Fountain team faces new challenges

Published 5:36 am Monday, January 29, 2007

By Staff
New engines seen as key to setting new kilo world record
When Al Solaroli first aligned himself with Fountain Powerboats to showcase his new race engines, there were more than a few skeptics.
Five months later, there’s little doubt the turbo-driven engines perform well, perhaps a little too well.
As if 1,000 extra horsepower and four to eight times the fuel mileage is not enough for engineers to contend with, the engines have nearly doubled the torque load created by previous engines, resulting in a new series of challenges.
Solaroli said he has taken it upon himself to develop a new electrical system. That is the least of his worries with the kilo world-record attempts less than two weeks away.
Transmissions for the race boat were not designed to take the 2,800-pounds-per-foot of pressure exerted by the new engines.
Solaroli and his engineers have attempted to modify a drag-boat transmission to handle the load, despite intentionally limiting the 4,300-horsepower-capable engines to 3,000 horsepower. That creates the problem of getting the boat up on plane.
The first test, despite the electrical problems shutting down one engine, produced speeds of 100 miles per hour.
The drawback to that option is a lower engine-to-propeller power ratio and reduced speed, he said.
Fountain Powerboats founder and CEO Reggie Fountain said the crash box only offers a 1.5:1 ratio. The other power-train option provides a higher ratio and includes an overdrive, which would provide more top-end speed.
But even the crash-box transmission should results in speeds faster than the existing world record of just over 171 miles per hour, Fountain said.
If everything goes according to plan, the 47-foot boat is capable of 200 miles per hour, Solaroli said.
Fountain is less optimistic.
Fountain also stressed the safety issue, adding that his youngest son may likely be driving while Fountain works the throttles for the world-record attempt, which is set for Feb. 8-10.
Aside from a new record belonging to father and son, another milestone could be achieved.
Typically, Fountain said, race engines for world-record attempts have used alcohol to produce extra horsepower. With the Solaroli engines already producing far beyond what has been previously achievable, Fountain will be using regular gasoline. Adding alcohol to the fuel “would be too dangerous,” Fountain said.