Daytona 24: Ford pole winners press conference, part I

Part 1 of 2. The Multimatic Motorsports team with drivers Scott Maxwell, Scott Empringham and David Brabham not only has the distinction of starting on the pole tomorrow in the new Daytona Prototype class, but the No. 88 team also has the only...

Part 1 of 2.

The Multimatic Motorsports team with drivers Scott Maxwell, Scott Empringham and David Brabham not only has the distinction of starting on the pole tomorrow in the new Daytona Prototype class, but the No. 88 team also has the only three-man rotation in the six-car class for the grueling 24-hour race. The Yates-powered Focus Prototype will be the second Ford Focus seen at the start of the race - a production model SVT Focus will pace the field prior to tomorrow's green-flag start of the 41st running of the Rolex 24. Maxwell, Empringham and Brabham all shared their thoughts on the progress of the car on the eve of the race.

ROBERT YATES, Owner-Robert Yates Racing

"This is stock car racing in a very sporty car. It's like a constructed Winston Cup car with a nice Focus body on it and a street engine. This is what we used to do. We went to the wrecking yard or the junkyard and hopped the engines up and it's fun to see what's in our 32-valve engines. It's really fun. We're making serious horsepower considering the size of it and, hopefully, it'll run all 24 hours. I think these engines will be our future engines in Winston Cup, it's just a matter of a few years, so I feel like we've got a real jump on our future. I think this is our future. I think as the manufacturers want to evolve, the 55 platform engine is really antique but I'm excited about it. It's nice to look at what's under the hood."

HOW HAS IT BEEN GETTING READY FOR THIS RACE? "It's stressful, but all of our tests have been good. They're working night and day on getting all of the little stuff right. We've gone back and forth on the chassis dyno and we're excited about it. I tell you what, we're excited about it. This is neat to work on all those valves. There are a lot of valves under there."

DOUG YATES, General Manager-Robert Yates Racing

"Our involvement with the Ford Focus Grand-Am project is to develop and bring along the engine program. So far things are going well. We tested in Daytona and ran 400 miles with no problems. The key to endurance racing is just that - to have 24-hour endurance - so I think things are shaping up pretty well for that. It's a totally new series, so I think everybody is kind of feeling out who has the best car and what you need to be competitive. I think the potential is there with Ford's support and Multimatic's support. Multimatic is a first-class company. They've designed a beautiful car that we feel like is going to perform well and on the engine side, I think we can do what we need to do to make it competitive."

ARE YOU HAVING FUN WORKING ON SOMETHING OTHER THAN A WINSTON CUP ENGINE? "It's really fun to do something different. Ever since I walked through the doors here at Robert Yates Racing we've had this same engine for Winston Cup and have had no rules changes in 13 years. We're still making gains with it, but to work on something new that has overhead cams and electronics, it's a lot of fun. In 1999 when we won the championship, we did engines for Don Panoz, who ran at LeMans, so we're hoping we'll have that same kind of success this year while we do this program."

SCOTT MAXWELL-88- Multimatic Motorsports Focus

HOW DO YOU PLAN TO ATTACK THE RACE TOMORROW IN TERMS OF STRATEGY? "We've been so busy with getting the car to run that we haven't sat down to talk about strategy. Attack probably won't be the word we'll use; we'll probably be a lot more conservative. We know we have the speed if we need it, but we're just going to try to find a pace that we're all conformable with that doesn't abuse the car, the engine or the gearbox. We're going to try to save the car. We want to get through the night and see where we're at. This race is going to be so close and there are some many cars that can win, trying to spread out and getting a lap lead is almost meaningless. I don't think it's going to happen anyway with anybody."

WITH THE GTS AND GT CARS BEING SO CLOSE IN TERMS OF LAP TIMES, DO YOU EXPECT TO BE BATTLING THEM AS WELL AS THE PROTOTYPE CARS? "In past years you could make a 10-minute stop in the pits and still win the race, but I think if you have a 20-minute stop, that might take you out of contention. It's not like one car is going to get by you and if they have trouble you can get back on the lead. I think five or six cars will get by you. And someone is going to have a trouble-free run. I think it will be the closest race in years."

TALK ABOUT THE LEAP FROM GOING FROM THE GRAND-AM CUP TO THE ROLEX SERIES. "We've driven a lot of the 900 cars as well, so this is somewhere in between. It's closer to a prototype. I drove the Panoz last year and the GT1 Porsche with David (Empringham) two years ago. In terms of speed, it's not a leap up, it's just a different car."

ALL THREE DRIVERS ON THIS TEAM ARE TURNING LAP TIMES WITHIN A HALF-SECOND OF EACH OTHER. DOES THAT ELIMINATE THE LEAD-DOG MENTALITY? "I think that will be a strong suit in race. We're all there to remind teach other in a professional way not to leap out of the box to get in a battle with somebody else, and nobody will take it the wrong way. We'll have a strategy and we'll stick to it. If we all get a chance to run in the session, the slowest to the fastest guy is always within a half-second for the three of us and that's all circumstance because you have so much traffic."

WITH THE ATTENTION THE TEAM IS GETTING FROM WINNING THE POLE, HAS IT RAISED THE EXPECTATIONS FOR THE WEEKEND? "I feel better for the team than anybody else. These guys have worked really hard and Multimatic has really stuck their neck out to support us in this new class. I think that some of the press that we're getting, I feel better for the people that have taken the risk involved to get this class to the front."

YOU'RE THE ONLY DAYTONA PROTOTYPE ENTRY WITH THREE DRIVERS. HOW WILL THAT IMPACT YOUR RACE STRATEGY? "I think it will work better personally because I've always believed the less drivers in the car the better. I think you need three for this race. They've had winners here before that only had two drivers, but I think three drivers is perfect. I don't think it means we will plan on staying in the car longer. We plan on double-stinting, and maybe even triple-stinting during the night depending on how we're feeling."

WILL TIRE WEAR BE THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE IN THE RACE? "That what we're working on right now. Every session out, our major concern is rear tires. I think everyone has that problem. It's so easy to go out as quick as you want to, but it's going to come back to bite you. You almost have to hold yourself back the first few laps when the cars feels great. You don't want to build up the heat that quick because it gets to a point where the grip stops and you start sliding around. You want to delay that point as long as you can. It's going to happen, but it's better to happen after 40 minutes than 15."

WITH THIS BEING A NEW CLASS AND THE FIRST RACE WITH THE PROTOTYPES, WILL IT BE A RACE OF RELIABILITY? "I'd be surprised if there are two or three of us at the end. The Fabcar has proven it can do it, but everyone else is untested for 24 straight hours."

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Ford, part II

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers David Brabham , Scott Maxwell , Don Panoz , Robert Yates
Teams Yates Racing , Multimatic Motorsports