Jay O'Connell, Ford Racing's CART Program Manager since 1998, is leaving his position to work for Jaguar Racing's Formula One team in England. As the team's Vehicle Systems Engineering Manager, O'Connell will oversee the different engineering ...
Jay O'Connell, Ford Racing's CART Program Manager since 1998, is leaving his position to work for Jaguar Racing's Formula One team in England. As the team's Vehicle Systems Engineering Manager, O'Connell will oversee the different engineering groups, including vehicle dynamics, vehicle testing and the car test team while also starting a new advanced research and development team to try and help the team become more competitive. In this role, O'Connell will have a more significant role than Ford engineers have had in the past with the team, and will have more responsibility than the Ford engineers that are currently there now. Ultimately, O'Connell's goal is to try and do a better job leveraging Ford's resources that are in Dearborn since he is very familiar with them in hopes of forging a stronger tie between Ford and Jaguar Racing.
JAY O'CONNELL - CART Program Manager, Ford Racing Technology -
WHAT CONVINCED YOU TO LEAVE FORD RACING FOR A POSITION WITH THE JAGUAR FORMULA ONE TEAM?
"There was some interest from (Jaguar CEO) Bobby Rahal based on working with him here in CART and he wanted to get a stronger tie-in with Ford, so it made sense for me to think about going over there. Neal Ressler also asked me to come over and meet the new engineering team he had put together in the last six months and to consider joining them."
HAVE YOU ALWAYS ASPIRED TO A POSITION WORKING WITH A FORMULA ONE TEAM?
"It's something I've always thought about doing. My background is more in product development with some racing experience, but everything I've done has always led to something else. For me, working in CART has been a really good learning experience that has led me to a position working in F1, so I'm eager to get over there to see if I can put things I've learned over to here to good use over there with Jaguar."
TALK ABOUT YOUR TENURE AS FORD RACING'S CART PROGRAM MANAGER. WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED AND WHAT HAVE YOU TRIED TO ACCOMPLISH?
"I think I've learned a lot by working with the teams that Ford supports in the series, such as trying to improve the refueling of the cars and working on vehicle dynamics and aerodynamics. I've also met a lot of great people ... it's like a whole family atmosphere once you get to know everyone going from race to race. I think I'll better appreciate what I've learned here once I get over there because the situation is a little bit different. I've had a lot of technical challenges, but it's been a lot of fun working in CART."
ARE YOU GOING TO MISS WORKING IN CART?
"Yeah, I think I'm going to miss it quite a bit just because of all the people I've gotten to know. I'm sure over time I'll get to know a lot of people over in Formula One, but I think it's a little more of a closed environment and not as open an atmosphere as here in CART."
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU HAVE WORKED ON IN CART THAT YOU ARE PARTICULAR PROUD OF?
"I've been really impressed with Cosworth Racing and the introduction of the XF engine last year. Just being around those guys as they went through the process of developing a new engine and being successful with it was very rewarding. But more personally, I'm pleased with the work we did on the new single-point refueling system, which CART now mandates all of its teams to use. (Ford Racing engineer) Dan Jones and I have spent a lot of time testing the system and implementing it with the teams this season, and I'm really looking forward to seeing it in place as a safety improvement for CART. Hopefully it will go a long way towards and alleviating some of the pit lane accidents that have happened in the past."
HOW LONG ARE YOU PLANNING ON STAYING WITH THE JAGUAR TEAM?
"I'm going over for two years and I'm sure we'll evaluate at that point whether I'm going to stay on or come back."
HAS THERE BEEN A DECISION MADE AS TO WHO WILL TAKE YOUR PLACE AS FORD RACING'S CART PROGRAM MANAGER?
"John Probst, who has been working in research and vehicle technology on Ford electronics projects will be taking over for me. I've already introduced him to all of our CART teams, and he'll be getting up to speed on all the issues related to CART and Ford Racing. He's somewhat familiar with the CART environment through his involvement with Ford electronics projects in the past, and he's really looking forward to working in the series on a full-time basis."
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES HE'S GOING TO FACE IN THIS POSITION?
"Some of the challenges he'll face are the same ones facing all of the engine manufacturers, which include working with CART on the new engine rules package. He's also be working on keeping Ford and Cosworth competitive and trying to find ways to leverage Ford and its resources to help the teams to win as many races as they can."
BRUCE WOOD - CART Program Director, Cosworth Racing -
WHAT HAS JAY O'CONNELL MEANT TO COSWORTH RACING DURING HIS TENURE AS FORD RACING'S CART PROGRAM MANAGER?
"I'm sorry to see him go, although I'll probably see more of him now than I did before because he's going to live just down the road from me, and actually I'm trying to sell him my house (laughing). But I think Jay's been great for the program. I think one thing we can honestly say now is that Cosworth Racing makes much better use of Ford's facilities than we ever did in previous years. Certainly some of that is attributable to Ford's purchase of Cosworth, but part of that has been because of people like Jay who have made it much easier for us to access those facilities. Obviously (Ford's transient dynamometer) 17G is the one that springs to mind that we have used continuously and has made a big difference to us. I've enjoyed working with Jay and I'm sorry to see him go. We've enjoyed quite a lot of race wins together and I wish him well with Jaguar."
RAY LETO - Technical Coordinator, Team Rahal -
HOW BIG A ROLE HAS JAY PLAYED IN THE SUCCESS OF TEAM RAHAL?
"Jay is probably one of the best guys we have worked with at Ford. He was perfect for the position because he brought an understanding of the engineering and marketing side to the job. Jay had a great feel for what Ford could do to help us as a team. We are sorry to see him go but the move to Jaguar is a great career move and shows how respected he is by Bobby [Rahal].
I've know John Probst for a long time and he is eminently qualified to lead the Ford program with his background in electronics and his knowledge of the series. His expertise means that there will be a smooth transition between Jay and John."