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SBQ STEEL BLOG


TimkenSteel At 10,000 RPMs: The Bryant Racing Crankshaft Story

The racing industry requires high torque, horsepower and RPM levels. As the automotive industry strives to achieve strict fuel economy and emissions requirements, TimkenSteel anticipates that the technology used in racing powertrains will become commonplace in consumer vehicles within a 10-year horizon.

For example, direct fuel injection and turbo charging will essentially be in all vehicles. This supports downsizing and power-dense concepts needed to meet future requirements.

TimkenSteel is well positioned to help the automotive industry meet those tough requirements because we’ve been working for decades with the racing industry.

We asked Steve Lloyd, staff metallurgist at Anaheim, Calif.-based Bryant Racing, to share his perspective on 30 years of using TimkenSteel. Here’s what he had to say:

How long has Bryant Racing been using TimkenSteel?
We started with TimkenSteel in 1985, almost at the inception of Bryant Racing, with the first order of a billet crank. This was the beginning of the strong relationship that founder Sonny Bryant had with Wayne Parcel, a former senior marketing manager at TimkenSteel.  

How has the quality of steel improved over that time period?
Over the years, as TimkenSteel continually improved its 4330V to include both calcium treatment and Parapremium Quality, we requested and received all the new upgrades. TimkenSteel has proved to us, with our own testing, that we don’t need to buy the exotic VAR to achieve the high cleanness steel our racing crankshafts require.

Precision competition crankshafts are Bryant Racing’s only product.
Precision competition crankshafts are Bryant Racing’s only product.

Why does Bryant Racing rely exclusively on TimkenSteel?
When I came on board in 1999, I found the EN30B made by another company that we were using had a problem with cleanness. We had suffered a few fractures that were directly attributed to sub-surface inclusions so immediate action was needed. I won't go into all the sordid details, but finally Sonny asked TimkenSteel to make it. We modified the alloy chemistry as well to tailor it better for the huge demands that a Fuel engine requires – 10,000 HP at 8,000 RPM. Since 2000, all our alloys are exclusive to TimkenSteel. The endurance and performance results were immediate.

Is there anything about the way TimkenSteel produces bars that saves you time or money?
TimkenSteel custom cuts all our bars, no matter what diameter, to our length specs, which reduces our "drop" waste.

How do you treat the steel once you receive it?
All our heat-treat processes are “in-house” and our recipes are proprietary. More info at our web site.

Can you recall a TimkenSteel engineer who solved a challenge for Bryant Racing? What was the challenge and how did the engineer come up with a solution?
Three instances we can recall: 

In 2003, a performance gain was made to all the NASCAR engines enabling them to go way over 10,000 RPM. Three crankshafts fractured in the space of a few weeks! At that time we had over 90% of all the NASCAR business, so this was a MAJOR problem. It happened to both the Fords and the Chevys at exactly the same spot on the crank. In our metallurgical lab, I also found suspicious marks at the point of fracture on all of them.

TimkenSteel bars await the production process at Bryant Racing’s facility in Anaheim, Calif.
TimkenSteel bars await the production process at Bryant Racing’s facility in Anaheim, Calif.

TimkenSteel responded immediately with the offer to use their vast research center to find the cause. I went to Canton with the broken cranks ... and TimkenSteel assembled an "all-hands-on-deck" meeting where ALL the TimkenSteel resources were put at my disposal. After much work, including a SEM analysis, a thorough TimkenSteel report proved to all concerned that our alloy and treatment protocols were “state of the art.” The “suspicious marks” turned out to be indicative of the fracture initiation point of high strength alloy steel.

Only then could our attention turn to the real cause of the fractures ... harmonic flutter. Changes to the crank design eliminated the problem. If it wasn't for TimkenSteel producing the excellent report, this could have been a nasty situation.

In the beginning, we had some trouble with quench cracking. Wayne Parcel brought in TimkenSteel's Ed Ryder who suggested an alloy change to the 4330V. The change immediately solved the problem and further cemented the relationship between Sonny Bryant and TimkenSteel.

As our steel usage went up, we were having problems with local delivery. Wayne Parcel enabled Bryant to buy directly from the mill. This was a huge advantage to us as we could not only get better delivery, but we had absolute lot quality control.

Why do your customers rely on Bryant Racing?
At Bryant's, most of our clients are high-profile professional engine builders and race teams. It's important to both our reputations that they get the same high quality crankshaft all the time – whether it's the pros or not, ALL our customers get the same Bryant quality ... and TimkenSteel.

Our biggest problem is TIME! To do all we do with the large customer base we have, it takes 14 to 16 weeks to deliver a part – even with two shifts and a half day Saturday. TimkenSteel’s predictable delivery dates are a big asset to meeting our tight production schedule.

What are the top speeds that race cars using Bryant Racing crankshafts would achieve in normal race conditions?
Fuel drag racing is 0 to 330 mph in 3.76 seconds! NASCAR is approx. 190 mph for 600 miles. The fastest Bryant crank is 473 mph in the “flying mile” at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Suffice to say, that in 2014, all the racing venues we can verify that we participate in ... 20 ... ALL those National Champions used our cranks and thus TimkenSteel!

We also rely on our TimkenSteel account rep, Troy Powell, who is always on hand with the latest info, such as the new jumbo bloom vertical caster and forge press, or when the occasional problem arises.

A final word from Sonny Bryant...”We're so happy with TimkenSteel that we don't even return the phone calls from other steel suppliers!”