S-10 Project Overview

Gale Banks has several goals he wants to achieve with his latest Duramax turbodiesel project truck, the Sidewinder D-Max S-10. Most obviously there’s speed: Gale Banks Engineering has a long history of winning races and setting records on land and in the water, and the expectations for the S-10 are no different. Banks wants to see the full-tube-chassis drag race truck become the first diesel truck to run the quarter-mile in the 7-second range. Although diesel-powered dragsters are already that quick, reaching into the 7s in a lightweight, dedicated drag car with the aerodynamic signature of a dart is much easier than clocking that time in a vehicle that still bears the upright and blocky silhouette of Chevy’s compact street truck.

D-Max Type-D at the 2006 SEMA show in Las Vegas

Banks wants his drag-race truck not just fast, but clean, too. The S-10’s Duramax 6.6L LBZ V-8, with its unique twin-turbocharger system and highly modified Bosch common-rail fuel-injection, will produce in excess of 1,000 horsepower – far more than even the land-speed-record holding, Cummins-turbodiesel-powered Banks Sidewinder Dakota.

In the current state of diesel drag race technology, high-powered engines typically produce huge amounts of black smoke pouring out of the exhaust pipes as the trucks power up in the staging lanes. Banks, however, sees the future of diesel drag racing differently. He’s currently working with the NHRA to change its rulebook to allow diesel trucks to use nitrous oxide in conjunction with turbochargers. The “throttle in a bottle” power adder has a side benefit in diesels: It clears the smoke during starting-line power-ups, eliminating the choking exhaust clouds that would otherwise turn off many of the NHRA’s loyal drag race fans. The late Wally Parks, the NHRA’s founder, had personally assisted Banks in his quest; and currently, three national classes and six Western Division classes have agreed to the rules change. Read Gale Banks’ letter to the NHRA.

October 19, 2006
Mr. Danny Gracia
National Technical Director
National Hot Rod Association

Dear Danny:

Thank you for your visit today. This letter is a formal request for your consideration on the following matter.

The use of the diesel engines, in the United States, now exceeds ten million units. The people who currently own diesels are, in the main, diehard gearheads. They have purchased diesel, and paid more for it, because they are engine literate.

Gearheads love racing, and there are more gearheads per capita among diesel owners than in any other automotive category you can name. These guys love diesel and support Nascar and NHRA. Yet, there is nowhere for them to see a diesel vehicle race against gasoline-powered top-level competition

I suggest that NHRA add to the draw at each event by encouraging diesel-powered entries. These entries would be in Super Street, Super Gas, Super Comp, Top Sportsman, Top Comp and Top Dragster.

This accommodation would be simple and, done right, would provide reliable, smoke-free, consistent diesel racing. Further, these vehicles would be able to stage and go whether a full tree or pro tree is being utilized.

Please understand that all modern diesels come with turbocharging. Diesel engines are designed to go hundreds of thousands of miles turbocharged. So turbos on a diesel are not adding a tremendous additional stress. These engines, unlike gasoline designs, are intended to be turbocharged. But to compete properly, something more is needed.

The need, as far as the diesel competition is concerned, is for the rule book to provide for the use of nitrous. Please understand that unlike a spark-ignited engine, a diesel has no throttle in the intake system. A diesel produces greater power through enriching the air-fuel ratio. So a diesel idles at approximately 50-1 air-fuel and makes full power around 18-1. The problem comes when greater power is attempted with more fuel (richness) being added. Then tremendous smoke and internal engine temperature are produced. In a diesel, leaner is safer and cooler, which is completely the opposite of spark-ignited engines. So in diesels, nitrous is safer. And, as no fuel is in the intake manifold, catastrophic backfires are non-existent.

To stage quickly and cleanly and to run smoke-free, diesels, in addition to their turbochargers, require nitrous in NHRA. This is not an unfair advantage in these categories as, in these categories, all competition has the jeopardy of break out. Further, nitrous leans out the engines such that smoke in the air or possible parts on the track are reduced to a minimum.

Today’s electronically controlled diesels have brought a quicker-responding, cleaner engine than just 10 years ago. Old, mechanically injected diesels are much more difficult to control as regards fuel; thus, smoke and temperature are more problematic.

In the next 10 years, further advances in electronics, injection, turbo control and cylinder heads will make the engines even better. But today, nitrous usage will answer, rather than add to, NHRA’s concerns about diesel drag cars.

So, I request a small addition to the 2007 Rule Book allowing the use of nitrous on turbo diesel engines. It is safe and reliable, and when combined with electronic fuel injection, will draw great interest from the diesel vehicle manufacturers, General Motors, Ford and Daimler Chrysler. Soon to join them will be Nissan and Toyota.

Gentlemen, let’s add a new dimension to the mix. Diesel vs. gasoline is as polarizing as Chevy vs. Ford. Let’s put some diesel fans in the stands.

Very truly yours,

Gale Banks

There’s another, longer-term reason for building and campaigning the D-Max S-10. For years, Banks has advocated the use of diesel as a powerful, yet efficient alternative to gasoline, and not just in the trucks and motorhomes that have been Banks’ specialty since the 1980s. Banks wants to see diesel spread to the mass automotive market, both as a choice for those seeking its frugal efficiency, as well as for those willing to pay for a premium, powerful vehicle. He’s even trademarked the slogan, “Guilt-Free Performance,” to describe the powerful-yet-economical benefits of using diesel in a light-duty automotive application.

To Banks, there’s no better way to promote the viability of diesel performance than to showcase his technology in front of the NHRA’s rabid fan base via the D-Max S-10. Drag-race fans are gearheads who understand diesel’s inherent power and efficiency characteristics. They also tend to be the automotive opinion leaders in their communities – the “car guy” down the street who’s often asked, “What kind of car should I buy?” Win these opinion leaders over, and they’ll drive market demand for light-duty diesel through their own purchases and recommendations to others. When that happens, Banks will have made significant progress in his long-time quest for diesel’s acceptance as a viable alternative fuel.

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