Formula One and NASCAR are, without a doubt, the two biggest and most watched motorsports in the world. And it is perhaps no surprise that there has consequently been much debate as to which sport is superior.
One of the most debated issues is the difference between the engines, and power transmission, of the cars in each discipline. Yet they are not as far apart as you might think.
A Formula one engine is perhaps one of the most refined and sophisticated pieces of machinery ever created. It is built with the sole purpose of racing in mind, and there are few restrictions on the implementation. The restrictions that do exist include the 2.4 litre, 90º V8 configuration with a 180º crankshaft. The weight of the engine is also very important, with engines needing a minimum weight of 95 kg. They are also further influenced by centre of gravity restrictions.
There are far more restrictions on the V8 engines used in NASCAR. For instance they must be largely production based, and are tightly restricted in regards to allowable parts, materials, and dimension. All engines are subject to various parameters imposed by NASCAR as well as those published in the rule-book.
Due to the fact that they are not as sophisticated as a Formula One engine, NASCAR engines weigh more, usually around 260kg. Because they are specifically designed for high performance racing, Formula One engines are able to last for around 840 miles, although this is restricted due to FIA regulations. These regulations also state that each car must use the same engine for two consecutive practice-qualifying-race meetings, or risk being penalised. The restrictions on NASCAR engines mean that they usually last for around 800 miles.
Formula One engines typically achieve a peak power of around 755 BHP at over 19,000 RPM. In comparison, NASCAR engines usually reach around 820 BHP at a much lower 9000 RPM.
The sophistication of the Formula One engine is best embodied in its DOHC design. It has a four-valve-per-cylinder layout as well as finger-followers and pneumatic valve springs. Meanwhile, the ignition and fuel injection systems are controlled by a sophisticated engine-management digital computer system.
Such advanced technology is once again lacking in the NASCAR engine, where there are only two valves per cylinder, both using steel helical valve springs, a single four barrel carburettor based on a specified Holley model, and a just one distributor-controlled ignition.
The greater sophistication of Formula One engines have lead many to argue of its superiority over NASCAR. Yet NASCAR fans argue that a less-sophisticated engine requires a much more skilled driver.
One thing is for sure, the popularity of both sports is unlikely to dwindle.