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Inside SpeedSource: Engine Development

An inside look at SpeedSource’s engine development program…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

Since its inception nearly 20 years ago, SpeedSource has been known for being one of the leaders in engine development, having built and tuned thousands of race and championship-winning powerplants.

The South Florida-based organization continues to hold true to that today, with its state-of-the-art facility and engineering staff working on two of Mazda’s signature race engines, including development of the cutting-edge SKYACTIV-D platform.

With three CNC machines, an engine dyno and engineering office all in-house, the powertrain department, led by David Haskell, is capable of manufacturing a complete engine virtually from scratch.

“That’s one of the things that moves us along as a company,” Haskell told Sportscar365. “A lot of other companies don’t have these capabilities in-house. We do the machining. So if we have an idea, we can progress it along pretty quickly.

“You can do it with outside vendors but nothing goes as quickly as you ever want it to go. So we made that decision. If we get an idea, we can make a part, design it on the computer, and in a week or two and have a real part. It’s unheard of, outside of maybe NASCAR.”

Haskell, who has been with SpeedSource since its start in 1995, oversees and maintains more than 150 engine builds per year, primarily between the SKYACTIV-D smart diesel LMP2 powerplants and the rotary-powered Pro Mazda motors.

The diesel project, first introduced with the Mazda6 GX cars in 2013, has seen the department take on a whole new level of dynamics, in working with an all-aluminum production block, which produces more horsepower per liter than Audi’s LMP1 engine.

“Nobody else has done this so we’re kind of on our own,” Haskell said. “If you want to build a V8, 5.7-liter engine, a lot of people have done it. Even rotary engines, a lot of people have done it. But 2.2-liter, compound turbo diesel, nobody’s done.

The majority of the engine development is done right at SpeedSource, with the team receiving the engine blocks straight from the Mazda production line in Japan. The blocks are then reinforced with cast-iron sleeves for added durability.

Both the SKYACTIV-D and the Pro Mazda engines are regularly on SpeedSource’s engine dyno, which is able to simulate the characteristics of specific circuits in order to validate the durability and performance of each motor.

The dyno is an especially vital tool for its Pro Mazda engines, which are tuned to have a maximum tolerance level of two percent in power, according to Pro Mazda engine builder Ryan Knott.

“We’ve made an engine platform for the teams that’s reliable and also very competitive in the sense that they’re all equal to the amount of power produced,” Knott said. “The series has come a long ways, especially with the help of IndyCar.

“The drivers going through the ladder program are very good and it’s good that they have a reliable engine as well.”

Knott, who joined the team in 2013, also provides track support for the Mazda Road to Indy development series, which utilizes the 1.3-liter, 2-rotor engine, almost straight out of a RX-8.

Since SpeedSource took over the project, Knott said they’ve been able to greatly improve engine reliability, which now can often last an entire season instead of the previous 1 to 2 weekend lifespan.

For Haskell, who was SpeedSource’s first employee, the team has come a long ways over the last two decades.

“You never dream of it ever getting that big,” he said. “It was just me and Sylvain and a couple of volunteers helping out in the beginning. From driving the car to working on the car, building transmissions, roll cages…”

And with further strides having been made in the engine department, as well as other key part of the company, SpeedSource is likely to benefit from continued success in the years and decades to come.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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