CHAMPCAR/CART: Michigan Ford Racing preview

Adrian Fernandez, driver of the No. 40 Tecate/Quaker State Ford-Cosworth, currently sits eighth in the CART FedEx Championship Series' Driver's Championship standings heading into the first 500-mile race of the season at the Michigan...

Adrian Fernandez, driver of the No. 40 Tecate/Quaker State Ford-Cosworth, currently sits eighth in the CART FedEx Championship Series' Driver's Championship standings heading into the first 500-mile race of the season at the Michigan International Speedway this weekend. Fernandez, who scored his first career pole position at Michigan in 1998, has four oval track victories to his credit, including a win in the 1999 season finale at the California Speedway.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ --40-- Tecate/Quaker State Ford-Cosworth--WHAT ARE SOME KEYS TO BEING SUCCESSFUL IN A 500-MILE RACE? "Patience. It's a long race, and a lot of things can happen. It's very important to work on the car so that it's at its strongest at the end of the race. It's a place that you have to keep your nose clean for the first 200 laps."

YOU WON THE LAST 500-MILE RACE AT FONTANA LAST SEASON. WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO IN ORDER TO BE SUCCESSFUL AT MICHIGAN? "In that race our strategy was very good, but you have to play everything by ear. Things change throughout the race and you cannot plan everything. You have to be able to react quick enough to be able to make the changes in strategy and things like that in the race in order to come out with a win. And sometimes a little bit of luck helps too."

IS A 500-MILE RACE MORE OF A PHYSICAL OR MENTAL CHALLENGE FOR YOU? "It's more mentally challenging for me than physically. Well, it it's very hot so it can be physically challenging, but the effort is not too big. Running at those speeds you need to keep a high level of concentration."

ARE THERE ANY TROUBLE SPOTS ON THE TRACK AT MICHIGAN? "The turns are relatively similar, but turns one and two are a little bit tighter and they're a little bumpy. There are no real trouble spots on the track, but sometimes trouble spots are created by the other cars, so you really have to be careful where you position yourself behind the other cars."

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO IN ORDER TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL RACE? "I need to have a good race car and be patient, those are the main things. Sometimes when you're struggling on the set up, the weekend becomes a little bit of a hassle. The main thing is to have a good race car, be able to get the most out of it and just race clean and smart."

Ian Bisco, vice-president and general manager of Cosworth Racing, Inc., in North America, has been involved in CART racing since 1980. Bisco discusses the challenges of running a 500-mile race from an engine manufacturer's standpoint, as well as giving a review of the first half of the 2000 season.

IAN BISCO--WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE AS AN ENGINE MANUFACTURER IN PREPARING FOR A RACE AT MICHIGAN? "I think the biggest challenge is going to be the fact that we have a brand new engine this year. This is the first 500-mile race this year, so the engine is going to have to go longer than it's ever gone in a race so far, so that's probably the biggest challenge. Typically, manufacturers will reduce rpm's and do a few other things to help the engine last that extra mileage. But it's actually knowing how far to go and how much to do without being too conservative, so it will be interesting. The other thing that is probably a factor is that we say it's a 500-mile race, but you actually have to plan for closer to 540 or 550 miles with the morning warm-up on Sunday. So, that is actually asking the engine to go quite a bit farther than we normally do."

YOU HAVEN'T ACTUALLY DONE ANY 500-MILE TESTING WITH THE ENGINE IN THE CAR HAVE YOU? "We have not, no. We've done some dyno simulations for 500 miles which basically runs the engine for the same amount of hours. It just cycles it (the engine) from different rpm's, sort of simulating what the engine would do on a track such as Michigan, and we've managed to complete that okay just recently."

WHAT THINGS CONCERN YOU THE MOST ABOUT THIS RACE? "I suppose the biggest thing is making sure that the engine lasts. For the engine to run 500 miles, the high rpm's that we run are a heck of a challenge. It's a really grueling test (for the engine). I suppose just about anything could give us problems really. Usually the bigger parts are the ones that don't give us any problems, it's the silly little things that let you down. Like a little vibration that breaks a screw or bolt that let's you down. Kind of like the first race in Homestead where a weird vibration that caused an o-ring to pop out, so it's silly things like that that I'm afraid of. So while you can run the engine on the dyno for mechanical part tests, the way the engine is set up on a dyno, it doesn't always prove exactly the same way it's set up in a car, so you can have some different vibrations that affect the engine."

HOW DOES YOUR PREPARATION FOR A 500-MILE RACE DIFFER FROM THAT FOR A 200- 0R 300-MILE RACE? "I think you treat it as a similar race, really. A race is a race, but because it's a 500-mile race you do have to make sure that you go that extra little bit. But in all honesty, we do that anyway because it doesn't matter how long it is. You want to do the best that you can to make sure that the engine has the best chance. If it's a 300-mile race or a 500-mile race, you always want to push that engine to its limit for that particular mileage."

FORD-COSWORTH IS CURRENTLY LEADING THE MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP THROUGH 10 RACES. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS REFLECTING BACK ON THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON? "Well I think it's obviously very satisfying to be in the lead halfway through the season. One of the big things that we've worked on really hard is the driveability of the engine. Last year with the old XD engine we pretty much had the most power of the engines out there, but we realized that we suffered in the driveability area and some of our competitors would consistently beat us on the twisty road courses. We've worked really hard on the transient dynos and track tests with our engineers on driveability issues for the driver and power control for this year on the new XF. So it's really satisfying, especially now that we've won the last two races on road and street courses. Not only did we win, but we had a lot of cars up there at the front at the end of the race, so it's very satisfying to reap the rewards of all the extra work that the engineers have done this year."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Adrian Fernandez