The Road to World of Speed Part 5: From Bearings to Bones, We are Unstoppable

5523 Motorsports Moto-IQ Project Land Speed Racer

The Road to World of Speed Part 5: From Bearings to Bones, We are Unstoppable

by Chuck Johnson

5523 Motorsports Moto-IQ Project Land Speed Racer

Each year before Speed Week, it seems like we face some serious obstacles in our speed week preparations. But each year, the team pulls together and manages to cheat Murphy’s Law of its satisfaction. This year has been no different.

5523 Motorsports SR15VET Engine Land Speed Racer

We’ve run into some hurdles along the way that could justifiably qualify as complete disasters and show stoppers. This is the first of them. When we pulled the oil pan so that John Kuchta of Specialty Cars could weld a bung on it for the AEM oil temperature sensor this is what we found, a pan full of bearing material.

5523 Motorsports SR15VET Land Speed Engine

Upon closer examination, we could tell that the debris was most likely material from a damaged thrust bearing.

5523 Motorsports SR15VET Engine Land Speed 240sx

Needless to say, we immediately yanked Project 240SX LSR’s SR15VET from its engine bay and handed it off to 5523 Motorsports to begin the tear down. Upon disassembly, 5523 Motorsports discovered that one of the thrust faces on the crankshaft had begun to breakdown demolishing a thrust bearing along with it.

5523 Motorsports SR15VET Crankshaft

Thrust bearing and crank thrust face failures often occur from running too heavily sprung of a clutch plate. These types of failures are pretty common in the 4G63 world but not very common with the SR20DET. The other cause of this type of failure is insufficient thrust bearing clearance. Taking into account that we’ve run the same JWT clutch for hundreds of thousands of miles with no problems and that both Nick Hunter and I had verified the thrust bearing clearance upon assembly, we were left scratching our heads.

5523 Motorsports Crankshaft Measuring 240sx Land Speed SR15VET

Closer inspection revealed porous welding on the thrust face of the crankshaft.

That is until we noticed something peculiar. Normally SR20DET crankshafts have an undercut radius between the journal and the thrust face. This one did not, which meant it had been welded and repaired at one point. Looking at the thrust face under magnification, it became obvious that the welding on the thrust face was porous, which most likely caused it to start breaking down and in turn, the bearing to fail. Keep in mind that the welding and offset grinding to de-stroke our crankshaft only involved the rod journals, not the mains.

Fortunately, 5523 Motorsports had built a spare bottom end last season, which we already had sealed by the SCTA a few years back. The bottom end featured the same JE Pistons, K1 Technology connecting rods, and a SR16VE crankshaft sourced from Greg Vogel at G Spec Performance that was modified by Marine Crankshaft to reduce the stroke to 2.500″.  Murphy’s Law wouldn’t stop there though.

Moto-IQ LSR Team

In addition to driving fast, I’ve also picked up a new hobby in the last few years, downhill mountain biking. What I love about downhill mountain biking is the adrenaline rush you get without having to pay hundreds of dollars for race gas and tens of thousands of dollars to build a racecar. The exercise and time with nature is nice too; however, I’m clearly in it for the thrill.

Moto-IQ LSR Team

I also downhill mountain bike to stay sharp and it turns out a lot of pro athletes do too. There’s something about flying down a mountain dodging trees, shredding berms, dropping off the face of boulders, and hitting big table tops that parallels land speed racing. I think it’s about putting yourself in those “oh shit” moments and getting you used to maintaining your composure during them. It also keeps me comfortable with that sensation of speed that would easily make other people wet themselves.

Moto-IQ LSR Team

A dislocated and fractured left elbow reveal the perils of downhill mountain biking.

Having seen some of my spectacular GoPro crash footage on Instagram, both John Kuchta and Nick Hunter had warned me to “lay off of the downhill mountain biking crap” before I hurt myself. Half heartedly heeding their message, I told myself that I’d stop one month before Speed Week. Almost exactly a month before Speed Week though, I’d dislocate and fracture my elbow jumping a new feature at Snow Summit’s bike park. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

5523 Motorsports SR15VET Land Speed

Doing my best to help out with one arm in a sling.

This would place a huge burden back on the team as with one arm, I was pretty much useless when it came to wrenching on the car. Without Annie Sam, Sean Rossi, Joe Lu, Josh Wang, Steve Mitchell, John Kuctha, Evan Dunham and the crew at 5523 Motorsports, there would have been no chance of completing the car before Speed Week

MotoIQ

Not being able to wrench, also meant not being able to drive so I turned over the keys to MotoIQ Contributing Editor, Annie Sam. If you’re not familiar with Annie she’s raced competitively in NASA and also carries an instructor’s license. In addition, she raced the Silver State Classic Challenge and has experience behind the wheel at the Bonneville Salt Flats at speeds above 150 MPH in my B12 Sentra.

Moto-IQ

Since Annie is considerably smaller in frame, we had to make a pour foam insert so that she could fit snugly into Project 240SX LSR’s seat. To do this, we used a Creafoam bead seat kit, which comes with a vacuum bag full of various size beads and a two part epoxy used to permanently set the shape of the insert.

5523 Motorsports SR15VET Dyno

If you follow MotoIQ on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve probably already seen this rather blurry photo of a dyno chart. Although Nick Hunter of 5523 Motorsports and Clark Steppler of Jim Wolf Technology had aborted the pull mid run (hence the weird power curve) our SR15VET belted out over 620 horsepower at slightly over 50 PSI. Crazy, right? The SR15VET had shown us a glimpse of its true potential and we were ecstatic.

5523 Motorsports Dyno Tune SR15VET Jim Wolf Technology

A few days into tuning our new AEM Infinity EMS, the SR15VET began to sound like it was running on three cylinders. Being just days away from Speed Week, this was disastrous timing. This is when Nick did what he does best, transforming himself into Captain Zombie Vampire and staying up for nights to fix something. Along with Jen and Evan of 5523 Motorsports, the SR15VET was partially torn down for inspection.

5523 Motorsports SR15VET Valve Spring

What they found were shattered keepers and a pair of bent intake valves. The hypothesis is that spinning the SR15VET to 8,200 RPM was just too much for the factory 20V springs to manage. This resulted in poor valve control (float) and ultimately, failure of the keepers as well as piston to valve contact. After further checking, we determined that the SR16VE N1 dual springs were not going to offer any improvement over the 20V springs. This lack of options from the Nissan parts bin meant that a custom solution would be required.

5523 Motorsports SR15VET Timing

Clark Steppler and Jim Wolf Technology would reach deep into their bag of tricks to pull out some special ovate springs to improve valve control. Nick Hunter and the crew at 5523 Motorsports would stay up one more night to put humpty dumpty back together again to finish the day we were scheduled to leave. However, this would all be for naught as Murphy’s Law would strike once again.

Bonneville Salt Flats Land Speed Racing

For those of you with a careful eye and a keen attention to detail, you’ve probably noticed that the title of this article is now called, “The Road to World of Speed.” Well, that’s because SCTA Speed Week was rained out just days before it was scheduled to begin. See, the land speed racer’s most formidable competitor is Mother Nature. When you decide to race on a dry lake bed, it doesn’t take much rain to make it a lake again. This is the same thing that happened to me years ago when I was trying to enter the 130 MPH and 150 MPH Club at USFRA’s World of Speed event.

Land Speed Racing Bonneville Salt Flats

Although Speed Week has been rescheduled to take place at SCTA’s World Finals event on September 30th, the more the probability of rain increases the further into fall we get. Looking at past weather history, Annie figured that there was roughly a 40% chance that SCTA’s World Finals event would be rained out; so instead, we’ve decided to return USFRA’s World of Speed event. Regardless of all the drama and hardship we’ve experienced, it would be pretty cool to finish up the Triple Crown at the same USFRA event where we had entered the 130 and 150 MPH Clubs. Hopefully, we’re done with all the “challenges.”

MotoIQ

Although Speed Week has been rescheduled to take place at SCTA’s World Finals event on September 30th, the more the probability of rain increases the further into fall we get. Looking at past weather history, Annie figured that there was roughly a 40% chance that SCTA’s World Finals event would be rained out; so instead, we’ve decided to return USFRA’s World of Speed event. Regardless of all the drama and hardship we’ve experienced, it would be pretty cool to finish up the Triple Crown at the same USFRA event where we had entered the 130 and 150 MPH Clubs. Hopefully, we’re done with all the “challenges.”

Moto-IQ Tow Truck

A call to quick call to PRG performance for a set of their adjustable Nissan Titan shackles paired with overnight delivery, would get us over that last hump.

By the time you read this though, we should be on our way to World of Speed. Honestly, despite all the bad things that have happened, it could have been worse. We like to describe it as “the best worst case scenario” if that makes any sense. In other words, that spring shackle could have broken while we were towing to Bonneville. Or, we could have destroyed the entire engine and turbo figuring out that we were lacking valve control or that the crankshaft was going bad.

5523 Motorsports SR15VET Dyno

With improved valve control, the SR15VET made the same power with almost 1 bar less of boost!

In the past few months, the team has overcome some tremendous challenges, definitely more than any other year. I don’t think anyone can argue our level of determination and if you got in our way, we’d probably tear your eyeballs out, feed them to Zombie Nick for desert, and then display your head on Project 240SX LSR as a warning to others. Ok, perhaps that’s taking things a bit too far or… maybe not! Things are looking up now. We’re making some big, consistent power and feel that our little SR15VET still has a bit more power left in her. Is 700 horsepower possible? We think so.

With that being said, please wish us luck and keep your fingers, toes, and ears crossed for us… and if you see Murphy, kick him square in the nuts for me.

 

 

 

 

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