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Thread: First excerpt from BEAST: The Top-Secret Ilmor-Penske Engine That Rocked the Indy 500

  1. #1

    First excerpt from BEAST: The Top-Secret Ilmor-Penske Engine That Rocked the Indy 500

    In honor of this weekend's opening race for the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series, I've posted the first excerpt from the book on my blog at: http://fingerprint.typepad.com

    I'm hopeful to post another 'exclusive' excerpt here on the Track Forum in the next few weeks.

    The book is now at the printer, so its release is imminent in the coming weeks. You can pre-order the hardcover from Octane Press or other book retailers. It will also be released in all eBook formats.

    I really enjoyed the lengthy discussion on the previous thread, and would be happy to continue answering any questions or comments you might have about the book here.

    Take care,

    Jade.

    #BEASTtheBook

  2. #2
    Insider 11rowsof3's Avatar
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    Thanks Jade, I've pre-ordered - can't wait!
    Every race I run in is in preparation for the Indianapolis 500. Indy is the most important thing in my life. It is what I live for. - Al Unser Jr.

    Everything I ever wanted in my life, I found inside the walls of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. - Eddie Sachs.

  3. #3
    Great! Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

    Quote Originally Posted by 11rowsof3 View Post
    Thanks Jade, I've pre-ordered - can't wait!

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the preview, Jade. Looking forward to reading the book. 1994 was the first year I spent nearly every day in the month of May at the track. There were so many rumors and so much speculation about the Mercedes engine going around - can't wait to find out what was accurate and what wasn't.

  5. #5
    Registered User heliogordy's Avatar
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    Ordered mine Feb 15th...just sent you another email...well done and congrats!!! Can't wait for it to get here!!!
    KEEP POUNDIN' THE ROCK

  6. #6
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    got chills and goosebumps while reading the excerpt.

    thanks!
    Twitter: @ByrdRacing
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  7. #7
    That was one of the most intriguing elements of researching and doing interviews. Even as a former Ilmor employee, I thought I knew a lot of the details. But many turned out to be wrong. Now I'm lucky enough to be able to confirm some myths and refute the rumors. Big fun. There was enough going on the first week of practice that month that each day has its own chapter in BEAST.

    Quote Originally Posted by AZOPENWHEEL View Post
    Thanks for the preview, Jade. Looking forward to reading the book. 1994 was the first year I spent nearly every day in the month of May at the track. There were so many rumors and so much speculation about the Mercedes engine going around - can't wait to find out what was accurate and what wasn't.

  8. #8
    Thanks so much. I have to admit there were segments that gave me chills while writing them. Not because of my writing but because the stories were so amazing.

    My goal with depicting the month of May was to impart how much the Speedway and the 500 means to so many people. I hope I've met that criteria.

    Quote Originally Posted by D Byrd View Post
    got chills and goosebumps while reading the excerpt.

    thanks!

  9. #9
    Dirt biker/carp hunter Stick500's Avatar
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    hey Jade are you going to tell my fellow TFers what happened to one very lucky TFer who got a really cool last-minute job with Octane Press a couple weeks ago?

    (stick500 is Steve C.)
    "Charging a man with murder here was like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500."- Capt. Willard, Apocolypse Now
    "Ain't nuthin' like a piece of p***y, 'cept maybe the Indy 500."- Bunny, Platoon
    "To alcohol! The cause of- and solution to- all of life's problems."- Homer J. Simpson

  10. #10
    I think you should tell the story! Have at it!

    Quote Originally Posted by Stick500 View Post
    hey Jade are you going to tell my fellow TFers what happened to one very lucky TFer who got a really cool last-minute job with Octane Press a couple weeks ago?

    (stick500 is Steve C.)

  11. #11

    Another Excerpt

    You can also find a second excerpt from BEAST at the Autosport Forums. It can be seen here: http://x.co/4AjXw

    Working on another segment from the book that will be posted to this forum in the near future.

    Enjoy.

    jade.

  12. #12
    Dirt biker/carp hunter Stick500's Avatar
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    OK, OK, but I'll leave any details of the book to be discussed in public up to Jade

    so I'm cruising around TF about 3 or 4 weeks ago and I happen on the thread about The Beast- I think that sounds like a cool book I'd love to read and I click on the link someone here put up- I see it's being published by Octane Press in Austin but isn't to press yet- I know the guy in charge at Octane as he was the Project Editor for 3 books I wrote over the years at Motorbooks and later I was the Project Editor for one of the many books he has written and I got to bug him about missing photos and deadlines, etc. (we simply switched roles)

    so anyway I'm currently doing freelance editing so I popped Octane Press a quick e-mail to see if they had any projects for me- I get a message back that says "perfect timing, and it's your favorite subject, the Indy 500, but we need it back in 2 1/2 days- you'll be the last person to read it before press- can you do it?"

    Yehhhaaaa!!!! So that was a dream job for 2 1/2 days. After the first two pages I knew this wasn't going to be very difficult as the writing appeared to be top-notch. The funny part is I came into the project with the intention of finding some mistakes as far as historical Indy 500 stuff goes- afterall, there has to be at least a couple years, drivers, or cars goofed up, and I'm gonna catch them. No such luck! Jade had every one of them down as far as I could tell. I almost thought I had him when he mentioned that Florence Henderson sang the Star Bangled Banner- I'm like no, she always sings God Bless, not the national anthem. I found one, I found one! Well when I checked, she did indeed sing the Anthem that year!

    so I finish the project and go out to dinner with my wife and excitedly tell her about what I just read- she's far from being a race fan, but before we knew it an hour had passed and she was totally mesmerized by some of the stuff I was telling her- I'll just leave it at that

    oh and in case someone is wondering why book editor Stick500 hardly uses uppercase letters or puts in the right punctuation, it's because I'm freakin' lazy when I write in e-mails and on forums- having everything perfect is too much like a job...

    anyway great job again Jade, and thanks so much for joining us here at TF to discuss your book!!

  13. #13
    CMF rrrr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stick500 View Post
    Jade had every one of them down as far as I could tell. I almost thought I had him when he mentioned that Florence Henderson sang the Star Bangled Banner-
    I want to make a joke about Florence Henderson and the Star Bungled Banner...but she has too many fans here. Let's just say I'm OK with the fact she is now watching the opening ceremonies.

    Stick, it's great you had the chance to review the book before release. I'm sure it was very interesting.

    I'm looking forward to reading the book. I read somewhere around 500-600 pages a week for relaxation before going to sleep. I focus on history and non-fiction subjects...my problem is that I read fast. I will try to slow down to enjoy the detail in Jade's book, but it will pass much too quickly.

    I'm really excited about the prospect of learning details of the engine's construction.

  14. #14
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    Jade, thank you for including the audio clip of Al Jr.'s qualifying run on your blog. The sound of that engine still gives me goosebumps!

  15. #15
    The engine note was very frequently mentioned in many of the interviews I did for the book. (Al Jr. brought it up many times.) As a former musician, I intended to devote a segment to describing and comparing the engine note versus the "regular" turbo engines. After several tries, I scrapped that idea because it always sounded so... pretentious! I managed to describe the sound in a few instances, but it's hard to convey the distinction.

    Henri Greuter provided the recording, and it almost never fails to give me chills between the engine whooshing past and Tom Carnegie's exhortations.

    Quote Originally Posted by AZOPENWHEEL View Post
    Jade, thank you for including the audio clip of Al Jr.'s qualifying run on your blog. The sound of that engine still gives me goosebumps!

  16. #16
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    I wish every open-wheel fan could hear that engine in person. It was truly unique. Somewhat similar to the Menard engines in 1995 and 1996, but the Mercedes had a rumble about it that was unmistakable. I've been sitting here in my office with the audio cranked into my noise-reduction headphones at full volume!

    Quote Originally Posted by JadeGurss View Post
    The engine note was very frequently mentioned in many of the interviews I did for the book. (Al Jr. brought it up many times.) As a former musician, I intended to devote a segment to describing and comparing the engine note versus the "regular" turbo engines. After several tries, I scrapped that idea because it always sounded so... pretentious! I managed to describe the sound in a few instances, but it's hard to convey the distinction.

    Henri Greuter provided the recording, and it almost never fails to give me chills between the engine whooshing past and Tom Carnegie's exhortations.

  17. #17

    BEAST: an exclusive excerpt for TrackForum

    Since so many have been interested and supportive of the new book, BEAST, here's an exclusive excerpt from the book just for the TrackForum.com.

    This excerpt takes place after the engine had been designed and built by Ilmor Engineering in Brixworth, England. Once manufacturing of the parts had begun, they were sent to Reading, PA, where Team Penske was based. However, because the engine was still top-secret, only a small handful of employees knew of its existence. So, the engines were built in a tiny, dark and dank little garage they jokingly called the Taj Mahal. All dyno testing was done overnight after the other team members had left.

    Internally, the pushrod was code-named the "265E" to keep its real intent secret. (The double-overhead cam "standard" engine was the "265D" - and raced the '94 CART season as the "Ilmor Indy" engine.) For many at Ilmor and Penske, they still refer to the pushrod as "the E."

    The stars of this segment include Karl Kainhofer, who was Penske Racing's first-ever employee and head of the engine department for many, many years. Engine builders included long-time Ilmor employee Dave Warner, Mark McArdle (who now holds a senior position with Richard Childress Racing) and Kevin Walter, who had been hand-picked by Penske to head-up the pushrod project for the race team.

    It also mentions the trouble with the Zytec-brand ECU - which is a serious plot-line in the book. (Zytec at that time was a young start-up electronics firm.)

    After several weeks of dyno work, the first on-track test took place Feb. 20, 1994 at a snowy Nazareth Speedway. Al Unser Jr. drove the first day of testing in very rough conditions.



    Directing a Symphony
    / I think I saw the Virgin Mary


    “Where the hell do you put the bayonet?”
    Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller, upon seeing a flamethrower for the first time



    Dave Warner, having put in so many hours for so long building the engines, wasn’t sure if he was hallucinating. He was testing an E engine in the dyno control room at Penske Racing. He had seen—or perhaps imagined—a nearly invisible wave of heat and energy around the engine like a shimmering, ghostly flame. It went out as suddenly as it had erupted.

    Poof!” Warner recalled. “There was a big hinged door, the entrance to the dyno, that blew open. Boom! Then all the ceiling tiles fell down.”

    “He told us, ‘I think I saw the Virgin Mary!’” laughed engine builder Mark McArdle.

    “The pushrod was a challenge for the dyno,” McArdle continued. “The air exchange in the dyno area wasn’t strong enough for the engine, so it would fill with methanol fumes. When the fumes were thick enough, it could ignite. It would be a wave or ripple of flames.”

    Because methanol burns invisibly, the wave’s appearance was surreal. Based on Warner’s description, the team began to refer to it as the “Jesus Flame.”

    “It was a tiny orange flash we’d see, in the center V of the engine, near the alternator,” Warner said. “The sudden pressure rise is what would push the door open. Even if the ceiling tiles didn’t fall down, they would rattle and we got a good dusting as it all shook loose from the ceiling.”

    When the door flew open, it increased the volume in the small control room to a very high decibel level.

    “The engines are so bloody loud when you are suddenly standing in the same room with them!” said Kevin Walter, Penske’s man-in-charge on the pushrod project. “Calling it a distraction is an understatement.”

    To help prevent the door from swinging open, Karl Kainhofer asked a young apprentice to sit against it. When it became clear that a young man in a chair was insufficient to stop it, he was asked to sit on the floor, wedging his backside up against the door.

    The Zytec electronics system was troublesome, causing misfires and stumbles and creating enough of a spark from a coil or the alternator to ignite the fumes. Because the team was pumping extra fuel into the engine to cool and protect the pistons, there was already unburnt fuel in the exhaust system. When the ignition system misfired, it meant even more unused fuel, causing a bigger detonation.

    Amid it all, with deafening sounds and the ceiling falling upon his head, Kainhofer continued at the helm as if he were conducting an orchestra. Or perhaps more like the Great Oz behind the curtain.

    “Karl was rock solid through all of that,” explained “Dyno Don” Norton, the Ilmor Inc. employee in Detroit in charge of the software for the engine-management system.

    “It was a performance with him on the dyno. It was quite a symphony, quite a show,” Norton recalled with reverence. “It was a real driving performance. It wasn’t just pushing a stick. The engines and the dynos are so good now that you can just push the stick and they do everything they’re supposed to do. In those days, they were really nasty animals. They didn’t run nicely and you had to coax them up to speed. It took a lot of manipulating the throttle and the load and all the controls just to get them up and on song. So when the thing was exploding, he would continue doing all of this. The ceiling tiles were falling in and the poor little guy stuck on the door, he got blown across the room. Karl would say, ‘Get another guy to hold the door closed,’ and the lights were knocked out a few times, but he didn’t miss a beat.

    “There was Karl: ‘Carry on!’ It really was a sight to behold, and if we weren’t so deep in the ****, I would have split a gut laughing.”

    “A little misfire didn’t scare us,” said Walter. “We knew the engine was mechanically correct. That was the engine builder’s responsibility. And we knew the engine calibration would mature.”

    “You’d check everything to make sure the engine wasn’t damaged,” said Warner. “It was okay, so we’d put it back together and fire it up again.”

    When asked about the Jesus Flame, Kainhofer answered with dry subtlety:

    “We had a few explosions I would say.”

    “We had the thing in pieces some of the time because it was giving us a hard time,” Kainhofer continued. “It was not always milk and honey, it was tough. It’s part of the business. It was difficult because we had to do it all in secrecy. It would have been nice if we could have done it as a normal approach. We were geared up to work the hours in those days. It was not a simple thing.”


    When Kainhofer says “work the hours,” he is speaking of the overall workload, but could just as well be speaking of himself. His schedule could have disabled someone younger but Kainhofer was an iron man at age sixty-three.

    “In motor racing, the way I grew up and the way we worked in the old days, it was always ‘Whatever needed to be done, had to be done,’” Kainhofer said. “We didn’t count the hours, we’d just say, ‘Well, this is the job,’ and then when we were done we would go home. . . . But nothing was ever done, you always ran out of time. When the deadline was here, you hoped you were ready to go. Hopefully, you did everything right. I always say the only guy who can say he got everything done right is the guy that takes the checkered flag. The next guy is the first-place loser. There’s only one winner. So that’s what it was, we spent whatever hours was necessary. Whatever we had to do to get it done, we did it. We had a schedule of when we needed to go to the racetrack and we’d be done.”

    Because of the secrecy, Kainhofer would work a full day with the entire Penske engine shop then work all night surreptitiously with the men from the Taj Mahal for several months.

    “I’d open the shop at seven o’clock every morning and we had guys there that needed me to guide them,” he said. “Whenever an engine was ready, I did the dyno work. I started in the morning and worked through the day with all the guys [who were working on the Ilmor D engine]. I would go home and have supper and then I would come back after all of my regular guys went home. Then we would bring in the other motor and we’d run through the night. Whatever it took. We had to clean it all out to get it out of there and then start with the next group the next morning. We worked around the clock quite often on these things.”

    “It was nocturnal,” said Warner. “We’d get there [to the secret garage] at six o’clock in the evening and do a teardown, wash, and rebuild until midnight. Then the engine would be put onto an engine crate and loaded into a box truck. We took the tools, the dyno bell housing, exhaust, and everything else. It was all driven up the street to the main shop.”

    “We certainly couldn’t let anyone there know,” McArdle recounted. “We had to wait until the rest of the guys were done for the day. We had to set up the dyno for the different engine and then run it overnight. Karl was there with us all night, every night. . . . If an engine broke, we had to take it apart to study what had gone wrong. We also had to take care of the dyno, packing up at the end of the night, leaving no trace that we had been there. No evidence could stay behind.”

    Sometimes, the engine failures on the dyno were stunning.

    “We locked up a piston pin,” said McArdle. “Unbelievably, it had turned the piston sideways inside the chamber! So instead of a piston head meeting the spark at the top, this one had the piston side skirt on top. It must have run ten seconds or more in that fashion and it barely hurt the horsepower. We noticed a relatively small loss of power, so we shut the dyno down. Kevin was borescoping each cylinder one by one. When he got the third one, he did a huge double take. He called us over and we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Wow!

    “That just showed the ridiculous amount of torque and horsepower this thing had. It really was a beast.”

    “That engine was junk,” said Walter. “But it was producing power to the bitter end!”

    “At the very least, [the E] had a seventy-five-horsepower advantage,” Walter said. “If you told anyone in motorsports, ‘You’re going to the biggest race of the year with a seventy-five-horsepower advantage?’ You know you have a chance to make history, and that was so motivating. It’s not like you’re doing it to increase some guy’s bottom line. Everybody recognized the significance. Sleep was optional.”

    “[Ilmor cofounder] Paul Morgan was with me for a week or so and we worked day and night,” Kainhofer recalled. “We couldn’t show it to the other guys, obviously. They didn’t know what was happening. Even if they suspected something, we didn’t make a big deal about it. Even the guy that worked with me on the dyno during the day didn’t know.”

    In an interview conducted when Kainhofer was retiring from Penske in 1997, Morgan recalled those nights.

    “[Kainhofer] never left, never complained, never even batted an eye,” said Morgan. “On at least two occasions, I’ve sat in the dyno with Karl on the eve of his birthday, working late, trying to get engines ready. At midnight, Karl will look at his watch, shrug and say, ‘Pretty good way to start a birthday,’ and continue on with his work. I guess he’s getting full value out of his birthdays!”

    Kainhofer was quick to share the credit.

    “I had a lot of people working with me. I never say people worked for me, they worked with me,” he explained. “I could never expect anything to be finished without people working with me. That’s always been my philosophy. I worked with a lot of people and they worked with me . . . I think we did a helluva job.”

    The engine had been built and survived the dyno tests. Now, the real test would begin. Dynos can replicate some of the engine’s limits, but no one really knows how fast or reliable it will be until it’s on a racetrack with a professional behind the wheel.

  18. #18
    I pre-ordered my copy last night. for my generation, this story is the equivalent of the turbine and the novi, etc.....
    Track Fifedom

    Wheldon is a legend now. One of the immortal Gods of Speed.

  19. #19
    I have to ask,,,what was the response from the guys that were NOT in the loop at Penske??? Or like the rest of us, they're finding out for the first time now? I assume the book covers the unveiling of the engine to the rest of the team and their reactions at that time.

  20. #20
    Registered User goldie19's Avatar
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    Jade you are the most intriguing person at TF since PT left! Love the excerpt, pre-ordered 4!!!
    I Love May!

  21. #21
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    Excellent! Thanks so much for the preview!

  22. #22
    Thanks for the order - and I agree that's it's similar to those beasts of the past. Athough Granatelli ran the turbines for two years, I think it's the closest analogy to the pushrod project...



    Quote Originally Posted by Heath Hamilton View Post
    I pre-ordered my copy last night. for my generation, this story is the equivalent of the turbine and the novi, etc.....

  23. #23
    That's a good question. I really didn't get into it in the book (so many other storylines), but I think there was a hint of low-volume grumbling from some that weren't a part of it. But, everyone at Ilmor and at Penske were so busy - and such close knit companies with strong leadership - that it wasn't an issue. They were still pushing full-time on the 15 other CART races that year, and Ilmor was also delving more deeply into Formula 1 with Mercedes. There wasn't much time to sit around and complain!

    The revelation of the project internally at Penske was handled by Roger in a dramatic team meeting - but even then, he never said exactly what the project was. They were to stay out of the way and, above all, keep quiet about it.


    Quote Originally Posted by Chaparral4 View Post
    I have to ask,,,what was the response from the guys that were NOT in the loop at Penske??? Or like the rest of us, they're finding out for the first time now? I assume the book covers the unveiling of the engine to the rest of the team and their reactions at that time.

  24. #24
    Wow. Thank you. I'm not even sure how to respond.

    If you are a PT fan, I think he gave one of the best interviews of the dozens of people I spoke with for the book. Very open and honest about the good and bad of the project...

    Quote Originally Posted by goldie19 View Post
    Jade you are the most intriguing person at TF since PT left! Love the excerpt, pre-ordered 4!!!

  25. #25
    You're welcome. I have to admit it was one of my personal favorite segments of the book.

    Quote Originally Posted by lyrictenor1 View Post
    Excellent! Thanks so much for the preview!

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Heath Hamilton View Post
    I pre-ordered my copy last night. for my generation, this story is the equivalent of the turbine and the novi, etc.....
    Nice preview Jade.

    BTW I like the likening with the Novi. I recall the comments about the 1993 race. When the track had been narrowed in the corners and the warmup lane installed.
    It was said then that the track had turned inot a one lane track and the turns no longer suitable for overtaking anymore. Something that was seen on race day that year.
    So in order to overtake, the only places left were the straights. but then you needed additional power to generate a large enough top speed advantage to make the pass. And that was exactly what the 265E made possible.
    Very much the same strategy had been used by the Novis. But if the '94 Penske-Merc was perhaps less than perfect and had a few handicapsto cope with, the Novis appeared to have nothing going for them at all other then a big power advantage that eventually was pretty much useless and worthless in the long term.

    Indyote

  27. #27
    One of the discussions in the book involves those '93 track changes that narrowed the corners, changed the geometry of the "ideal line" and put a premium on torque, which the pushrod engine had in great quantities.

    Quote Originally Posted by Indyote View Post
    Nice preview Jade.

    BTW I like the likening with the Novi. I recall the comments about the 1993 race. When the track had been narrowed in the corners and the warmup lane installed.
    It was said then that the track had turned inot a one lane track and the turns no longer suitable for overtaking anymore. Something that was seen on race day that year.
    So in order to overtake, the only places left were the straights. but then you needed additional power to generate a large enough top speed advantage to make the pass. And that was exactly what the 265E made possible.
    Very much the same strategy had been used by the Novis. But if the '94 Penske-Merc was perhaps less than perfect and had a few handicapsto cope with, the Novis appeared to have nothing going for them at all other then a big power advantage that eventually was pretty much useless and worthless in the long term.

    Indyote

  28. #28
    Registered User goldie19's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JadeGurss View Post
    Wow. Thank you. I'm not even sure how to respond.

    If you are a PT fan, I think he gave one of the best interviews of the dozens of people I spoke with for the book. Very open and honest about the good and bad of the project...
    I was an early PT fan, then didn't follow him as closely during the split years (I was 26, first grown up job, living life and attending races in both series)....I followed CART some, but IRL more. This will be a great way to reconnect with that time period for me.

    i grew up in Speedway with 2 older brothers and a Dad who all followed the sport. This book will be great for all of us! Thanks again.

  29. #29
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    I will read the excerpt later. Thanks for doing it. I have this in my Amazon wishlist and will order when it is available for the Kindle.

  30. #30
    Registered User heliogordy's Avatar
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    Each post with tidbits of info get's me more jacked up for BEAST to arrive in the mail!!!

    Thanks, Jade.

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