Mexico City: This Week in Ford Racing 2006-02-28

Grand American Rolex Series Memo Gidley, driver of the Playboy/Uniden Ford Crawford, heads into this weekend's Mexico City Rolex Sports Car Series 250 as the defending race winner. Last year, Gidley, along with teammate Michael ...

Grand American Rolex Series

Memo Gidley, driver of the Playboy/Uniden Ford Crawford, heads into this weekend's Mexico City Rolex Sports Car Series 250 as the defending race winner. Last year, Gidley, along with teammate Michael McDowell, started from the pole position and scored the teams first Grand-Am victory at the 2.5 mile road course.

Memo Gidley -- No. 19 Playboy/Uniden Ford Crawford

You are a defending race winner in the prototype class in Mexico. Talk about going down there with a new chassis and a new motor package? "I'm real excited. We've tested in the off-season and we've already had the first race at Daytona. Every time we've unloaded that Ford Crawford we have been fast so I'm real excited. I think the track at Mexico is going to suit the motor, I know the chassis works good and I'm sure the Playboy/Uniden car is going to be awesome."

How do you anticipate the track CONDITIONS in Mexico, especially with the NASCAR Busch Series running the same weekend? "As far as tire, it's really hard to know until you get down there. For sure those cars throw a lot of rubber off the edge of the tire. There should be a lot of marbles out wide, which depending on how they prep the track before our race, we will obviously have to take multiple lines with the slower cars on the track the entire time. That should make it real challenging and interesting. They are shortening the track a little, which is a bit different from how we were last time we were down there. The basic characteristics, which are the esses and turn one and turn three complex, will be very similar. I'm excited, it's going to be cool racing down there with the Busch Series."

HOW IS THE ATMOSPHERE WITH THE MEXICAN FANS? "The atmosphere down in Mexico has always been great. Every time that I have been down in Mexico, racing Champ Cars, or even last weekend when I was racing a go kart down there, it's just a passion for the Mexican people to watch people race. They're loving it, you know. It's great, because as a competitor once the green flag drops, you are not really aware of what's around you but throughout the weekend when you are walking around and talking to people it's nice to have that sort of passion and emotion that the Mexican people show. For me, it's cool because not only am I going back there to race, but I was born in Mexico, I have dual citizenship and I have a lot of friends and family down there. It gives them a chance to see me and I have a great time going down there and its just a really cool place to go and run. The stadium seating at the track is unbelievable. It looks like it goes straight up and right on the edge of the track. When those things are full of fans it's pretty neat to see."

HOW DOES THE TRACK COMPARE TO THE OTHERS THAT THE ROLEX SERIES RUNS. "The track is flat and there is no elevation, although the corners are slightly banked. It's hard to see, but the banking is there. The uniqueness of that track is the esses on the back straightaway. I have never been on a race track that has that many turns continuously looped together. It's literally like an eight turn S-turn. Eight turns is more than a lot of race tracks have in the total, so it's real unique and it's really awesome to drive."

Who do you see as the strongest competition IN MEXICO? YOU GUYS DOMINATED LAST YEAR WITH THE POLE AND THE WIN. "Yeah, we were fastest in just about every practice session. The series has grown so much and now the depth has grown. It's not like they have added a ton more cars, but now all the cars are really good. The SunTrust car is going to be good. Ganassi's car is going to be good. Some of the other Pontiac Riley's like the Gurney car and the Michael Shank Racing car will be good. You just never really know. But going into it, I think we are going to be setting the pace. We've just been so consistently fast and the Ford motor has been running so great. I think we are going to be able to run with anybody, it will just come down to racing them and beating them.

***

Roush-Yates Engines builds the 5.0 Liter "Cammer" Ford engine that provides power for all the Ford Daytona Prototype teams in this weekend Rolex Sports Car Series 250 in Mexico City. John Maddox is an engine program manager for the company and talked about the success of the engine program.

John Maddox -- Engine Program Manager, Roush-Yates Engines

HOW LONG HAS ROUSH-YATES ENGINES BEEN BUILDING ENGINES FOR THE GRAND AM SERIES? "It began with Yates Racing Engines in 2003. We started with Multimatic, winning the Daytona Prototype class at the first Grand Am race for Daytona Prototypes with this particular engine. Since then we have had what I call disappointing success due to limited teams and customers. But we have worked on the performance of the engine and the weight of the engine now for two and a half years. The engine has lost 30 pounds by working on lightening the block, heads and manifold. We are looking to lose more weight off the engine via carbon fiber rocker covers which are in testing procedures right now."

IS THIS THE CLOSEST RACING ENGINE THAT'S BASED ON THE STREET ENGINE? "It is, this is the only racing engine out there that actually has off-the-shelf OEM components. Those parts include the rocker covers, the front engine cover, the timing chain and damper, the finger followers and lash adjusters, we also use an OEM throttle body."

HOW MANY OF THE ENGINE PARTS DOES ROUSH-YATES MANUFACTURE IN HOUSE? "We have our own machining and CNC facility in house that we use. Some major jobs, due to the structuring of importance to inside the company, I have jobbed out."

ROUSH YATES IS KNOWN FOR THE PUSHROD ENGINES IN NASCAR. IS THERE ANYTHING THAT TRANSLATES OVER TO THE OVERHEAD CAM ENGINE? "There are some common vendors and then there are some that are not so common. We are trying to keep this engine program very cost efficient. We know how to build very expensive engines. We are learning how to build engines that are marketable and less costly."

YOU 'RE ABLE TO MONITOR ENGINES FUNCTIONS WHILE ON THE TRACK, WHAT TYPE OF PROGRAM ALLOWS YOU TO DO THAT? "There are different systems on-board the car that are engine management systems. We support three separate engine management systems here in the company. One is EFI, the second is Motec and the third and probably most important is Bosch. Next year Bosch is going to be the required ECU for 2007 and on. We just went on-line with the Bosch system for our latest customer, Tracy Krohn. Krohn Racing now has the first two Riley chassis Ford powered Daytona prototypes."

DOES ANY OF THAT ENGINE MONITORING TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER OVER TO THE CUP SIDE FOR TESTING? "Most of the guys on the Cup side use the Pi Data System and they're more geared towards chassis dynamics. The Pi systems are extensively geared towards chassis dynamics. On the engine side, we try to keep our focus on engine dynamics and engine control."

WHAT'S THE MAINTENANCE PROGRAM ON ONE OF THE ROUSH-YATES ENGINES AND HOW BUSY ARE YOU ON RACE WEEKENDS? Our normal spec engines run 2,000 miles. So they are good for three to four races before the engine needs to be rebuilt. It's not nearly as intense because it's pretty difficult to change engines in these cars, so we try not to have to do that.

ANY DIFFERENCE IN BUILDING A MOTOR FOR A SPRINT RACE LIKE MEXICO COMPARED TO AN ENDURANCE RACE LIKE DAYTONA? "We do look at keeping the cylinder sealed up a little better for the sprint races. As far as our spec goes, we try not to change it between the two. That keeps our inventory costs down. We don't want to get in a situation like the Busch and Cup guys with the different engine specs. They have the restrictor plate spec engine and an open race spec engine, so we try and stay as far away from that as we can. Our Daytona race engines ran 2,600 miles thru practice and racing and our spec is at 2,000, so we were not too over on the mileage.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Memo Gidley , Michael McDowell , Tracy Krohn , Michael Shank
Teams Yates Racing , Michael Shank Racing