CHAMPCAR/CART: Bruce Wood, Cosworth Racing interview

The program director for Cosworth Racing's CART program, Bruce Wood, has had a hand in designing the last three engines that Cosworth has built for CART. After assisting with the design of the XB engine, Wood served as chief designer for both the...

The program director for Cosworth Racing's CART program, Bruce Wood, has had a hand in designing the last three engines that Cosworth has built for CART. After assisting with the design of the XB engine, Wood served as chief designer for both the XD and the XF engine, which won seven races during the 2000 season and won Ford-Cosworth's first manufacturers' championship since 1995. Heading into the first CART race of 2001, Wood discusses a variety of topics, including Cosworth's winter testing and development program, the effect of boost reduction, Ford-Cosworth's team and driver lineup, and his thoughts on the upcoming season.

BRUCE WOOD - Ford-Cosworth CART Program Director -

WHAT KIND OF DEVELOPMENT WORK HAS COSWORTH DONE DURING THE OFFSEASON ON THE XF ENGINE?

"It's been a very different offseason this year in that we've only had 10 days of testing per car, and that has been very closely guarded by the teams so it's been quite difficult for us to get specific engine testing done. However the days in which we've been able to run have been very, very effective. At the end of last season we felt that the engine was still fairly powerful but we had some reliability issues. Although we faired better than everybody else at Fontana, we still failed a couple of engines, so we wanted to focus very much on (improving) reliability during the winter. But we also wanted to work on making the driveability better. After we won a couple of street races midway through last season at Cleveland and Toronto we felt like we were in better shape than we really were on the street courses and the road courses. It soon became apparent in the later part of the season, particularly in Vancouver, that we were outclassed, particularly by Honda, in terms of driveability. Over the winter we've spent a solid seven weeks on the 17G (transient dyno) in Detroit where we found a tremendous amount (of information) there. We recently had two or three specific days of engine testing with Team Rahal and Player's-Forsythe at the Homestead road course where we threw everything we'd done over the winter on the engine, in terms of hardware and software, and we were very pleased with the results. I spoke to both Kenny (Brack) and Max (Papis) over the last couple of days and they're both very pleased."

COMPARED TO THIS POINT LAST SEASON, DO YOU FEEL CONFIDENT HEADING INTO THE 2001 SEASON WITH THE PERFORMANCE YOU'VE SEEN FROM THE ENGINE?

"I think because of last year's spring training, which we didn't have any cars running at this year, we were pretty confident that we'd begin the season with a pretty powerful engine - I think there was no question of that. What we didn't know last year was whether it really had race condition durability to make itself a contender, so I think this year we have that under our belt. I'm certain that we've gone forward from where we were last year in terms of reliability and we feel like we've got a pretty solid product under our belt, which we really didn't know at this point last year even with all the testing. So this year we have the advantage of beginning the season knowing we've got a solidly reliable product, although without having spring training this year we don't quite know where we stand competitively. I'd have to say that none of our times have been particularly stellar. We showed quite well in Phoenix, but we certainly haven't been the quickest around Sebring or Firebird during the winter. But it's very difficult to tell from unofficial testing times because you have no idea what tires or fuel loads people are running. I'd say we're fairly comfortable that we have a powerful engine, we've got a reliable engine and we think we have a pretty driveable engine, although we'll know a lot more an hour into practice on Friday! But I think a track like the one in Monterrey will be a good one for a season opener because for us it will be immediately obvious whether we are where we need to be in terms of driveability. The track should be completely green so there's going to be a lot of difficulty getting traction and driveability issues, so if we get through that cleanly I think we'll be in good shape for the season. If we struggle, well, we'll know exactly where we need to concentrate."

FROM WHAT YOU'VE SEEN IN TESTING, HOW MUCH HAS THE REDUCTION IN BOOST PRESSURE AFFECTED ENGINE PERFORMANCE?

"For us it really hasn't been too big a deal. The engine always ran happily at 37 inches (of boost) and we needed to make some new pieces for the wastegates to improve the (exhaust) control at 37 inches, but in terms of basic hardware for the we really haven't changed anything. I know there was a lot of talk last year about people making a lot of modifications to their engines, but I have to admit I felt that that was 'blowing smoke' on the part of some of the manufacturers that didn't want to make the change. Certainly we haven't changed anything like that and I'd be very, very surprised if anybody else had either. Initially we lost 60 to 70 horsepower through the reduction of three inches of boost, and we've made maybe 30 percent of it back. We'll have to see what everybody else has back, but I'm pretty certain we've all lost. I mean we're very much into the laws of physics rather than anything clever that one manufacturer can do different to the next, so I'm pretty sure we'll have all lost the same amount of power."

WHAT KIND OF FEEDBACK HAVE YOU RECEIVED FROM THE DRIVERS ABOUT WHAT IT'S LIKE TO DRIVE THE ENGINES WITH LESS BOOST? HAS IT BEEN THAT NOTICEABLE OF A DIFFERENCE TO THEM?

"It's kind of funny because I guess we did it for their safety but none of them like it. Max (Papis) describes it as driving with the handbrake on and Alex (Tagliani) was very critical of it when he first drove it, saying it was horrible and doesn't like it at all. But I guess they'll get used to it."

WHAT HAVE THEY SAID IS THE DIFFERENCE? IS THERE LESS ACCELERATION? LESS TOP-END SPEED?

"I think the data tells them the top speed is down. For years and years of driving around the test tracks they go to they're used to seeing particular speeds, so obviously the data tells them it's down. But I think it's very difficult for you or I to imagine. (LAUGHING) I mean, if you take 60 horsepower out of 800-plus I find it kind of surprising that they can tell any difference, but I guess they're very sensitive to it. They all say that in terms of acceleration they can feel a big difference - the car is much slower off the corner, and I'd say in terms of top speed all the data they're used to seeing shows them something quite different. The reality is I think they'll all get used to it and realize that the reduction was done for everybody's safety. But I have to be honest and say that None of them have gotten out of the car and said, 'that feels much better.'" (LAUGHING)

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE CHANGES FORD-COSWORTH HAS UNDERGONE DURING THE OFFSEASON? YOU'VE GONE FROM A VETERAN GROUP OF DRIVERS LAST SEASON TO A GROUP THAT'S MUCH YOUNGER AND LESS EXPERIENCED.

"We're pretty excited about it. I'd be the first say that after a 10-year relationship with Newman-Haas and the Andretti's I was sorry to see them go and we'd be fools to underestimate the loss that both Newman-Haas and Patrick Racing will mean to us. If you look back over the last five years or so, I think all but one of our wins has come from Newman-Haas or Patrick, so it would be a fool who didn't look at the numbers and say we'd lost some strength there. Equally, I think Team Rahal has progressed steadily over the last few years and I think with Kenny (Brack) and Max (Papis) they have two drivers who are as good as any out there. Last year, certainly for my money, (Juan) Montoya was better than anybody, and now that he's gone I think we have drivers as good as anybody in Max and Kenny, and also in Patrick (Carpentier) and Alex (Tagliani) as well."

YOU'VE ALSO ADDED A FEW NEW TEAMS AND HAD SOME INTERNAL CHANGES WITHIN THE RETURNING TEAMS.

"Team Rahal's engineering strength has improved, but I think one of the best things that has happened there is how much the team, and Max and Kenny in particular, make us (Cosworth Racing) feel part of the team. Both Max and Kenny have been over here (to Northampton, England) to chat with everybody in the shop and we all feel as though we're contributing to their success. With Newman-Haas it was a bit more of a clinical relationship, if you like. Certainly from the driver point of view we never got anything very positive from Michael. As much as I think Michael is a great driver, he did not get the best out of people at Cosworth. Conversely, Max and Kenny have been tremendous in that respect and I think it'll make us stronger as a group. They have everybody very much aligned behind them to do the absolute best we can. I think that the engineer at Player's-Forsythe is very much strengthened with the additions of Bruce Ashmore and Tony Cicale. I don't really know Tony but I know Bruce very well from many years of working together on various projects and I think he'll bring an enormous amount (of help) to them. I think their car preparation has always been second to none - the cars are always turned out beautifully and it's very rare that you see a Player's car sidelined with a mechanical problem. Their driver lineup, I think, is good - Alex is kind of young and fiery and Patrick is perhaps more consistent. The one thing they've missed in the past is depth of engineering, and I think with Bruce and Tony on board now they have that and should be lined up for a great season. And like you said, there are some new guys we have on board for this year. Obviously we've had Bryan Herta drive for us before and win a couple of races for us, and we're very happy to have him back again. I think that team will be very good - they've certainly got considerable infrastructure there just to run the one car. Sigma Autosport has Oriol Servia, who was last year's runner-up for rookie of the year, and has given us every reason to believe that he'll do well. And Herdez Bettenhausen has been the wild card in many ways during winter testing and has set times that have been as fast as anybody, so we're looking forward to it. We'd be foolish if we didn't acknowledge that we've lost a considerable point scoring capacity, but equally it's been kind of a breath of fresh air for us. We have an exciting and rewarding relationship with Team Rahal, we're much closer with Player's-Forsythe than we ever have been before, and it's nice to be part of new teams which we fully expect to be making top-six finishes and one or two trips to the podium this year. We're cautiously optimistic, I guess."

LAST YEAR WAS WIDELY RECOGNIZED AS THE MOST COMPETITIVE SEASON IN CART HISTORY. DO YOU SEE THE UPCOMING SEASON AS BEING EVEN MORE COMPETITIVE?

"I think it will eclipse last year. The biggest changes in the series will be Toyota going from having one very strong team to having three very strong teams. Ganassi (Racing), Newman-Haas and Patrick (Racing) will be very, very strong for them. Toyota's engine last year was very good and I think what they lacked was strength in numbers in terms of drivers that were likely to get podium finishes for them. They now have that. Honda had that last year, bolstered even further this year with the addition of the (Michael) Andretti and (Alex) Zanardi coming back. Toyota has strengthened its lineup enormously; Honda has strengthened its lineup considerably, and I expect both companies to have a strong product. But I think it will be a hugely competitive season, and that's why reliability is, more than ever, going to be key this year. There's going to be a lot of different people winning races - I don't think it's going to be like years past where one driver wins a whole lot of races, so if you have a single DNF it'll hurt you badly. If you win seven races and have a DNF, it's not such a big deal. But if you only win two races in a season and have a DNF, it's a much bigger percentage. So I think it'll be very competitive - even more than ever."

COSWORTH RACING IS ON THE VERGE OF ITS RECORD 200TH WIN IN CHAMP CARS (197) AND I'M SURE YOU'D LIKE TO DEFEND THE MANUFACTURERS' CHAMPIONSHIP AS WELL AS WIN A DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP. ARE THOSE GOALS ATTAINABLE?

"It's going to be very difficult to win the manufacturers' championship. Last year perhaps we had a greater level of experience amongst our teams and drivers and experience counts a lot for consistency, which gets you points and wins you championships. Having said that, I do believe right now that our product will be a little bit better than the other guys'. Our teams have certainly done everything we could've asked of them to answer any criticisms that people might've had at the end of last year, so I think it's possible. Drivers' championship - I guess only one driver wins it so I'd say we've got as good a chance as anybody. I suspect that the winner of the championship will win only two or three races, and I think we've got four or five guys that could win three or four races, so I think that's very possible too."

LOOKING TO THE FIRST RACE OF THE SEASON IN MONTERREY, WHAT KIND OF CHALLENGES ARE YOU PRESENTED WITH GOING TO A NEW TRACK THAT YOU'VE NEVER SEEN?

"I think it will be difficult. We've seen a map of the track and the straightaways are short. We hoped that we might have a power advantage going into the season, but with a very short straight it's unlikely that will help us very much. So it's looking like it's going to be a driveability circuit, particularly because it will be completely "green" and I think traction will be a big deal. We're expecting it to be pretty hot and that can prove some problems for engines. We had a few instances over the winter where we think it's to our advantage to run the engine a little cooler, but mainly I think it's going to turn into a driveability circuit."

AND JUST HOPE IT DOESN'T RAIN. (LAUGHING)

"And if it does, that driveability will go up another notch. And then just question marks about ... things like Long Beach we know has a very slow hairpin so we spend a lot of time trying to map out those issues, so we can only guess what issues might get thrown up due to particular corners in Mexico. But we have a lot of running on Friday so I'm pretty comfortable that by the end of the day we'll have a good idea of where we stand."

-FRT-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Oriol Servia , Bryan Herta , Bruce Ashmore