CHAMPCAR/CART: Preview of 1999 Ford Cosworth Champ Car Engine

FedEx Championship The 1999 Ford-Cosworth Champ Car engine, the driving force behind Newman-Haas Racing, Patrick Racing, Team Rahal and Payton-Coyne Racing, will be banking on the off-season development program undertaken by Cosworth Racing to...

FedEx Championship

The 1999 Ford-Cosworth Champ Car engine, the driving force behind Newman-Haas Racing, Patrick Racing, Team Rahal and Payton-Coyne Racing, will be banking on the off-season development program undertaken by Cosworth Racing to power one on its drivers to the PPG Cup Championship and Ford-Cosworth back to the CART Manufacturers' Championship.

In a series filled with numerous combinations of chassis, tires and engines, the on-going battle between CART's four engine manufacturers may be as intense a rivalry as there is in major league auto racing. That rivalry only intensified when Ford bought its long-time partner, Cosworth Racing, outright, late last year.

Ian Bisco, vice president, Cosworth Racing, discussed the strides made in performance during the off-season, Ford's plans for the future and the benefits of engine packaging and skyrocketing rev limits.

WHAT 'S NEW ABOUT THE 1999 FORD-COSWORTH ENGINE? "The changes and improvements that we have made to the 1999 Ford-Cosworth engine started coming about midway through last season. We have worked a lot in the manner of useable power and giving the driver more manageable power. We have made some big gains in that area. Although ultimate horsepower was not a specific goal, it was something we worked on. We have actually increased the top-end horsepower to the same extent that we did the year before. We have made quite a big gain in both areas during the winter. We feel very good about the engine this year. We have a few reliability issues we are working on, but I think we can resolve those very quickly."

THIS IS THE FOURTH YEAR OF THE CURRENT FORD-COSWORTH ENGINE DESIGN. THE OTHER MANUFACTURERS INVOLVED IN THE SERIES SEEM TO ROLL OUT NEW ENGINES ON AN ALMOST YEARLY BASIS. WHAT DETERMINES WHEN AN ENGINE WILL BE REDESIGNED? "Typically, we will design an engine to run three years, but the current engine design is in its fourth year. Some of that decision revolves around the uncertainty in regards to engine rules for next year and you have to remember we have had a change in ownership this year when Ford bought us. Those factors played a part in our decision to not design a new engine. Those factors all add up. But, the bottom line is that we thought we still have a good package and one that can still be improved on and do quite well. If there is anything that we may have a deficit on right now with the competition, it's the size of the engine and the weight of the engine."

HAVE YOU PUT MUCH WORK INTO MAKING THE ENGINE LIGHTER? "It's fair to say that the engine is about the same weight as it was four years ago. We have not spent much time looking for ways to make it lighter. But that is not to say engine components have not changed. The block has changed, the head has evolved and the crank and rods have been continually developed. So there has been a significant constant evolution of the engine. By no means is this the same engine that came out four years ago -- it's substantially different. From the outside, the engine is identical. This year it is safe to say we concentrated on smaller areas of the engine to improve. Knowing too that we had an edge on performance last year, it did not really pay to spend a great deal of money and funds to change it when we are looking at designing a completely new engine for next year."

WHEN THE INITIAL ENGINE WAS FIRST INTRODUCED BACK IN 1996, IT WAS THE LIGHTEST AND SMALLEST ON THE GRID AND THAT TREND HAS CONTINUED AMONGST THE MANUFACTURERS. DO YOU THINK WE WILL CONTINUE TO SEE THE TREND TOWARD SMALLER ENGINES OR DO YOU EVENTUALLY REACH A LIMIT WHEN YOU BEGIN TO SACRIFICE PERFORMANCE, POWER AND RELIABILITY? "I think Mercedes may have gone a bit too far in making their engine small. I think it is possible to make a compromise in the key areas of engine design. We also work with the chassis manufacturers to find out what they perceive as the ultimate package. Bare in mind that we are limited by the rules and regulations by the size of the monocoque. What you don't want to do is build an engine that is too small or too light, because at that point it can become fragile and during a race it can begin to twist and break. Racing on the ovals in this series puts an extreme amount of load on the engines. But, I think there is room for our engines to be smaller and lighter than what we have now without sacrificing reliability and power."

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES TO A SMALL ENGINE PACKAGE? "If you talk to the manufacturers and the car designers they will tell you the major benefit in a smaller engine package is getting the engine hood low to get clear air around the rear wing. If you can keep the rear of the car clean, the rear wing can work more efficiently."

YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU HAVE MORE HORSEPOWER THAN LAST YEAR. DOES THAT MEAN YOU INCREASED THE REV LIMITER FROM LAST YEAR? "We did increase it slightly and we are working to increase it a bit more. But, the higher you go, the more difficult it is to continue to increase the RPMs because you reach that 'wall' if you will."

IS THE 1999 FORD-COSWORTH ENGINE THE HIGHEST REVVING OF THE CHAMP CAR ENGINES COMPETING? "We are pretty close. It's not really a secret anymore because there is technology out there that allows you to determine what RPMs the cars are running at, and it can be done through video recordings that are done on television. There are some manufacturers who are running at 16,000 RPM. So, we are not the highest revving, but we are pretty close."

IF YOU DON'T GAIN HORSEPOWER FROM INCREASING THE REV LIMIT OF THE ENGINE, THAN WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS? "You actually lift up the operating range of which you can run so the driver has a greater useable range. If you can increase the top-end of the engine by 1,000 RPM, you don't necessarily have to increase the power. You can maintain the power and continue to maintain the engine's inertia. The time you are actually at the top-end RPM when you think about it, is very small. You spend a lot more time building to that area. Let's say you are running 16,000 RPMs, the amount of time the engine is actually operating at 16,000 is a very, very small amount of time. A lot of time you are running in the 14,000 to 15,000 rev range, so what you are actually doing is bringing the engine up to the max power range and increasing the range that the engine can perform at max power. If you can increase the top-end RPM range, the entire operating range of the engine moves up. For example, some of the street courses we race on have very low speed corners. Long Beach is one of them where you can get down to 4,000-5,000 RPM, and if you increase the top end to allow you to get out of that same corner at 6,000 RPM it is a lot easier to get going at 6,000 RPM than it is at 4,000 RPM. So, whenever you can increase the RPM it's an advantage."

Ford-Cosworth drivers Adrian Fernandez, Max Papis and P.J. Jones comment on the latest Ford Cosworth Champ Car engine from the perspective of a driver who had driven it before (Fernandez), and from two drivers who have come over from Toyota's program (Papis, Jones).

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ -40- TECATE/QUAKER STATE FORD-COSWORTH --YOU HAVE BEEN WORKING QUITE A BIT WITH THE FORD-COSWORTH ENGINEERS DURING THE OFF-SEASON. HOW MUCH OF AN IMPROVEMENT IS THERE OVER LAST YEAR'S ENGINE? "A lot. When I came here last year and had my first test with the Ford, I got out of the car and told them there was something wrong with the engine. They told me that this was just the way it was. Then I told them that they had a big problem. From there to the middle of the season last year they really worked hard to improve the driveability and I was impressed with what they accomplished. What they did to improve the engine in that time frame was very, very impressive. I hope that all the work they had done during the winter will pay off in 1999."

MAX PAPIS -7- MILLER LITE FORD-COSWORTH -- ON HIS NEW PACKAGE AND WHAT'S TO COME . . . "This is just the beginning and there is a lot more to come. We are going to surprise a lot of people this year in the Miller Lite car. We have a good package with the team, my engineer and Bobby (Rahal) supporting us. With Ford, I have a winning package. The Ford engine has been developed and has won races before, it's a proven package."

P.J. JONES -20- VISTEON FORD-COSWORTH -- ON THE FORD-COSWORTH ENGINE . . . "The last quarter throttle is there. It's a big difference. Day in and day out last year, the Fords were the engines that were posting the fastest trap speeds. I started out with the Reynard for my first two tests, which was good. I am real comfortable here, I'm relaxed and I enjoy coming to the track again."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , P.J. Jones