Piston Tech: Finding the Right Slug

Naturally aspirated and power-adder engines produce horsepower in very different ways. Piston design has evolved tremendously to keep pace. Just like two camshafts that look similar can serve vastly different needs, the same concept applies to pistons. Many racers presume that a power-adder piston is nothing more than a beefier version of a naturally aspirated piston. While there is some truth to this casual assessment, digging deeper reveals a multitude of key differences that impact everything from durability to weight to stability to ring seal to power production.

Designing a power-adder piston isn’t as simple as adding some extra metal here and there, then calling it a day. Reducing mass isn’t the only priority when designing a naturally aspirated piston, either. Since naturally aspirated and power-adder engines operate at vastly different levels of cylinder pressure, heat and rpm, optimizing a piston for maximum durability and horsepower output requires an equally different approach to overall design.

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