviolet lamp to identify these lines -- and hence, any cracks. If the part does contain any cracks, it is scrapped because surface cracks could lead to deeper fatigue cracks and failure under the incredible stresses of an engine producing 14,400 rpm and more than 800 horsepower.

Aluminum engine parts, such as castings and fuel or water pump propellers, are bathed in an oil-based solution with a florescent dye for 30 minutes, then washed and dried in an oven. The dye penetrates and remains in any cracks. The part is sprinkled heavily with a chalk-based developer (similar to talcum powder). The dye is "pulled" out of the cracks by the chalky material, and when viewed under the florescent light, cracks are clearly visible. "Each part is checked again, every time the engine is torn down," said Ian Hawkins, Ilmor's facilities manager. "The experience and attention to detail of our technicians plays such a critical role. They take special classes to learn this process. It takes quite a bit of expertise and experience to tell the difference between minor (machining) scratches and the kinds of cracks that could result in a problem during a race. With more parts in just one water pump assembly alone than in a standard automobile engine all together, you gain a lot of experience quickly. It helps all of our teams to stay very competitive."

Mercedes-Benz supplies racing engines to five teams competing in the CART FedEx Championship Series, and is the Official Car of CART. In addition to auto racing, Mercedes-Benz' sports marketing programs include professional golf and tennis. The PGA Tour's season-opening Mercedes Championships at Kapalua's Plantation Course in Maui, Hawaii, to be televised in prime time on ESPN Jan 6-9, 2000, features a unique format limited to winners of PGA Tour official money events from the previous year's play. Mercedes-Benz is the Official Car of the ATP Tour and sponsor of the Mercedes Super 9, nine tournaments among the richest and most prestigious in men's tennis. Mercedes-Benz is also the primary sponsor for the ATP Tour World championships, the season-ending tournament featuring the top tennis players in the world in round-robin competition.

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Series IndyCar