It’s fun to root for the underdog. It’s even more fun to help the underdog win a few.

Summit Racing and PowerNation TV’s Engine Power have teamed up with BMR Racing to field a 1993 Mustang in American Endurance Racing (AER) competition. Engine Power’s Mike Galley and Pat Topolinski are currently building a 363 cubic-inch small block Ford that will make upwards of 600 horsepower, rev to 8,000 rpm, and hold together for nine hours at a stretch. The rest of the upgrades are off-the-shelf parts available at Summit Racing, which means most anyone can duplicate the build and go after some BMWs and Porsches.

The Race Series

Each American Endurance Racing event features two nine-hour races completed on back-to-back days. Amateur and professional racers share the track running almost any production-based race car they like. AER uses what it calls Performance-Based Classing to place cars in one of five classes. Every car and driver combination completes a number of qualifying laps, which officials then analyze to slot teams in one of five classes for each race. This means the race field is diverse and fair, with little to no debate as to which cars belong in each class.

Visit AER’s website for more information on the series, rules, and the 2019 schedule. Grassroots Motorsports Magazine posted a great primer on AER on its website that’s well worth reading too.

The Team

BMR Racing is made up of some of the best racers you may never have heard of (but you will):

Tommy Byrne is the Lead Instructor at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He competed in Formula 1 in the 1980s and is the current driver of the legendary James Hunt F1 car.

Scott McKinley is the Fleet Manager and an instructor at Mid-Ohio.Scott piloted Formula cars in the late 1990s, and was the lead mechanic and car builder for the Danica Patrick/Rahal Letterman 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series race team.

Max Gee is the Assistant Fleet Manager and an instructor at Mid-Ohio.He is the 2017 SCCA STU National Champion and holds multiple track records.

Bill Burger is the team’s master builder and a good endurance driver in his own right. Bill is one of only a few builders of Superformance Ford GT40 and AC Cobra replicas in the U.S.

The Car

The BMR Racing Mustang started as an abandoned drag race project with an upcammed 302. Scott and Bill spent less than a month getting it ready for endurance racing.

“We had a time crunch, and it was the best Fox Body Mustang we could find,” Bill Burger said. “We kept the engine and added better springs, sway bars, wheels and tires.  Then we went racing.”

That time crunch showed, too. At their first race, the engine exploded after less than five hours on the track.

“That engine gave up its guts all over the track,” Burger said. “After that, we installed a remanufactured 5.0L because it was reliable.”

The rules covering modifications were pretty stringent as well, so making the Mustang competitive was a tough task.

“We couldn’t make many upgrades other than factory parts from production cars,” Scott McKinley said. “It got to the point where we would make upgrades and take the lap penalties just to make the car more reliable and competitive.”

The team switched to the AER series in 2015 to take advantage of the more relaxed modification rules. The Mustang got a replacement 5.0L, stiffer springs, bigger sway bars, and a three-link rear suspension from a Factory 5 Mk IV roadster. The team also added Cobra four-wheel disc brakes, 17 inch wheels, and a five-lug conversion. Everything that wasn’t necessary for racing was tossed to get the car down to 2,900 pounds with driver—really good for a Fox body.

After four seasons of AER competition, BMR Racing could boast several top 10 finishes in Class 3, including one first place finish in 2016. They also cut two seconds off their lap times by the end of the 2018 season.

The Upgrades

The Mustang was quicker, but competition from high-powered European cars relegated the team to midpack finishes.

“We’re all super-competitive,” Max Gee said. “It’s a good time running midpack, but all of us want to be up front.”

“What’s been holding us back is the power,” McKinley added. “We’re driving this car to death—killing it to compensate for the lack of power.”

The decision was made to pull out all the stops and step up to AER’s Class 5, where the big-horsepower boys play. That’s where Summit Racing, Engine Power, and a bunch of parts manufacturers stepped up to the plate to supply parts and build the engine.

The 363 cubic-inch small block Ford is based on a Dart Iron Eagle block with a Lunati/Eagle/DSS Racing bottom end. A COMP Cams mechanical roller camshaft spins the valvetrain in a pair of Trick Flow Twisted Wedge® 11R cylinder heads. Up top is a Trick Flow R-Series intake with a Holley Sniper throttle body EFI system.

The 363 is backed by an American Powertrain TKO 600 six-speed manual transmission, which sends power to a 2015 Mustang IRS fitted with either Yukon Gear 3.08 or 3.31 gears depending on the track.

Chassis-wise, the Mustang got a QA1 front suspension (K-member, control arms, camber plates), QA1 dual-adjustable coilover shocks on all four corners, and a custom Wilwood four-wheel disc brake setup. Steering is handled by a PSC quick-ratio rack and pinion with a Jones Racing pump.

Other manufacturers contributing to the project include:

AEM Electronics (CD-7 digital racing dash)

• Alston Racing (dash panel)

ATL (fuel cell)

• Centerforce (LMC clutch kit)

FUELAB (515 Series fuel pressure regulator)

• Hot Shot’s Secret (fluids)

• Harwood (fiberglass trunk, doors, and hood, Lexan windows)

• MOMO Racing (Daytona seats and MOD8 steering wheel)

• Motegi Wheel (MR133 Series wheels)

• MSD (Pro Billet distributor, 6ALN ignition, Super Conductor wires)

Powermaster (alternator)

Quicktime (bellhousing)

Sherman Parts (steel front fenders)

Tilton (pedals and master cylinders)

What’s It All Worth?

The Mustang’s best lap time at Mid-Ohio is 42 seconds. BMR’s goal is to get into the 36-37 second range. That five or six seconds is huge, especially when your competition is BMW M3s and Porsche Caymans.

“We’ve been getting faster and faster over the years, but we’ve finished lower and lower (in the points because we’re running against BMWs and Porsches,” added Tommy Byrne. “We want to be up at the front. It’s not a lot of fun come October if you’ve got no chance of winning. That’s why this project is so important—you guys are going to get us winning again.”

The Engine Power 363 engine build started at the end of April on the History Channel’s Drive Block, with future build episodes coming in late spring. If you can’t get up that early or forget to set the DVR, you can catch repeat airings Sunday mornings beginning at 7 am Eastern on the History Channel, and Saturday mornings on NBC Sports. 

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Author: Alan Rebescher

Editor, author, PR man—Alan Rebescher has done it all in a 25 year career in the high performance industry. He has written and photographed many feature stories and tech articles for Summit Racing and various magazines including Hot Rod, Car Craft, and Popular Hot Rodding, and edited Summit Racing’s Street & Strip magazine in the 1990s. His garage is currently occupied by a a 1996 Mustang GT ragtop.