CHAMPCAR/CART: St. Pete: Ford - Bruce Wood interview

This Week in Ford Racing February 18, 2003 Champ Car World Series This season marks the first of a two-year deal that Ford inked with CART to be to sole engine manufacturer of the Champ Car World Series. Going into the season -opening race at...

This Week in Ford Racing
February 18, 2003

Champ Car World Series

This season marks the first of a two-year deal that Ford inked with CART to be to sole engine manufacturer of the Champ Car World Series. Going into the season -opening race at St. Petersburg, Cosworth engineer Bruce Wood talks about the engine builder's new role in Champ Car racing for 2003.

BRUCE WOOD - CART Program Director, Cosworth Racing

HOW HAS THE PRESEASON TESTING, ESPECIALLY SEBRING, GONE FOR YOU SO FAR THIS YEAR? "Overall, we're very pleased, if you go right back the first test we did at Firebird, which was right after Mexico City, that was really a hard slug out in the desert. I guess in the end we were there a week putting in a couple hundred miles a day and we finally got that engine to 1,200 miles. I think that surprised quite a lot of people, and I think that it was definitely sort of feather in the cap because that was obviously our first track outing, it was nice to get that under our belt. Really, from there we never looked back in a sense. The first car wasn't delivered until Christmas time so the first sort of testing in Angus really started in January. If you include the running that we did at Laguna and then at spring training we've actually done nearly 1,350 miles on the track. You add to that the eight engines that we've run on the dyno, all to 1,200 miles, that's another 10,000 miles so we've got about 25,000 miles split equally between dyno and track testing, which is a pretty big number. In all of that we've only had two failures, one on the dyno and one with Paul Tracy at Sebring at the track. Both failures were at about 1,000 miles, both were exactly the same failure - a failure mechanism that we understand very well and we've actually put some things in place as a result of that. Spring training was very, very good for us, somewhat to our surprise. We did discover this problem with Paul's engine which was the same that we saw on the dyno, but the dyno test we felt was a lot harsher, so we were surprised to see it at the track. But it was good information, and three weeks before the race, so there was plenty of time to do something about it. We go into St. Petersburg with a slightly revised engine map, which we think will eliminate that problem, so we're really very happy. Two failures out of 25,000-odd miles we don't think is too bad, and hopefully, we've now nipped that particular mechanism in the bud so it won't happen on the track this weekend.

I KNOW THAT THE MOST EXTENSIVE SESSION IN WHICH ALL THE TEAMS AND DRIVERS WERE TOGETHER WAS IN SEBRING. WHAT HAVE BEEN THEIR IMPRESSIONS AND POSITIVE REMARKS OR MAYBE SOME COMPLAINTS THAT THEY MAY HAVE THAT YOU CAN IMPROVE UPON? "Everybody's been extremely positive and extremely generous to us. I think a lot of people have been surprised by the performance of the engine. That there really is 750 horsepower there and it really is still there 1,200 miles later. So I think I'd say a lot of people have been very complimentary of the performance of the engine and the fact that the engine performance doesn't drop off significantly with age. The driveability on the track of the engine again has been perceived as quite good. The two biggest problems that have been highlighted to us are actually getting out of the pit box, actually that first couple of seconds of leaving the pit box where the engine has been stalling. The other issue is when you're on pit lane, speed limit in first gear, although it holds the speed quite consistently, it's very rough in so doing, so it's a real on-and-off sensation and the driver has a sort of feeling of being shaken to pieces in the cockpit. But, again, spring training was very good. In fact, Newman Haas pointed out the problem leaving the pit box and I saw Sebastian stall and Bruno do exactly the same, thing so we were able to make a change there. With that said, the pit lane speed limit is a little more difficult to fix, but again it's something else we're working on. Generally speaking, everyone has been very complimentary."

I UNDERSTAND THAT A LOT OF DRIVERS WERE ASKING YOU ABOUT THOSE PROBLEMS AND WHETHER YOU WERE GOING TO MAKE CHANGES, AND YOU WERE VERY HONEST IN ANSWERING THOSE QUESTIONS. DID THE DRIVERS UNDERSTAND THAT THESE PROBLEMS WILL BE SHARED BY EVERYONE? "Some problems, like stalling in the pit box, is clearly unacceptable. We don't want somebody to lose a race when they're leading because they stall in the pit box. So, we've actually done quite a lot more since then and we were actually able to test it on the third day at spring training because we kind of did the work overnight on the first and second day and we were able to test something different. In fact, we got an e-mail from Newman Haas saying thanks for the pit exit changes, and I think they were expressing what everybody up and down pit lane felt that we'd made that much better, so we're pretty comfortable now that the stalling in the pit lane problem has gone away. Even there, though, it's going to be interesting because the drivers have such varieties of experience. We're saying to them that you just have to hold the throttle flat to the floor in the pit box when you leave and the engine will sort itself out. Jimmy Vasser does this well, but he's been doing it for a number of years and has no hesitation, and we'll be okay, but some of the new guys are very nervous of just flooring the throttle on a 750-horsepower engine and believing that it's all going to drive itself out. Because that's not what it was like in Atlantic's or F3000 or any of those things. So I think some of the guys that are new to the series have a much bigger learning experience to get their heads around what these cars can do. But yes, there are some things that aren't acceptable and that's one that we've put right. In general, the drivers like the torque maps for sure, some the torque maps will suit some of their driving styles and not suit others, but that's the name of the game. Its the same for everybody, and I think that they will understand that there will be days that they don't like it, but I think they all recognize that it's the for the good of the series."

EACH ENGINE SEEMS TO HAVE HAD A DIFFERENT PERSONALITY. CAN YOU COMPARE AND CONTRAST THE PERSONALITY OR DRIVING CHARACTERISTICS OF LAST YEARS XF TO THE XFE? HOW DIFFERENT OR SIMILAR ARE THEY? "If you go right back to the XB, then sort of driveability all throughout the last decade and you compare and contrast the Honda, Toyota and Cosworth, Cosworth has always been at the top of the three in terms of ultimate power, but not having such good driveability as Honda particularly. Certainly, if you go right back to the XB, then I'd say our driveability was pretty poor and Honda certainly brought entirely new standards with their engines. They'd got much better, basically because we started looking at it for the first the time. The F was a big step forward because we started using the transient dyno in Detroit. We'd taken on some new people here and suddenly we had a better understanding of the problem that we were trying to fix, and so we've got progressively better and better and I guess the only thing you'd have to say from the XF of last year and the XFE of this year is that, inevitably, it's got a little bit worse. If you consider what happened is that the boost has gone down and down and down over the years until we were down at 34 inches last year, which you know is only four inches above atmospheric, so when the engine comes on boost it isn't like there is this enormous 400-horsepower kick in the back. Now, we've had to go right back up to 41 ½ and a half inches boost to get the power at lower speed, so there really is that kick in the back when it comes into boost. So, if you drew a graph of driveability over the last decade, it's got better and better and better and probably peaked last year and now its gone down a bit again, but that's the nature of the beast."

WITH THINGS LIKE TRACTION CONTROL GONE AND NOW DRIVEABILITY COMING DOWN, WILL THIS ENGINE AND THIS YEAR'S CAR BE MORE DIFFICULT TO DRIVE? "Yeah, I think that's true, definitely more of a handful. At that meeting with the drivers, Patrick said, "Can't you put that back in?" The drivers have all observed that it is more of a handful now, but that's gonna increase the spectacle. The more difficult they are to drive, the more the driver skill can come to the floor.

HOW DIFFERENT WILL IT BE FOR YOU AND YOUR STAFF WITHOUT THE COMPETITION FOR SPEED AND FUEL ECONOMY? HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR MINDSET? "We used to look at our guys as performance development engineers at the track, take the performance of the product forward at the track and actually add to the performance of the product. The job of our track support people now is very much one of trying to make sure that the engine leaves the factory with the standard performance. So now the job of the guys is to make sure that performance is retained and not do anything beyond that. For sure, it's much more of a monitoring role now. We're going to be looking out for the tell tale signs, sort of the heat beat of the engine, to see if anything appears to be going wrong so we can spot it in advance of it being a problem, Particularly with the teams that have no experience with the Cosworth engine. We need to be their eyes and ears to let them know what's going on with the engine. We have to be honest that most teams won't have to think about the engine this weekend, but we definitely need to be there to monitor the vital signs of the engine at all times."

TALK ABOUT MAINTAINING EQUAL PERFORMANCE BETWEEN ALL TEAMS BY ROTATING ENGINEERS AND ECU'S. "The first thing for all of the teams to understand is that not all of the engines are going to be spot on. We have, within the contract, the engines are guaranteed at 750 horsepower, plus or minus 7 ½ horsepower, so plus or minus one percent. So the teams acknowledge that it is possible that one week they'll have an engine that has 15 horsepower more or less than the next week, but obviously, through a season by law of averages, that will be shared amongst everybody. The engines are randomly picked by CART. So when we have engines come off the dyno, we basically e-mail CART and say these are the engine numbers available, they make a random selection and e-mail back what numbers to go to what team. In terms of the track support, we do something similar. We were torn between putting a new track support guy at each team for each event, but that's kind of cutting off your nose to spite your face, in that the track support engineer never really gets to know the team and understand the team and how they like to operate, and so it's gonna be much easier in that environment to actually miss mistakes and not do our job properly. Equally, if you leave somebody with a team for the whole season, then inevitably different groups will work together in different styles and it seems unfair to leave people in an advantageous or not advantageous situations. So we've divided the track support into three groups with four people in each, and each of those groups looks after a set number of teams, but the actual staff will rotate within the group. There will only be three staff that any one team will see in a year. On the ECU front, the ECU's again we tried very hard to put CART in control of everything, where possible. So, the ECU's will be under CART's, control just like pop-off valves. CART will come around with an ECU just like a pop off valve and say alright that's yours for that session, and they will collect them all again at the end of the session. The next day they'll dish them out in a different random order so the ECU's will be just the same as pop off valves. Again, one of our track support guys will check tubes as to make sure that they don't see anything underworld going on. We're fairly confident that we've done everything we can think of to make it impossible for anybody to misinterpret a gray area. We're gonna need to be looking out for that, so that's how their jobs will differ this year from last year."

GOING BACK TO LAGUNA SECA, THE TIMES WERE FASTER THIS YEAR THAN LAST; HOWEVER, THE COST TO COMPETE IN THE SERIES IS A LOT LESS. "The engine is a third of the price, and it lasts three times as long and its just as powerful and we're going faster. We could have done this years ago if competition would have ceased. The only thing which has made this possible is that fact that it's a one-make formula, and I think that's probably not a thing for now, but it has to raise a lot of questions in people's minds as to what is the right way forward. Competition is great in terms of that it brings in manufacturer money, but it's not so great in that it actually drives the price up and up and up, and it is obviously exactly how CART got to where it is. When the manufactures decided to withdraw their money it's a very messy situation. So I think some people are looking at this and saying, 'Well, you know, we maybe better not to have manufacturer competition and maybe the situation we have now is the ideal one.' Everybody's gonna have different opinions on that, but yes basically, as you say the lap times are much of the same, but you have to remember we were only running no more than 800 horsepower last year and we're at 750 now, so we've only come back 50 horsepower which is really a pretty small proportion. Its weird to think that things are so much cheaper going for so much longer and we're going just as fast, but I say if you think of as we still have 750 horsepower then its no great surprise."

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THIS CONTINUE WITH ONLY ONE ENGINE MANUFACTURER? "It's entirely for CART to decide what's best for its future and we want to be a part of that. We'll go along with whatever CART wants to do. I think you do want manufacturer competition back. That adds an element to the competition and I think its good for the series, so personally, I would like to see manufacturer competition back. I think that the date at which it's reintroduced is definitely something that needs to be very carefully thought about, and needs to be what is best for the series for sure. We could if we have this deal for another year then it would be good for us, but we're genuinely not looking for just another year, of business with CART, we're looking for another 20 years of business with CART, so whatever is best for CART is what we want to do. From my personal point of view, I'd like to see competition back. I just question a little bit if we'd be better to pursue that for '06 rather than '05, but that's a personal view rather than a company-held view."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy