Ford Racing, Multimatic teleconference (part 2)

Continued from part 1 Q: In 2005, you'll be driving in the Rolex 24, then you'll be driving for Roush Racing in NEXTEL Cup, then the Busch Series. Do you feel the more the driver competes the more competitive he is? GREG BIFFLE: I think...

Continued from part 1

Q: In 2005, you'll be driving in the Rolex 24, then you'll be driving for Roush Racing in NEXTEL Cup, then the Busch Series. Do you feel the more the driver competes the more competitive he is?

GREG BIFFLE: I think so. I mean, you never quit learning. Every lap you make you normally learn something new or you're honing your skills on being better, making a smoother transition to the brake pedal and turning the wheel and things like that.

So, I mean, practice makes perfect, and that holds true in a lot of sports, whether it's golf or anything else. So it certainly isn't going to hurt me to get some extra seat time. Like I said, this a huge opportunity for me. I just can't wait.

Q: I don't suppose it's a coincidence that Roush Racing has a background in sports car racing, and you talk about wanting to do more of it. Will you consider doing Le Mans?

GREG BIFFLE: I Certainly would consider it. I'd consider anything an opportunity to drive a race car. That's getting a ways away from the cars I know. But I would jump at the opportunity to go and test and see if I could make the cut. I mean, I'd love to have the opportunity.

Q: Last year we saw Tony Stewart run at the Watkins Glen race when NEXTEL Cup was racing with Grand-Am. This next year, there's already talk about more of that at the Watkins Glen race. I think there's also an opening at the Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. Any chance we're going to see more NEXTEL Cup drivers move over for those races?

GREG BIFFLE: Probably. I mean, you know, a lot of people, a lot of team owners probably got cold feet about their drivers doing that after Junior got in that accident at Sears Point. I feel that any opportunity I get, I'm certainly going to take advantage of it.

So really it just boils down to having the opportunity presented to you. That's the thing. And I would say you would see some drivers do that certainly. If the opportunity is presented to me, I'm signing up for sure to do it, with the right permission to be able to do it, which Jack Roush would certainly give me the opportunity. So I say yes. I mean, I see some drivers going over there and doing that.

ADAM SAAL: We will have test days for the Rolex 24, the first weekend of the new year, it will be January 7th through the 9th. We have a full field of entrants. Some of Greg's and Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth's colleagues from NEXTEL Cup as well, and a bunch of champions and drivers from other forms of the sport. Paul Tracy, last year's CART champion, was also announced as participating on the defending team.

It's truly going to be a showcase of race winners and champions at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in February.

Q: You mentioned earlier that you're not beyond learning new things. When you get into that car, what is it that you hope to be able to take with you from the Rolex Series experience and plug it into the NEXTEL Cup Series?

GREG BIFFLE: Well, certainly it's probably mostly going to reflect in my road racing abilities. I'm looking forward to testing with the data on the cars and trying to learn something about braking zones, corner entries and maybe learn about the transition between the brake and the throttle, just hone my skills in road racing for the NEXTEL Cup car for Sears Point and the Glen.

I'll tell you what, I went to the Bondurant School the very first year I raced the Craftsman Truck Series. Ford sent me there. I won a road race that year and finished third at the other one, and it helped my oval track driving. Some of the things I learned there, like trail braking the car in the corner, some of those things have bled over to my oval track racing. I just picked up a few things.

It doesn't take a lot. If I learn one thing from this race and we're competitive, I'll be happy with that.

Q: You mentioned you have some test dates coming up next month. Is that going to be the first opportunity that you'll be in the car? Are you going to have some private tests?

GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, that's going to be the first opportunity. Our test at Daytona will be the first time in the car. The team did test at VIR recently but my schedule didn't permit me to make it up there and get in the car for any laps. We're also talking about additional testing, if we feel it is necessary, but Larry or Scott can answer that better than I probably could. We're talking about additional tests after Daytona if we feel like we need some more time to adapt to the cars.

ADAM SAAL: Greg, you pulled the first shift today. Kurt is not here, Matt is not here. Does this mean you're going to make one of those guys drive the first all-night shift at the Rolex 24?

GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, that would be something to do. I'll tell you what, though, I'll be excited when it's my opportunity, whether it's day or night or whatever. Just as long as the lights work, I'm going to be the guy.

I just can't wait. I'm really excited about it. I can't thank Larry and Scott enough for being willing to work with us and giving us this opportunity.

ADAM SAAL: It's good to have you here. We look forward to seeing you at Daytona Beach early in the New Year for the test days and of course for the Rolex 24 at Daytona February 3rd through February 6th. Greg, thank you very much and congratulations on being part of the No. 49 Crown Royal Ford Multimatic team.

GREG BIFFLE: Thank you, guys. See you.

ADAM SAAL: We'll continue with questions for Larry and Scott.

Q: After coming out of the gates strong at the Rolex 24 a few years ago, you were one of the first Daytona Prototypes out of the grid. We haven't seen so much of you lately. In that time it seems like some of the Daytona Prototype chassis that came along later, the Riley and the Crawford, seem to be more competitive. With these cars essentially locked down, how do you advance and develop the car to get competitive with the newer cars?

LARRY HOLT: That's actually a very astute observation. I think the first-generation guys like myself and Kevin (Doran) and Fabcar are maybe a little bit disadvantaged now. The later - I won't call them second-generation cars - but let's call them 1.5-generation cars, had some advantage. Obviously, very, very competent manufacturing and engineering companies are behind their success. They came in a little later, you know, maybe observed what was going on.

And, as things developed, when they came, they had a bit of an advantage. But I don't think that was as big a difference as me not continuing development as a race team. I still believe that's probably my biggest mistake here. The way we're going to stay competitive is to continue to develop.

I don't think you see a difference in the cars right now. I don't think the difference in the car is actually as big as the perception makes it look. There's a lot in race competency and the capability to run race cars and what you do in race engineering at the track and obviously driving, driver competency, all those things play together. I think Grand-Am has done an extremely good job of trying to lay down a level playing field for all of us.

So it's not like there's massive technology gaps here. Grand-Am is also being somewhat open to us first-generation manufacturers in allowing us to bring some changes to the party, and we've actually submitted some changes to Grand-Am just in the last three, four weeks that we've learned in our testing in the last three or four months. And they're having a look at those for us. I'm waiting to hear back on what they're going to see.

But there is some leniency within the rules package the way it is, and we have made quite a lot of changes. And our engine development company, Yates/Roush, they're also now bringing a lot in the last six months.

Even though Grand-Am would say that there's no development allowed, it's racing, everybody develops. We're developing. And, you know, I feel pretty confident we're going to be running up near the front.

Q: When you guys won the class in 2003, you admitted at the time and subsequent to that time, as well, that you had a pretty stout machine as compared to subsequent versions. In other words, it was built like a battleship, a brick house, something along those lines, to withstand the 24. Now you have 30 some odd cars that are going to be there. Scott alluded to it earlier by noting that it's going to be more akin to a Sprint race than a grind. How are you going to balance those two between building a car that's going to last and getting a car that's fast enough it will stay out there in front?

LARRY HOLT: I have got to do that sort of the same way I guess we've always done it, like we did at Le Mans when we won there in 2000 and like we have in other forms of racing.

Man, you remember my quotes pretty well there. That's true. I did say that we built a pretty stout piece, and we had. I think it's important to note at that time I think we were probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 170 pounds over the weight limit for the class when we went racing there in 2003.

When we ran our car at VIR, where actually we DNF'd with an engine problem while Scotty was leading, the car ran across the scales at the right weight at VIR. We were on the 2150 weight limit at that point with some ballast.

They subsequently now increased the weight to 2175. What we're doing is we're going to find a balance between the battleship configuration of 2003 and the sprint race configuration of VIR a couple of months ago. We have all those things in our toolbox. And although Scott does say it is going to be a sprint race, it's going to be a sprint race for stout cars.

And I think one of the things I keep hearing feedback about Multimatic's car is that it's extremely well-built with a high level of quality - good-built quality - and that we have proven time and again that it's pretty reliable.

So, you know, we're going to go hard, but we're going to go hard with something that I'm going to have a 100 percent confidence level in finishing this race. And I think because we've done both, that we have the answer to that.

Q: From what I remember, Yates was doing just about all the engine development for the Ford powerplant. You just said that it's now kind of a Yates and Roush blend. Is that correct that Roush is now getting involved in development of that motor?

LARRY HOLT: Well, I don't know how much you follow that stuff, but there has been an amalgamation of the Yates and Roush engine shops on the NEXTEL Cup side of things for the past year or so. And this program is now sort of part of that amalgamation.

In the end, is there any different technical input?  No.  That's an
organizational thing.  The same guys are working on this program.

I'll just correct something, when you said they are doing all the development work. The truth is that Yates/Roush and the group of guys that have been working on that, led by a guy named John Maddox have been doing all of the real hands-on development work and track support and building of the engines. But in the background, there's been a lot of support from Ford Motor Company and from Ford Racing Technologies (FRT).

I'd like all you guys to understand that one of the - I won't say it caused us grief - but one of the things that we're coming to the party with is basically a new motor. You know, when you look at what Pontiac has, that engine has been around since I was in diapers. This motor that we've got now is the modular motor that's only been around for like 10 years. And the development of a racing version of that is all fairly new stuff.

They've had to do a lot of work there. And Ford supported that very, very strongly from Dearborn. And a lot of things that have come to it like the lightweight heads, the intake manifold configuration, some of those kinds of things, those have come directly from guys like Andy Schwartz and the people at FRT.

So it's truly a very, very big cooperative effort here.  They've had a lot
of work to do.  Way more work than, say, TRD or Pontiac or those people.

Continued in part 3

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Paul Tracy , Jack Roush