GM’s DRCE3 Drag Engine: Origins & Outcomes
By Glen Grissom
3-D images courtesy GM Racing
The short version of this article is that the GM’s DRCE (Drag Racing Competition Engine) has been in steady refinement since its 2004 introduction in the cannibalistic Pro Stock ranks, and that GM engine guru and brain trust Warren Johnson has been instrumental in its development. While on track, KB Racing’s Greg Anderson and Jason Line have certainly lit up the win lights with the DRCE.
But its latest version, the DRCE3, hasn’t been wholeheartedly embraced by the Pro Stock ranks. In fact, Johnson’s father/son team is the only one currently running it in Pro Stock. The previous generation DRCE2 is a stable and competitive engine platform, and in the wickedly competitive Pro Stock class, any engine change had better yield quantifiable gains. Those engine builders use a dyno like you use a wristwatch when you’re late – constantly.
More Pro Stock teams are doing R&D on the DRCE3 these days, and some engine builders are using the DRCE2 block with the DRCE3 cylinder head – the head is backward-compatible. I spoke with Dan Engel, GM Racing’s NHRA Program Director, and Pro Stock multi-champ winner Warren Johnson to get some insight into the DRCE3, its status, and its future.
Mark Pawuk’s engine program, along with Johnson’s, were instrumental in the DRCE2 original engine development, but it is Johnson’s team who has borne the lion’s share of dyno pulls and track passes on this latest DCRE3 combination. Engel is already working on the list of refinements for the next engine iteration (DRCE4?), and Johnson and other
Yet, Engel notes somewhat ruefully that he had to piggyback development of the DRCE3 (and will also do so with the DRCE4) on GM’s other racing programs. The reality he lives in is that the GM’s drag racing budget isn’t sufficient to go and complete drag racing engine development work before getting sanctioning body approval.
Thus, he doesn’t necessarily start with a clean sheet of paper when developing a new engine. but one that already has a few proven and accurate lines already drawn on it. Interestingly, the DCRE3 engine was the first to be designed in 3-D, notes Engel.
Once approval is granted, GM passes out the hardware and it has to be developed in real world drag racing and testing conditions by its teams. It’s not usually enviable to be the pioneer with the arrows in your backside, but that seems to be a position Warren Johnson relishes. On the upside, if you do discover a few extra horsepower in the over-the-horizon research, you’re that much more ahead of the settlers who come behind you.