How To Choose A Drag Racing Ignition System With MSD Performance

Drag racing is a unique animal, subjecting your engine to a very short bursts of maximum output, where even the slightest falter in performance can, at best, cost you e.t., and at worst can cost you an engine. Subpar equipment is weeded out from the top performers in short order on the dragstrip, making it cheaper in the long run to get the correct components the first go around.

Besides needing to be at 100-percent at all times, drag racing offers some inherent challenges to an ignition system, thanks to non-standard fuels, extreme cylinder pressures, along with extreme power-adder applications. “That is where an MSD Ignition really shines,” says MSD’s Ray Frescas.

MSD makes a range of ignition systems designed to be simple, computerless affairs, all the way up to computer-controlled modern networks, capable of controlling individual cylinder timing to the tenth of a degree, for as little as 1/100th of a second duration. “When choosing a drag racing ignition the demands set forth by the engine – cylinder pressure, RPM range, and fuel type – along with class rules will determine your ignition system,’ Frescas says.

Just because you might not want to use an external computer to program your ignition system, doesn’t mean that you have to give up programmability. This is the MSD 7AL-3 and as you can see, the large number of features are all controlled by various pills.

Computer Free Options

While the company’s “entry-level” drag racing ignition – the 7AL-2 Plus – is a solid improvement over the street performance six-series ignitions, with the ability to ignite aggressive engine combinations, it offers those advantages without an increase in complexity. Through the use of RPM pills, the two-step and high-side RPM limits can be set without any external computer.

For those who want some bells and whistles, but still don’t want to use a computer, the 7AL-3 takes the increased spark energy output of the 7AL-2 Plus and adds a three-step rev limiter for burnout, launch, and high-side RPM limits, an adjustable start retard function, four-stages of high-speed timing retard, and a single RPM-activated 12-volt switch, all through the use of RPM and timing pills.

Embracing Technology

Once you acquiesce to the use of an external laptop computer, capabilities and adjustability goes through the roof. Stepping up to MSD’s Power Grid system gives racers access to individual cylinder timing, a four-step rev-limiter, five-stage high-speed retard, timing tables based on engine speed and gear, along with the ability to datalog every parameter, all while providing about 20-percent more spark energy.

Then, if that isn’t enough, through the Power Grid’s CAN-Bus system, the unit can be expanded via a host of available modules. Things like boost control, launch control, boost-based timing retard, and multi-stage delay timers are available.

From there, the only remaining step to improving your MSD ignition’s performance in a drag racing scenario, is to step up to a magneto system for incredibly hard-to-ignite fuels and combinations, from supercharged alcohol or methanol combos all the way up to nitromethane-gulping top fuel engines. The Pro Mag series of magnetos produce 600-percent more spark energy for a spark that looks more like a mad science experiment than a performance ignition, and can be controlled by the Power Grid system for unparalleled control. .

So whether you’re running a dedicated bracket car with a high-compression big-block, or a 12,000-horsepower top-fuel dragster, MSD has an ignition that will not only keep the candles lit under the most stressful conditions, but has a feature set that is tailored to your comfort level.

For the absolute maximum in spark energy for the highest cylinder pressure applications using especially hard-to-ignite fuels, the MSD Pro Mag series is the pinnacle of their drag-racing linuep. 12,000-horsepower Top Fuel engines use two of their Pro Mag 44 magnetos to keep the candles lit in the nitro-gulping monsters.

About the author

Greg Acosta

Greg has spent over a decade in automotive publishing as Senior Editor of Race Pages magazine. In his free time, he is a firearms instructor and volunteer in the police armory.
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