EVOLUTION OF DIESEL
Adynamometer is a device that measures horsepower at the rear wheels. As the diesel performance industry has progressed through the years, these dyno runs have gotten more and more interesting. Especially lately with the 3,000 horsepower goal within reach. We’ve gotten to the point where safety measures are exponentially more important than before. I’d like to talk safety for a bit, but first a little history.
In 2019 Derek Rose broke the chassis dyno record for diesel’s at UCC, with a 2503 rear wheel horsepower hit. Fast forward to September 2020 and that number got eclipsed by Shawn Baca with a 2920 rear wheel horsepower hit. Shawn replaced the nitrous bottles and tried again for that elusive 3k number, immediately after. That last dyno hit ended up splitting the block in half. Eight months later, at Ultimate Callout Challenge 2021, Todd Welsh went for the 3,000 horsepower record and ended up splitting the engine in half much like Shawn did previously.
Shawn’s explosion was a scary one. I was there and seriously thought I had lost two friends before seeing them both exit the vehicle. In hindsight, the carnage outside the vehicle, in terms of danger to the crowd, was minimal. I did find some engine parts 50+ yards away, but they were all small, light pieces. Still dangerous, but not as bad as what I’ll tell you about in a bit here. The real danger from that explosion was to Shawn and Kody Pulliam (dyno operator). The interior of Shawn’s “Master Shredder” was very much so, shredded (pun or not, that’s the best word to describe it). When the engine split, the transmission grenaded too, ripping the trans tunnel apart and sending trans parts into the cab, along with a ton of fire. The guys were lucky.
Now Todd’s try for 3,000 horsepower was a little different. When his Cummins let go it sent large chunks of engine into the surrounding areas. A piston was found in the stands in the middle of the crowd as was a wrist pin and tons of smaller parts. Another part put a hole in the Lucas Oil Raceway sign that was maybe 60feet or more above the dyno. I personally collected half a dozen large 2-inch chunks of block and what appeared to be piston from well over a hundred yards away.
First, huge props to all the guys pushing the limits of their engines beyond the max. You’re how we grow as a sport and industry. That being said, two dangerous explosions in 8-months, and at events, we need to change how we’re doing things safety wise. Someone is going to get very seriously injured or worse, and I really hope the safety changes are made before that happens. Let me be clear, I’m in no way a pro in this area, but the changes we need shouldn’t be like reinventing the wheel. These explosions are going to keep happening, as they do in drag racing all the time.
The big thing is first a fire suit and helmet, and then keeping the parts contained or at least slowed down so that when they do exit the vehicle thy aren’t traveling at lethal speeds. Sled pullers use a large cable wrapped around the engine to keep the head/top half of the engine in place. This also helps contain the rotating mass. Top Fuel Dragsters have a similar approach. Many racing series require steel shields around turbos, plus a turbo intake housing containment device such as an SFI certified blanket. These blankets are also required for parts of the transmissions and it would probably be a good idea to use them around the engine block too. Many of the parts I found at UCC were from the split block. There’s a bunch more that could be borrowed from the NHRA or the PPL. Implementing the changes will be fun of course. I know it’s not easy. In the end, we all have a decent idea about what might happen when pushing our vehicles hard. We’ve pushed these engines to the point where everything can fail. And hell yeah for that. My hope is we all take an extra step before competing so that we all can keep on doing exactly that, competing.