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Technical Corner : Tech Check Last Updated: Aug 16th, 2006 - 11:01:00

SR Racing: The Anatomy of a Racing Specialty Shop
By Jacob Isaac-Lowry
Oct 10, 2004, 21:52

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First, I think to really begin to understand the difference between SR Racing and a traditional shop, we need to understand the difference between a technician and an engineer. A technician is a master of installation and typical fabrication. An engineer can take a given set of parameters and design an optimized system for these parameters. Well what does that mean? At the usual shop, if you want to purchase an upgraded suspension for your street vehicle, there is a myriad of off the self suspension solutions begging to be purchased. The technicians at the shop can competently install these aftermarket parts and off you go to enjoy your improved ride. However, in racing, where every sliver of cornering power counts, a custom designed suspension featuring shock characteristics and spring rates tailored to a given vehicle are required. Here is where the engineer shines.

Not only must suspensions be designed, but engine power curves must be matched to the track to be raced upon, braking bias must be optimized, aerodynamic down force must be balanced, etc. In all these areas, on the racing car, the engineer creates from scratch the best combination of parts and settings to allow any given vehicle to perform at its maximum capacity.

SR Racing is the serious track racers dream. A shop small enough to get to know every employee personally, yet large enough and with enough equipment to completely and competitively outfit a Formula 2000 race car. At first glimpse of the facility I knew without even speaking to anyone that SR Racing was the true enthusiasts shop. The flow bench on the wall, the shock dyno in the corner, and the bench in the back covered in custom assembled electronics gave it away immediately. After some enquiring, I discovered that SR Racing was started nearly fifteen years ago by its current owner Jim Schings. Originally, SR focused mostly on the restoration of older Corvettes and building Chevy small blocks. A reputation it still carries today. Just look at the pictures I managed to snap of the Mazda Miata outfitted with a 350 small block Chevy parked on the lift.

Unassuming Miata, but.....notice the side exhaust? Close up of the 350 small block Another shot of the 350 with the flash to show off the chrome

Over the years, Jim begin to get involved in open wheel road racing and made a name for his shop by building and racing both Formula Vee and Formula 2000 race cars. At any given time there are two to three Formula Vee's in various stages of assembly along with a number of purpose built closed wheel tarmac cars. After getting involved in sanctioned racing, SR began to acquire the equipment necessary to tune and prep track cars. If equipment wasn't available, it was custom built in house. SR Racing has sold several large custom built dyno data acquisition systems across the country, the shop made the remote safety lights used at Indy Raceway Park, and currently SR Racing has produced and sold over fourteen thousand custom spec shift lights.

One of the truly impressive aspects of SR Racing is the vast knowledge base of the staff. After taking a full course load in mechanical and automotive engineering at the University of Michigan and reading every book on tuning, prepping, and vehicle design I can get my hands on, it was indescribably captivating to be able to sit and talk with Jim for hours about optimum spark advance based on peak cylinder pressures or determining the perfect spring rates for a car from the front and rear motion rations, shock characteristics, sway bar properties, and dynamic vehicle response. While most people have never even heard of this type of technical mumbo jumbo, for those who have, it is always refreshing to meet another avid gear head. The staff at SR really know their stuff and have experience ranging from tweaking power curves of race engines to suite the torque demands of a given track to re-valving shocks to perfectly control the motion of the unsprung masses on a vehicle. All very impressive stuff to watch and listen too.

The wealth of experience and automotive tuning knowledge at SR is nowhere near all the shop has to offer. With a full assortment of MIG and TIG welders, presses, and tools, SR Racing also has all the manufacturing capabilities necessary to design and fabricate any part for any application. The shock dyno and flow bench allow customers a rare opportunity to test their equipment and utilize the results in designing engine components and suspension systems. In fact SR Racing is called upon by several manufacturers to perform flow bench testing on prototype exhausts and manifolds. Take a look below to see all of the specialty equipment SR Racing uses to build up track cars.

Chassis Dyno, not shown is the 6ft wall projection of the dyno output Engine Testing Wide array of welding equipment SR's flow bench The new shock dyno A completed, race ready Formula Vee sitting anxiously on the shop floor Engine assembly The electronics bench, covered in soon to be shiftlights

When you consider the fact that this shop has all of the resources to build engines, test, prototype and fabricate anything that can be found on a vehicle, and has its own chassis dyno as well as corner weighting and alignment capabilities. It becomes apparent why SR Racing is the one stop shop for any race car seeking to get a competitive edge on the rest of the field. For a technically oriented person such as myself, SR Racing is literally a goldmine of experience, knowledge, and potential. I can't wait until I begin piecing together my next suspension because you can believe I will be giving Jim more than one call. While a real race shop isn't the environment for everyone, when it comes to serious racing, SR Racing has the equipment, staff, experience, and knowledge to extract the maximum out of any vehicle.

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