GM Racing's Carmen Smith Discusses Upcoming 2006 Sport Compact Race Season Transition and Changes to Program DETROIT, March 13, 2006 - Carmen Smith is ready to embark on her third full season as the program manager for sport-compact drag ...
GM Racing's Carmen Smith Discusses Upcoming 2006 Sport Compact Race Season Transition and Changes to Program
DETROIT, March 13, 2006 - Carmen Smith is ready to embark on her third full season as the program manager for sport-compact drag racing/drifting at GM. Since March, 2004, Smith has directed the day-to-day marketing, engineering and administrative activities of one of the most successful programs in the sport. Under Smith's guidance, the number of GM-affiliated teams has expanded, and the program continues to demonstrate the excellence and durability of GM Racing hardware by winning races and setting new records at nearly every venue in both the NHRA Sony Xplod and NDRA XBOX racing series. Smith was also instrumental in the development of the Chevy Cobalt Phase5 and its accompanying GM Sport Compact Performance Build Book (Part Number 88958646). In the following question and answer, she discusses some of the changes to the GM Sport Compact program for 2006, how that will benefit grass roots racers, and the prospects for another successful season.
What will be GM's role this year in Sport Compact racing and how will that be different from what it was before? "For 2006, GM will have a support-only role and will no longer campaign a factory-owned race car. All of the ECOtec-powered drag race cars will be independently owned and operated, with GM Racing providing technical support both on and off the track. GM Racing will still be at the races, but our trailer will be smaller and filled with spare parts and tools, rather than race cars."
One of the neat aspects of the GM program has been the "shared information" policy with the racers. How has that grown and what will the on-site support encompass in 2006? "We have always had an 'open-book' policy, and now, providing information and support is the sole focus of our crew. But, since we are working with independent race teams, we have to be more careful of how we define 'shared information.' All of GM's hard parts and development are available for any one to see. However, teams might come up with their own way of setting up their racecar, in terms of boost levels, rev limits, tire pressure, etc. That type of information is proprietary. We give out everything that GM Racing has developed and learned, but we keep the variations implemented by each team confidential. I expect that GM Racing's on-site support program will change throughout the year. We're doing our best to predict what teams might need, but we'll probably be learning as we go. We're trying to focus on things that most teams can't carry on their own trailers - - welding equipment, a drill press, injector cleaner, etc. Our crew will include a skilled fabricator/welder and be knowledgeable in vehicle set-up, data analysis, Pectel and FAST, wiring, clutch set-up, engine swaps, race procedures, etc. Everyone we are bringing as our support team has experience racing and winning with our products. They are experts."
Does this expanded approach help GM become the hardware of choice in Sport Compact competition? "Yes, it does. The more teams we have running our products, the more ambassadors we have. With a positive experience, the Chevy Cobalt teams will speak highly of our products and word-of-mouth will continue to grow our business. The teams will also be learning and becoming experts on racing an ECOtec-powered Cobalt. They will be able to advise others who might be interested in switching to GM products. In this way, the program grows exponentially and starts to become self-supporting."
How has your role changed as manager of the GM Sport Compact/Drifting program and what does it entail? "My job hasn't changed a whole lot, except that I am interacting with a lot more teams and potential customers than in the past, and our focus will move from the race team shop to the engine shop, where most of our season-long activities will take place. All of the Chevy Cobalt race cars will be running the circuit with their teams, while our GM Racing team will be working hard to keep up with them."
What are some of the ways that the everyday Chevrolet car buyer benefits from the on-track performance and testing of GM Sport Compact cars? "Clearly, what we do on the track is far more aggressive than what our production parts see in normal operation. Most of the weakness we find would never be an issue in a production application. But, every once in a while, the production engineers come across a problem and they often look to our race program for a solution. Chances are, we have one. Race programs are also used to provide accelerated feedback to production engineers - we can stress a part to a level that might take years in a normal application. That helps engineers solve problems before anyone on the street even knows they existed."
With a full year of running the Chevy Cobalt Phase5 competition, how has the racecar been received and are you pleased with its performance? "The Cobalt Phase5 cars have done exactly what we hoped they would do. They go down the track every time, reliably and predictably, despite being a 500hp race car. They prove that you can have a race car that doesn't cost thousands each year in broken parts. Erica Nocita had well over 100 passes on her Cobalt Phase5, and other than ice, oil and fuel, her car required less than $5 to keep running. That kind of racing is fun, and it sells cars and parts."
Tied in to the Cobalt Phase5 is the "Build Book." How has it been received and will there be any additions to it in 2006? 'We've gotten a lot of great feedback regarding the build book. We don't have a specific date for when there will be another edition, but we plan to use our website www.gmtunersource.com to post updates throughout the year. The website is great for allowing us to make up-to-date information available, without the time and cost of producing a physical book. The GM Performance Division is also working to provide more info on our 2.0L Supercharged ECOtec projects, such as the Time Attack champion Cobalt, so look for that this year."
How does the Sport Compact program strengthen GM's aftermarket program? "In sport compact drag racing, we demonstrate the capabilities of GM parts. If an ECOtec motor and Hydra-matic transmission can handle 1200hp and power a Cobalt to a 7-second quarter-mile pass, then it can certainly be upgraded to do what any enthusiast might desire. Our program is the proof. And, although we realize that not many people want to go to the extreme that we do, our race parts are available for sale to any professional builder that might want to take on the task."
Is safety still a No. 1 priority at GM and what requirements, if any are placed on GM-affiliated teams? "Safety is always top priority at GM. We require our supported cars to be of high-quality construction, and we repeatedly emphasize the essential step of a thorough chassis review before each run. Of course there is the HANS device, which we require our racers to wear and continue to encourage for all racers."
This will be your third full year as GM Sport Compact program manager. How have you seen the program grow during your tenure? "It's amazing how much things change in this market. The speed of development runs almost as fast as our race cars - 200mph. The technology is remarkable. And we've made great strides in image as well. We went from being shunned to being respected to being coveted. People who once didn't know Chevy existed are now asking how they can get one. It feels great."
Are you looking forward to the new season and what do you hope the Sport Compact program can accomplish in 2006? "I can't wait for the season to get underway. I'm confident that the teams will bring more championships for Chevrolet. Every season so far has brought 'firsts' and 'bests' in this series, and I expect 2006 to be just as exciting. As far as GM Racing's role, we will continue to improve the longevity and performance of our race parts; that's how we make GM products the hardware of choice for sport compact enthusiasts."