Andy Lee was on fire in SCCA Pro Racing Pirelli World Challenge's GTS class in 2012, wrapping his rookie season in the No. 20 Best IT Chevrolet Camaro second overall, claiming twice the wins of any competitor and earning the Rookie of the Year title. Now, the Best IT team of Lee and Harry Curtin are back and are gunning for gold. But while this team is new to motorsports, it's no fly-by-night operation. Rather, careful planning went into every aspect of this professional racing effort.
“Over a two-year period we did some research about what series we wanted to get into, and what cars to drive,” Lee told SportsCar magazine, SCCA's official publication, in the June 2013 issue. “Because of the affiliation with the Bondurant School, we decided to build some Camaros and go with World Challenge. It was a natural fit.”
While you might not recognize Lee's name, anyone who has attended the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving does. Lee is an instructor at the school, working his was up from car washer, although it didn't take long for his natural talent behind the wheel to shine, moving him to the position of instructor. Along the way, Lee met Harry Curtin, the owner of Best IT, and the pro racing plan was hatched.
Claiming first in overall points in GTS for 2013 will not be easy. Historically, any time someone competes against the likes of Peter Cunningham and his band of RealTime Racing gurus, victory is tricky. Even if you can beat Cunningham in a race, Cunningham is the master of the long game.
Case in point, after the first five rounds of the 2013 World Challenge GTS season, Cunningham is sitting second in points without a single win or pole; Lee, with three poles and two wins, is fourth. In first overall, with a pole and two wins, is pro racing veteran Jack Baldwin, who has his own plans of staying on top.
But the World Challenge GTS season is not even halfway through, with miles of racing left, and Lee knows the challenge he and his team face. Consequently, the Best IT team has mid-year improvements up their sleeve – one of which is a new brain for the V8, LS3-powered Camaro.
Interestingly, the new computer is not a custom-built unit programmed by a team of trackside experts. Rather, it's an off-the-shelf unit anyone can buy, with a number of features that are attractive to those building a late-model racecar.
AEM's Infinity EMS replaces the factory computer and, like many standalone engine management systems, allows complete control of the motor's essential functions, like fuel delivery, timing, and so on. One of the features that makes the Infinity EMS a great choice for the Best IT Camaros, is the unit's ability to control drive-by-wire – no more having to fool the stock computer into controlling the throttle while an aftermarket brain takes care of the rest. The Infinity also features a start-up wizard and tuning software designed for ease of use – essential for a small racing team looking to act fast.
“Infinity tuner's setup wizard is designed to greatly speed up the tuning [and] start up process by allowing the user to input engine displacement, cylinders, ignition type, firing order, and other primary engine parameters,” explains AEM's Lawson Mollica. “This gives the software the info it needs to calculate fueling requirements based on the engine's volumetric efficiency using a powerful algorithm, which cuts down start-up time. There are multiple sub menus depending on the level of sophistication for the setup such as drive-by-wire, turbo speed, two- and three-step rev limits, variable valve cam control, shift cut, and user general purpose inputs/pulse-width modulation for progressive control of ancillary systems. Each sub menu includes basic instructions at the top of the page for quick reference.”
Mollica also points out that while the Best IT Camaros utilize a lot of what the Infinity offers, the unit still has more capability.
“Although it doesn't apply to the LS3 E-RODs in these cars, the Infinity system can control boost via gear, vehicle speed, rpm, temperature, time, switch (up to 10 positions) air temp, turbo speed, and more – and you can pick up to four strategies to work together. There are four separate tables with selectable X- and Y-axis inputs.
Mollica points out that the system can control up to four variable camshafts found on modern engines. “Simply set your target in the target table and the software does the rest,” he says, noting it can also handle swapping between E85 and standard gasoline blends on the fly.
“The AEM Infinity makes tuning pretty simple and it's a great option for anyone looking for a standalone ECU,” says Lee. “It does everything the high-end racing units do, but more affordably, and it's easier to tune.”
For teams like Lee and Curtin with the Best IT Camaros, which accomplish a lot with relatively few resources, ease of use and bang-for-the-buck are essential to keeping them competitive and, importantly, consistent.
World Challenge GTS returns to action this weekend in Detroit with the Belle Isle Grand Prix. The action streams live on the Web via www.world-challengetv.com, with results appearing on www.world-challenge.com.