Chevrolet’s new C8 was a hot topic for enthusiasts before the mid-engine sports car was available. And even after its arrival, the eight-generation is still getting press with the release of the Z06 variant. However, there are other talks as well, as Chevrolet’s new Corvette ECU has yet to be cracked for added tuneability and power and may never be.
Recently, we’ve seen several turbo systems hit the market, as well as a few superchargers for the C8. But the question is, how are people tuning the boosted LT2 since the ECU can’t be tapped? We reached out to Anderson Dick, FuelTech’s founder and CEO, to talk with him about the trials and tribulations of the world’s fastest C8 Corvette.
FuelTech’s C8 Project
The FuelTech C8 project started as a personal project for Anderson as he likes a challenge. After he figured out that the ECU was not accessible, he wanted to test out a few strategies to see if they could successfully take this new platform and add some power. So the first step for the team was to see if they could take control of the engine.
“We used a FuelTech FT600 to control the added port injection, which was easy. But, on the other hand, controlling the timing was one of the more complex things.” Anderson explained. “The C8 ECU has a very unusual timing strategy. That’s why in the beginning, we would see two good runs and then a bad one. However, we were able to take over the timing, but we realized that we still needed to keep the stock ECU happy.” Anderson went on to tell us that the C8 ECU is so advanced that it will check the parameters of the diagnostic system and that if it senses anything uncommon, the car will go into limp mode resulting in a bad run. Anderson said, “It took us a while to figure out how to control the timing without getting into limp mode.”
Timing control was not the only problem for the modified C8. Anderson also had to figure out a workaround for the throttle body as its position is based on the mass airflow sensor (MAF). “The C8 ECU is a torque-based system. So it will use a dedicated throttle body position according to the MAF reading. Unfortunately, this method doesn’t work on a turbocharged application because the MAF gets maxed out relatively early.” To fix this problem, Anderson removed the factory throttle body but left it connected under the hood so that the ECU would remain happy. He then used another throttle body on the engine with the FT600. Anderson added, “We also had to implement a control strategy that is based on the OEM throttle body position under certain circumstances but still have full control by the FuelTech under boost.”
Flex-Fuel And A C8
While the C8 is not flex-fuel compatible, Anderson is running E85 in his car for the cooling properties. He also decided to run methanal in the port injection so that the team didn’t have to mess with an intercooler. And methanal was the only way to do this and push 30-pounds of boost, which is the norm for this engine. “The direct-injection is pretty simple. And the stock computer tunes the C85 fuel almost perfect.” Anderson continued, “So if you get a C8 and you want to run E85 even though it’s not flex-fuel compatible, officially, it will compensate for it. However, it will eventually throw a check engine light.”
One thing that’s interesting about this boosted setup is that methanol accounts for 75-percent of the fuel used at wide-open throttle—leaving just 25-percent for the E85 and the direct-injection. Anderson said, “It’s essential to know which fuel you’re mainly running on before you can decide a tune-up.”
A Long Road
Making any new vehicle go fast is not an easy task, and the FuelTech C8 was certainly no exception. Anderson bought the car in March of 2020 and first tried to retrofit the C8 with a 400 horsepower electric motor making it an all-wheel-drive (AWD) hybrid. Then, he decided to turbo the car after he ran into problems with the hybrid conversion, mainly a lack of room and needing shorter shocks. So Anderson reached out to Late Model Racecraft (LMR) in August of 2020 for guidance on the top-mount turbo system which FuelTech fabricated in house. The team dropped the engine within a week, inserted forged rods and pistons, and finished the turbo kit.
The factory C8 ECU is no longer just monitoring sensors. Instead, it’s now looking to validate the data from the engine. – Anderson Dick
With the C8 back together, Anderson put the car on the dyno and made about 750 horsepower at 10-pounds of boost. However, the car would not shift at the track, and they had to back the boost down to three pounds for everything to work. Fortunately, the fix came in the way of Dodson Motorsports’ clutches for the C8’s DCT transmission allowing the car to run a 9.70. And while 9-seconds was good, ultimately, Anderson wanted the car to run in the 8-second range.
After some serious time on the dyno refining the tune and figuring out the software for the C8, Anderson was able to run a 9.08, 9.09, and finally a 9.01 after three different track visits. Unfortunately, during one of these visits, the LT2 had enough and kicked the rods out, taking the crank and block with it. Anderson said, “One rod was broken, and all seven were bent. We had exceeded the strength of the H-beam rods rated at 1,000 horsepower.”
As you can probably imagine, finding an LT2 is quite difficult, if not impossible. GM doesn’t even offer the LT2 block for sale. So, Anderson tried to retrofit an LT1 and LT4 block in the C8 without any luck. But, there were too many differences between the LT2 like transmission bolt pattern, and there’s no way to adapt the dry-sump oiling system without massive changes.
Fortunately, Late Model Racecraft (LMR) had a block from a previous project and was happy to help Anderson out. The crankshaft came from CSP Performance and was out of a C8 that had been on fire. So testing resumed with the engine back together with the FuelTech system controlling the clutch. By adjusting the clutch pressure with the FuelTech standalone ECU, the guys could hold 1,350 horsepower at the wheels.
More C8 Obstacles
You might think that 1,350 horsepower is more than enough to get a car in the eights in the 1/4-mile, and you would be correct, but the C8 is a different animal. Anderson said, “The C8 uses a fuel cut for launch control at 3,500 rpm and pulls back throttle position. This process is not helpful when you’re trying to spool a turbo. So, we had to figure out a way to spool the turbos. We accomplished this by pulling back the RPM to 3,200 with a two-step rev limiter to avoid the fuel cut.”
Adding the two-step allowed the car to spool at nine pounds of boost. The problem now is that the launch RPM is still too low. To fix this problem, Anderson added a Nitrous Outlet nitrous system jetted at 150-horsepower to get the car to launch appropriately. Halfway through the first gear, the nitrous system is then shut off. Anderson said, “Dave at Nitrous Outlet worked with us on the nitrous system and helped us figure it out, and for that, I’m really thankful.”
Another problem with the C8 platform is the rev-limiter. Since the ECU is locked, it can’t be modified. So as of right now, there’s no reason to build an engine that can “rev to the moon” because the computer won’t let it. Currently, it’s set at 6,500 rpm and no way around it. “We can’t afford to go larger on the turbine wheel on the turbo because we are limited at 6,500 rpm. We have considered building a stroker so that we don’t need more RPM to make power.”
Currently, the FuelTech ECU controls a lot of the engine functions and more. It’s responsible for additional fueling, timing, throttle body, clutch pressure, transmission shift points, to name a few. All of FuelTech’s hard work and prototyping has netted the twin-turbo C8 a quarter-mile time of 8.970 at 160.92 mph. And there’s some more still on the table. Anderson said that he plans to remove 200-pounds from the car (which will still put it over 150-pounds above factory eight) by installing race seats a lightweight battery, among other things. Anderson has also upgraded the Garrett G35-900 turbos, which set the record, to G35-1050 twins and a Turbosmart electronic wastegate.
As you can see, it takes a lot to get a C8 Corvette to go eights in the quarter-mile. However, Anderson and his team were up to the challenge and pulled it off in a relatively short amount of time, considering all of the obstacles. We look forward to seeing how fast they can go this season.