In 2011, my dad and his friends built a race car for the 24 Hours of Lemons, an endurance race for cars worth $500 or less. Gradually, I became more and more involved as the car became more modified. An engine is basically an air pump, and anything effective one might do to make an engine more powerful will simply make the engine flow more air. However, a key component of engine performance that is neglected when improving airflow making sure that the right ratio of fuel to air is ignited in the combustion chamber. With our original fuel injection system, maintaining this ratio (actually a bit “richer” or more fuel-heavy than stoichiometric) was impossible. In an attempt to rectify this, we first purchased a “black box” for the ECU that claimed to resolve our issues. It was better, but still not very good. I took it upon myself to research the ins and outs of tuning the 1980s-era (even outdated for its time) fuel injection system using an EPROM emulator, leading myself down a path involving a collaboration with an electrical engineer in Bulgaria, a rejection email from a massive German company, and most importantly, improved power and fuel economy for the race car.
The car, after a successful 2nd place finish out of 114 cars at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
The lovely response I got upon asking under which engine conditions a certain sensor operates.
I'm worth 5% more power! And 9% more range on a tank of gas!