"TRD has been based in Southern California since 1979 and, traditionally, that's where we focus on all of our engine engineering. We have engineers and technicians from over 25 countries, so it's a very diverse makeup of team members," Wilson said. TRD also has a facility in Salisbury, North Carolina, so while the Costa Mesa shop focuses on the design, development, testing and production of race engines, the NC facility is stocked with equipment that can measure and simulate virtually any race set-up (more on that later).
The Costa Mesa HQ has a staff of over 200 technicians and engineers. "Part of our secret weapon, if you will, is we have this headquarters based in Southern California, 2,500 miles removed from the industry (NASCAR). Anybody who lives in and around Charlotte knows that that is NASCAR Country. You can't go out for a cup of coffee in the morning without running into one of your colleagues or your competitors. For TRD, having our organization, having our engineers based in Southern California, so far removed from the industry where we participate; frankly, it helps us protect them… and by extension, helps us protect our IP (Intellectual Property), which again, is important. TRD is truly a unique organization." "When you see all the tools Toyota and TRD have and see the way they are partnered with all their teams, and then if you go over to JGR and look at all the tools and all the people, it's no mystery to me why we've run the way we do," said former JGR driver, Carl Edwards.
How hard is it to build a 725-horsepower V8 NASCAR racing engine—and build them for six Cup teams? Consider this: Wilson said, “All told, TRD supporting six racing teams, we will build somewhere between 350 and 400 engines per year. It’s a never-ending process, but ultimately, has proven quite successful for us.” Consider the logistics: “From a production perspective, it’s a very challenging prospect because our race teams are in Denver, Colorado and Charlotte, North Carolina. Cars get up and shipped to the race track, the race happens, haulers get back to the shops in North Carolina and Denver—we have a very dedicated specific group of technicians and engineers who oversee the teardown of every one of those engines. They’re looking at the parts under microscopes, doing crack checks, they’re really looking to see what kind of wear patterns that we’re seeing, if any areas of the engine we need to pay better attention to. That’s a very important part of the lifecycle of that engine.” Here’s how those race engines are built: Each engine is built by hand using a process known as “blueprinting.” That means that all engine components are built to be within the rigid specifications set in the NASCAR rule book, and every component is manufactured using CNC machining, state-of-the-art castings, whatever it takes! Parts like the pistons, valves and rocker arms are all weighed and matched, the crankshaft is precision balanced, and every tolerance is measured. When you sweat the details like this, you get every ounce of performance out of an engine—and that can make the difference between winning and second place.
Once the engine is built, that’s not the end of the story. TRD tests racing engines on a dynamometer—or dyno for short. A dyno is a device that measures horsepower and torque to determine the power characteristics of an engine. TRD has a special dyno room in Costa Mesa where the race engine is mounted on the dyno, plumbed so the engine maintains a set operating temperature, and then hooked to a computer so engineers can “see” how the engine is performing throughout the rpm range. The dyno not only measures power output, they are also used to test durability. The average race length in NASCAR is 400 miles and the engines operate under extreme conditions, so this is a way to test the engine in the shop rather than on the track. Then after an engine is run on the dyno, it is torn down and inspected. Engineers use microscopes and testing equipment to check for cracks and monitor wear patterns because it’s far better to discover an issue on the dyno rather than in the heat of competition.
Consider what Toyota/TRD have done in NASCAR racing since 2006:
In 2014, NASCAR reported this about TRD: “Just inside the front doors your eyes are drawn to a pedestal holding a three-foot-high bright red statue—a Japanese “daruma”—an homage to Zen Buddhism that is both motivating and interactive. According to legend, in a small ceremony you paint in the left eye of the doll when setting a specific goal. You paint in the right eye—finishing the doll’s face—when that goal is accomplished. This one is still winking. It awaits Toyota’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver’s Championship.” Well, the right eye was painted after Kyle Busch won the championship in 2015.
Each NASCAR race car is hand-built and must confirm to rigid specifications. Here are the highlights of the 2017 Toyota Camry NASCAR cars:
Here’s another interesting fact: Every car must pass NASCAR’s pre-race inspection. If there is an infraction, the team must fix it and have the car re-inspected. If a vehicle doesn’t pass inspection, it may be sent to the end of the line at the start of the race, or if it is a major infraction, it does not race. Then after the race, NASCAR conducts a post-race inspection. If the vehicle fails this one, the driver and team can be docked points and fined. So, it pays to play by the rules.
NASCAR is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, as are most of the race teams. That’s why TRD has a facility in Salisbury, North Carolina. “We provide all the engineering and development… we design the bodies, we help the teams with aero… we help the teams with tire information, understanding the tires better to get more grip and more life out of them. We provide simulation support for all of our teams. And then on the engine side, we help the teams, not only with the base engine, but how to deal with fuel mileage better,” said Andy Graves, GVP, Technical Director, TRD USA. Dave Wilson added, “Really in this facility we think of much as our team. We don't own race cars. We never will. We rely on partnerships with these teams… Most of these organizations don't have the resources to invest in a lot of this equipment. We like to get our hands dirty. I always like to say rather than write a check, we like to use technology as our principle currency. That allows us to get directly involved.” The NC facility opened in 2008 and Dave was referring to its state-of-the-art simulation testing equipment: There’s a pull-down rig, an eight-post “shaker” rig, an Advanced Vehicle Cornering Simulator (AVCS), and a full-blown race simulator. Between these four different pieces of equipment, drivers can strap in and “log laps” on any NASCAR track without leaving the shop, which is invaluable when preparing for a race.
The 2017 Toyota/TRD teams:
In the heat of competition, racers can shift gears countless times each lap. That’s why their shifter is designed for short, quick, precise throws. The same concept applies to the TRD Quick Shifter. This kit replaces the standard shifting mechanism with a new one that is designed to optimize the shift linkage by shortening the shift throw, giving your car that race-car feel—all without compromising the quality, fit and finish you’ve come to count on in your Toyota.
The TRD Quick Shifter Kit is a great place to start when building a performance-oriented Toyota.