DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Colin Braun and his Michael Shank Racing-prepared, Roush Yates Engines-tweaked 3.5-liter V6 Ford EcoBoost-powered Daytona Prototype on Wednesday became the first to average better than 220 mph around the venerable 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway tri-oval in a special record run session.
The string of Ford Racing’s record-shattering runs started coming at about 3 p.m., following a morning spent mostly on chasing demons whose ugly little heads rarely arise until it’s time to start chasing records.
Having 10-mile and 10-kilometer runs — four laps around the DIS tri-oval to accomplish the former — as a key element for establishing any of the worldwide records, Braun would take on enough fuel for five laps and proceeded to put pedal to metal.
Two records, aimed at establishing a new worldwide bar for 3.5-liter to 5-liter engines, subject to homologation by France-based motorsports governing body Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), set its 10k finish line, if you will, in Turn 1 of the Big D’s four turns.
Braun averaged 202.438 mph in his best 10-kilometer and 210.018 mph in his best 10-mile runs, both from a standing start.
The overall speed record for one lap was 222.971 mph, which came during the longer runs and remains subject to FIA homologation.
The FIA’s procedure, beyond the placement of a start-finish line, involves the direct oversight of FIA representative Bob Strange, who watches the process undertaken to measure the timing and scoring methods, as well as mechanical aspects such as engine displacement and number of cylinders — thus assuring the power plant falls within the ranges stated above.
As to getting the job done, “It was pretty damn fast, I know that much,” Braun said almost breathlessly immediately after one of the record runs — but only after the gremlins had been tamed.
First up on that list was a wet track left overnight from Tuesday’s rains. If anyone, anything was to go fast through the track’s 31-degree banking, the asphalt would have to be dry. The track’s jet-engined dryers were on the track at daybreak.
When allowed on the track, the mechanical issues, such as they were, began to arise as, first, a power steering servomotor blew and made it next to impossible for Braun to keep the car straight and true while traveling down the Speedway’s nearly 4,000-ft. backstretch.
“I’d have it on a line and it’d suddenly jump 10 feet to the right or 8 feet to the left,” Braun said. “There just wasn’t a feel for when or by how much it was going to do it; you just suddenly found yourself somewhere other than where you desired to be.”
Wrapping up the day’s glitches was about six inches of a small, pliable 1/16th inch diameter hose used in conjunction with the turbocharger’s intercooler — a system in which air is guided through what looks like a radiator, which then cools the air as it’s delivered to the turbocharger. Ultimately a cooler, denser charge of air is delivered to the engine’s cylinders.
An unfettered Braun, finally having a car that didn’t fight him, started his string of record-setting runs.
You have to hand it to Bill and Ernie Elliott, as well as the whole Harry Melling No. 9 Ford Thunderbird team, as they were able to set their 1987 NASCAR-Daytona International Speedway flying-lap record of 210.397 mph at a time when slowing NASCAR’s stock cars had already started appearing on the mental checklists of series officials.
Indeed, if one were to include NASCAR’s mid-1970’s switch to 305 cubic-inch engine displacements from engines displacing just fewer than 430 cubic-inch, the movement toward slowing race cars on superspeedway-style tracks had already long been underway.
When Braun set his first set of records an excited Jamie Allison, Director, Ford Racing, couldn’t wait to get a first set of numbers out to the world.
“I’m putting out the numbers for the world to see,” a broadly smiling Allison shouted.
“I’m sure that was the case in 1987 when the Elliott family got their record, only they didn’t have Twitter.”
Shortly after that first set came another set of record-breaking numbers and, before long, Braun would take the car out, set some records, return to the pits, gas up, get new rubber, go out for another four laps and set still-newer records.
The only thing stopping Braun from setting still higher numbers than those finally posted was yet another clock: daylight’s.
Finally, team-owner Mike Shank could catch a breath.
“This is the kind of day that you wait a lifetime to see,” Shank said.
“A world record ranks among this team’s greatest achievements and that Ford would pick ours as a team to be a part of introducing its program — its EcoBoost engine and its new Daytona Prototype — something like this means a lot to me. It’s hard to explain just how special it is to me, and to every one of our guys, but it’s big. I can assure you of that.
“But, being as I was as stressed as I think I’ve ever been in racing, it was good to see we’re now through it. And we came out the other side having achieved some pretty cool results.”
“This is a great day for Michael Shank Racing.”
And for Ford Racing.