Ian Willis - Ford interview 2008-09-16

Brian Frisselle and Mark Wilkins, co-drivers of the No. 61 Ford-Riley Daytona Prototype, finished 11th in last season's Grand-Am Rolex Series finale at Miller Motorsports Park. Ian Willis, who is the team principal for AIM Autosport, talks about...

Brian Frisselle and Mark Wilkins, co-drivers of the No. 61 Ford-Riley Daytona Prototype, finished 11th in last season's Grand-Am Rolex Series finale at Miller Motorsports Park. Ian Willis, who is the team principal for AIM Autosport, talks about his team's strong season and the adjustment made in switching over to Ford this year.

TALK ABOUT HOW THIS SEASON HAS GONE. "We've had good pace all year. The start of the season was fraught with good old racing bad luck. A few problems of our making, being a new team there was a few small mistakes. We also had quite a run of bad luck that robbed some certain podiums from us midseason, but once we broke through at Montreal that validated the pace that we've had all year and its amazing what a win will do. A win boosts everybody's confidence and changes everybody's attitude. That certainly has carried through the last bunch of races and going into the final race. The first two positions in the championship are locked up, but third place is within reach and we're definitely reaching for the bar."

WHAT KIND OF ADJUSTMENTS DID YOU GO THROUGH IN SWITCHING MANUFACTURERS? "Certainly, switching to Ford has been very good for us as a team in terms of the power plant and power delivery. The engine has more torque than what we ran last year. Its center of gravity is a little bit better. So, as far as the vehicle dynamics go and how we set the car up for the torque and the center of gravity, there's been some slight changes. The thing that's really helped us in the most in that area is working with Ford Racing Technology guys, Pat DiMarco and his group, to give us a better understanding of the car from a vehicle dynamics point of view. That's certainly helped us with how we roll off the trailer. The saying is, 'If you roll off the trailer fast, the weekend's a lot easier.' We've certainly been doing that this year. When we haven't rolled off the trailer fast we've used tools and what we've learned and been able to get the car competitive. I think Barber was a classic example of that. We struggled, we had our worst qualifying all year, if seventh is bad, and quite frankly we were struggling to have the car work well and we just rolled up our sleeves and went through our numbers and were able to put a car on the track that just about won the race. We feel like the adjustment has been an easy transition with the support of Roush Yates and the engines that they build and the Ford Racing Technology group and the support we get there. Those two things combined have moved us into Grand-Am calling us the breakthrough team of the year."

YOU FINISHED 11TH AT MILLER LAST SEASON. WHAT DO YOU FEEL YOUR CHANCES ARE OF GETTING INTO THE TOP 10 THIS YEAR? "We're shooting for the podium. We're six points out of third place. It's a fairly narrow point spread. If we win and the 58 car finishes fourth, that will move us to third in the points and as we finish second, third [etc.], the point spread closes up per position, which means they'd have to finish further back. We feel like Miller is a good track. We ran pretty much top five in the race last year and very late in the race, we had a drive shaft failure with two laps to go because we picked up some debris. Since then we've actually made some modifications to the rear of the car to protect that area from that same type of thing happening. Last year we were on track for a top-five finish I think and this year I don't see any reason, with the way that we've been running - other than it being a 1,000-kilometer race and all the things that can happen - but our pace is such that I think we should be looking for a podium and trying to further move up in the points . If we can finish third in the points I think I'll be over the moon with the results considering that we came away from Daytona at the start of the year in 19th."

THIS IS THE SECOND STOP AT MILLER FOR THE SERIES. EVERYONE SHOULD FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE THE SECOND TIME AROUND. "For Mark [Wilkins] and Brian [Frisselle], they've been there before in the DP car. The only difference will be the Ford power, which we feel is superior to what we had last year. That will help. It's a relatively high-altitude track, so power is important because air is a bit thinner. The third driver in our lineup is Cristiano da Matta, who has never been to Miller. He's a little more concerned because it's a four-and-a-half mile track with 23 turns. So, what we've done is we've actually sent some on-board video from our car from last year to him and he's been watching that. He's actually going to get some seat time in one of the Miller school Mustangs just to get more familiarized to the track, which will make it that much easier the first time he gets in the DP car to do some laps. It is a track that doesn't have a lot of features or visual references for the drivers."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Mark Wilkins , Brian Frisselle , Cristiano da Matta