CART FedEx Championship Series Engine Manufacturer's Friday Forum Friday, August 13, 1999 Mid-Ohio - Lexington, Ohio
CREW CHIEFS Participants: Colin Duff - Newman-Haas Racing - Ford Kyle Moyer - Team Kool Green - Honda Casper van der Schoot - Hogan Racing - Mercedes Brad Filbey - Team Gordon - Toyota
QUESTION: Can you all give us a brief overview of your responsibilities with the team?
FILBEY (TOYOTA) - "That's kind of difficult because I just started with Team Gordon a few weeks ago, so, the responsibilities have not been all set out yet. Basically, I am in charge of the whole crew. I am the liaison between Swift and TRD partly because I was formerly with TRD so I guess that's why they picked me to be the liaison with TRD. Overall I am in charge of the whole race team operation.
MOYER (HONDA) - "We really don't have crew chiefs or team managers on Team Kool Green. We have what are called Crew Chief/Team Managers together with me and Tony (Cartman). We see the overall operations of the car split between me and Tony. On race weekends I am responsible for Dario (Franchitti's) side and Tony is responsible for Paul Tracy's side."
DUFF (FORD) - "Basically with Newman-Haas, I have been there for ten years in this position, I am responsible for getting the cars to the track the way the engineers want them, taking care of the spares, making sure the mechanics have everything they need to get the cars together. Chief mechanics are responsible for putting the cars together, I am just responsible for making sure that the engineers and crew chiefs have everything they need to do their jobs."
QUESTION: There has been a lot of talk about there being too much testing in CART. Can each of you address that issue?
FILBEY (TOYOTA) - "Having worked for an engine manufacturer before I had to support every single test. So, for the engine manufacturers it's double the work. Most of the teams have test teams now, so they have a group of guys who do all the testing and one that does the racing. The burnout effect that is happening with the crew members is real evident. You get more and more requests for people to get shop based jobs and it just seems to be too much on the people. We are a California based team which makes it twice as bad. So, we would like to see less testing from the crew standpoint. Engineers always seem to want to do as much testing that they can."
DUFF (FORD) - "We have a dedicated bare bones test team who kind of preps the car. But, when we go testing we do have a fair number of race team personnel on hand. It is a big stress on the team. Less testing during these periods would be better, but development needs to go on. So, often you need to test. You have to make the effort if it is available. If it was not available to everyone I guess we would get by."
MOYER (HONDA) - "I think we are sort of one of the teams who are fighting for a test rule. I know our owner is really behind it. We are a small team. We do not have a test team and we do not have extra guys to test with. What you see here this weekend is what we have for a test team. When you are testing you are doing a lot more work than you ever will on a race weekend. But today for instance, we are only going to run a total of two hours and fifteen minutes. During a test we will run the car from seven in the morning until five at night nonstop. The problem that CART needs to look at is quality. You have twenty races right now and testing is taking away from getting good cars built. That's where the drag is coming from. Having a two day turnaround between Detroit and Mid-Ohio is okay, because you can't test. Then you got to Chicago and everyone is going to test after Chicago and everyone is going to test after Laguna and that's the problem."
QUESTION: Casper joins us now. Can you take us through your responsibilities with the team and then address the issue of testing. Should it be limited?
VAN DER SCHOOT (MERCEDES) - "I am the chief engineer for Hogan Racing and I work on Helio Castro-Neves car. Regarding testing, with the schedule becoming more and more extensive, it is probably not a bad idea to limit the number of days we test. I think in the future it is going to be more important to test. We need to either set up days when we all can test or say no testing at all. I think it is important to try and get the level at which team participate in tests as equal as possible."
QUESTION: Do you think if CART went to a system of six to tem open tests it would help alleviate the workload on your guys?
DUFF (FORD) - "We like the CART open test because everything is laid out but we get a lot less running, and get a lot less work done, because there are so many car on the track. So, our engineers actually shy away from the CART open tests because we get less work done."
MOYER (HONDA) - "We are of the same frame of mind that Colin is. You have a test like the Homestead open and everyone who shows up is trying to be the fastest guy for the two days of the test. So we shy away from it for the same reason. The thing that is good about the CART open tests is the safety situation. A lot of places that are not CART open tests don't have the same safety personnel that are here on the weekend. At a CART open test you have the best safety personnel in the business which is a big positive."
QUESTION: With all of the testing that is done does it really matter what kind of engine you put in the car?
MOYER (HONDA) - "In mine it does. First of all you have to look at the results we are getting with the Honda. The derivability is there and the reliability is there. Honda has done a really great job of getting some of the best drivers in the series, which is a good step for them. Honda, being a smaller group, I think they only have seven drivers here this weekend, it makes it a lot easier for us. They can make one change to everyone and be able to affect every single driver because everyone is treated the same. So it does make a difference. The derivability factor is a lot easier because it makes the setup with our drivers that much easier."
DUFF (FORD) - "We are very happy with our Ford service. Our engines are more reliable than they have ever been. I have not worked with another manufacturer so I can't really compare it to anything but I have to say that the engines we are getting now are very good and the backup from the factory is first class. The guys are always there and the situation could not be better. And it is obvious that with the new Ford deal that there is a lot more stuff happening that we have not seen yet."
FILBEY (TOYOTA) - "Toyota is definitely gotten into the same power range as the other manufacturers. Just in the last few months they have been able to work on driveability, fuel economy, weight, and everything else that they are a little bit behind on. I think the peak power is there right now. Honda has done such a good job with the packaging of their engine that Toyota is still trying to catch up on that. I think you will see that we are working much closer with the manufacturers and the teams. It definitely matters which engine you bolt on. With the reliability and performance of the Honda it is really easy for the guys to put it in and be confident in it. We are putting in a different spec engine about every weekend. We are still testing parts at the track each weekend so it is a little bit more difficult for us than perhaps the other guys that are competitive."
VAN DER SCHOOT (MERCEDES) - "Hogan Racing has certainly had its share of bad luck, probably a little more than some of the other Mercedes runners. Mercedes has been working really hard to give us the best they have and for that reason we are very excited that we made it to the finish last week. It may not seem important, but for us, it was very important. For us we feel that our bad luck is behind us and we are working on finishing out the rest of the season on a high note with Mercedes."
QUESTION: A lot is being said about the state of the Mercedes program. People seem to be looking at it and asking if they should keep it next year. What are your thoughts?
VAN DER SCHOOT (MERCEDES) - "Mercedes is going to come out with a brand new engine next year that is going to be a lot more versatile. We are really excited about it right now and look forward to being part of the program next year."
QUESTIONS - WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF YOU, ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE STATE OF YOUR ENGINE PROGRAMS?
MOYER (HONDA) - "It's hard for us to even think of going anywhere else and I think that is true with any Honda team. When you look at the success we had at Michigan when Honda finished 1-2-3 which is a grueling race and then we go to Detroit and run up front again so that proves we have the driveability. So if you are a Honda team I would say you are not looking anywhere."
DUFF (FORD) - "Knowing what Ford has coming down the pipes we wouldn't switch to anything right now. We are happy."
FILBEY (TOYOTA) - "I don't see Team Gordon doing anything without Toyota. They will be with us until we are not happy anymore."
QUESTIONS - CAN YOU GIVE US AN OVERVIEW OF YOUR CAREER PATH AND WHAT ARE YOUR CAREER GOALS BEYOND THIS?
DUFF (FORD) - "Well, chief mechanic was what I worked to be, but I have been a chief mechanic and there are bigger things out there than that. Since '89-'90 I have been the crew chief when we split up the chief mechanic positions. You have more time on your hands as a crew chief because you are not chasing every single detail of the cars. I have worked a long time as a mechanic to be a chief mechanic and that is all I ever wanted to be so I guess I don't really know what I want to do now."
MOYER (HONDA) - "I just want to win races. The guys I work with are really great and I don't think I want to do anymore than that. Working with the team itself and the driver is the most important thing for me. The political side of it and the media side of it is really hard for me to grasp. With the car it's easy for me to grasp, there is one car and one driver. I started out in sprint cars and I started out in Champ Cars since 1980 so this is my 19th year in Champ Cars."
VAN DER SCHOOT (MERCEDES) - "My aspirations are focused on bringing the level of the team up to a top-five level which I think is definitely feasible. I am excited to be here next year and embark on a two car program. I think we will definitely be capable of being a top-five team next year."
FILBEY (TOYOTA) - "I guess I took the job with Team Gordon because I knew it was going to be a very interesting challenge. You know, Robby can be a quite a character but I look at it as a move to try to make myself better. I started off in auto racing when I was thirteen working for Chris Pook at the Long Brach Grand Prix after school. I was just hanging out in the garages at the track and got hooked up with an IMSA team in 1986 and did that until 1992 and was with Ganassi from 1992 to 1997. Then I went to Arciero-Wells. I was with Arciero-Wells as a chief mechanic on Hiro's car, and after Hiro returned I decided to go to Toyota. The whole Team Gordon plan for the future was something that was really interesting. They have all the parts and pieces they need but they are just not in the right places, and I think that is where I come in. I thought I could help push them in the right direction. Robby is obviously capable, and Toyota is making improvements, Swift is a little bit of a problem right now, but we are working on that. Right now I guess my aspiration is to help Robby become better and become a championship contender in the next few years."
QUESTION: WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF TESTING AND HOW DO WE GET TO THAT POINT?
DUFF (FORD) - "The amount of testing would really depend on our schedule and that is a bit fluid at the moment. How many races are we going to be doing next year and how do we fit the testing into the blank spaces? We have a test team, but it still takes a lot of effort from the rest of the team. Preseason testing would be great but we tend to go forward and deal with the racing we have to do and deal with everything else later. There is always more stuff coming from the wind tunnel that you need to test. There are certain tests during the year that are key to the type of races you do. If it were the same for everybody it wouldn't hurt."
MOYER (HONDA) - "I think you are going to find out next week at Chicago. You will see something there because no one has tested there because no one has been allowed to test it. If you look at the grid from St. Louis this season I am almost certain that it won't be too much different than what Chicago will be. Why? I think that your fast teams are going to run up front regardless of how much testing you do. Look at last year, one thing you need to look at is how do you make the testing situation fair for a program like Toyota that needs to test, but, make it so we don't have to. One way to do it may be to allow us to test at any track after we have raced on it. Then, if I finished in the top-six there I sure as hell don't want to stay an extra day and test there. But, a guy who finished 24th might need to stay."
FILBEY (TOYOTA) - "If you limit the testing to all of the CART days it may not be good for all the teams. Some teams need street course work, other need superspeedway work. I think you need to give teams a number of days that you are allowed to test and a period that you have to use them in. Right now, I think that there are going to be nine cars as Sebring testing next week. The same thing goes for tire testing. The fast teams are doing the tire testing and getting all the extra time. But it is just the opposite where the slow teams are the ones that need the testing."
VAN DER SCHOOT (MERCEDES) - "One of the areas that I would look at is tire testing and engine testing. Certain aspects of testing are a positive such as seat time for the drivers, despite the fact that you may not be able to spend much time developing setups and developing the car. For engine manufacturer or a tire manufacturer, when you test their products the driver is still going to get the seat time. The driver is still going to get the seat time and come up with new ways to get around the track. So, that's an area that I would look at."
QUESTION: WITH SO MANY RACES BACK TO BACK WHAT KIND OF DIFFICULTIES DO YOU HAVE PREPARING CARS?
MOYER (HONDA) - "I think the biggest thing is preparing for a road course race after an oval race and vice versa. The scheduled is not great all the time. For instance, take Elkhart Lake where you have a very light downforce setup, then you got to Toronto which is an entirely different car. Then you turn around and expect us to get a car ready for 500 miles at Michigan. The fortunate thing is that most CART mechanics are very good. Now the question is when are you going to run out of those people."
FILBEY (TOYOTA) - "We have four cars. But that does not matter because we only have enough people to work on two. So we started to work on the car for Chicago before Detroit. It's about 70-percent complete. We don't have a shop established to turn parts around so the guys on the road are the shop and the race team. So we are probably going to be working until midnight, two in the morning to get that car ready for Chicago. We also have some sponsor commitments for a pit stop demonstration all day on Tuesday. Having the extra cars and parts is not good if you don't have the people to work on them."
VAN DER SCHOOT (MERCEDES) - "If CART continues to add on races to the schedule you are probably going to see teams with dedicated road course cars and dedicated oval cars which you can essentially take from one track to the next."
QUESTION: HOW MUCH WOULD A THREE-YEAR FREEZE ON CHASSISES, OR SOMETHING ALONG THOSE LINES HELP?
MOYER (HONDA) - "I think it would depend on what chassis you froze with. We are a small team with only four cars. Now if you have the chance to use six cars over three years it's a big advantage. It would be a lot of help in turning cars around. We have a '94 Reynard sitting at the shop and it's not much different from the tub we are running today."
DUFF (FORD) - "It would help but all of the parts, presumably, would not be frozen. There are things that you would still be changing such as suspension parts, geometries, but there would still be some switching around. It would help a bit though."