McLaren in NASCAR ECU deal

McLaren Electronics along with Freescale Semiconductor will provide fuel injection systems that NASCAR plans to implement in the Sprint Cup Series in a year's time

McLaren in NASCAR ECU deal

In one of the biggest technical changes for NASCAR in years, the sanctioning body has announced that its top series will use fuel injection systems on its cars from 2012, all being supplied by McLaren Electronics.

Freescale Semiconductor will provide the processors for McLaren's engine control units, which will be used to manage the fuel and ignition systems, replacing carburetors which have been used in the series since its inception in 1949.

Although difficulties in efficiently policing electronic systems has been a reason for NASCAR to stay away from them in the past, officials feel confident in their suppliers' capability to deliver a cheat-proof system that can guarantee a level playing field.

NASCAR plans to race the system for the first time next year at Daytona and although it has yet to confirm whether it will be run for the whole season, the aim is to make a full implementation in 2012.

"This is the tip of the iceberg for the technology," NASCAR's vice-president for competition Robin Pemberton told AUTOSPORT. "Right now we're concentrating on the engine management system and keeping it as fair for all of our manufacturers and all of our teams, knowing that moving forward we'll have the ability to do a lot more things.

"Those things will help the garage area in some form, but it's important to know that it can enhance the fan experience as well, whether we go into the telemetry part, it might add to the TV packages moving forward, things like that.

"We know that's down the road for us, but for now it's just important for us to make sure that we maintain the level playing field and make sure that nobody is getting away with anything."

Although ECUs open a wide range of options for NASCAR and teams in terms of data acquisition, the systems will remain restricted for engine management purposes initially. Teams will be able to tune them through software and parameters may vary from one track to another, as is the case with carburetors at present.

Further tuning or 'hacking' of the units will be prevented by codes, while McLaren Electronics officials guarantee that any attempt to alter the system will be easy to track.

The NASCAR fuel injection system will have eight injectors - one per cylinder - and it will be placed in the intake manifold. The throttle body will be manufactured by Holley, current vendor for NASCAR carburetors, while the airbox and air intake will remain the same as currently being used.

The system will be similar to the one supplied by McLaren for the IndyCar Series in the past, although it will be NASCAR-specific.

Before being officially tested on-track for the first time by teams, the systems are set to undergo plenty of dyno testing, although there have been a few outings at non-NASCAR tracks already, according to Pemberton.

McLaren Electronics has been working alongside NASCAR for the past 18 months, altough the company has been a supplier for teams for a few years already.

"As a group, McLaren is extremely serious about its involvement in North America: as well as looking ahead to our NASCAR involvement, the next 12 months will also see us introduce the MP4-12C high-performance sports car to the market," said Ron Dennis, executive chairman of McLaren Group.

"With both projects, we're keen to ensure that our expertise produces the most efficient and effective solutions while also safeguarding the incredible reputation that the McLaren name has built up over nearly 50 years of motorsport competition."

McLaren Electronics is also the official supplier for ECUs in Formula 1.

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