CHAMPCAR/CART: This Week in Ford Racing 2004-04-06

This Week in Ford Racing April 6, 2004 Champ Car World Series The 2004 season marks the 28th year that Cosworth Racing has supplied racing engines to the Champ Car World Series. Ian Bisco, Vice President of Cosworth Racing, Inc., in...

This Week in Ford Racing
April 6, 2004

Champ Car World Series

The 2004 season marks the 28th year that Cosworth Racing has supplied racing engines to the Champ Car World Series. Ian Bisco, Vice President of Cosworth Racing, Inc., in Torrance, Calif., discusses the upcoming Champ Car season and the introduction of the "push-to-pass" feature that drivers will have at their disposal this year.

What's Cosworth been doing over the winter to prepare for the 2004 Champ car season? "We've been extremely busy. The biggest thing we have been doing over the winter is developing and proving the push-to-pass program for the Champ Car season. It's a button on the steering wheel that will give an additional 50 horsepower to the driver and it will be available to him when he wants to use it. It's been achieved by increasing the turbo boost two to three inches. The feature will be a part of the electronic control unit, which will regulate the butterflys and wastegates to achieve extra boost. They will only get that for one minute for the entire race, and it will only be available for use during the race. A minute doesn't really sound like a very long time but it will not become available until a driver is 85 percent into the throttle. So, if you consider a driver racing through the gears he will have to think about when he is going to use it and how he is going to get the best amount of time out of it."

How will the driver know how much Push to Pass he has left? "The plan is for the data screen on the steering wheel to show how much is left to the driver. The engineers in the pits, via telemetry, will know how much he has used. The general idea is that the Champ Car officials will have a reading on that as well. We hope that it can be portrayed live to the people attending the event and to the television viewer. That's one of the exciting parts. For instance, if you have a driver that's used up all of his push-to-pass time and there are two guys hounding him that still have time left it will add a bit more mystery to how they are going to use it and when they are going to use it."

is This totally new TECHNOLOGY for Cosworth? What was the fuel setting button used For in the past? "In the past we had a button that gave a little more power but nothing like 50 horsepower. A lot of the races would be controlled by fuel economy, pit stops and yellow flags, so you would have drivers backing off on the fuel delivery to the engine to save making a pit stop. What that button would do is cut the fuel delivery and engine power by a bit. The driver would then put the engine back to full fuel setting and a couple more degrees of ignition to make a pass. Now obviously we are running full fuel settings because Champ Car changed the rule that doesn't allow drivers to sandbag and save fuel. Basically they have to go for it all the time.

"The push-to-pass development was not just in the electronics. To incorporate the push-to-pass feature, we had to do durability test on the engine with the extra power. An engine now will run the equivalent of 1200 miles and you could conceivably run four race weekends (on the same engine), which could mean a lot of push-to-pass time with the extra horsepower that could cause an engine to fail. This was done for a week on a transient dyno in the U.K. where we worked on the engine mapping and looked at the adverse effects of gear changes. We also did two 1200-mile durability tests on our dyno here in Torrance to make sure the engine would survive with any extra sort of load that could cause something to fail. I think all in all we used up four or five engines proving this."

Last year's engine race failure rate was 0.78 percent compared to the 3 TO 7 percent rate in the past years. What contributed to the engine's improved reliability? "I think the biggest thing was that we were able to control our own environment last year. As the sole supplier of engines to Champ Car we could set our own standards and control our standards and the teams were conforming to the way in which we wanted to run the engine. One of the issues in the past when we had different manufacturers that we were competing against was that everybody was pushing the envelope looking for a little more power. Particularly in practice and qualifying, you might take a little more risk on something that had not had the endurance test or reliability, although the race set-up was fairly conservative. But again, the biggest thing was being able to control our own environment and being the sole engine supplier helped us to be able to reduce the failures."

What is the typical race weekend for a Cosworth race engineer? "Race weekends usually run Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but the cars only run on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Thursday, when the guys get to the track they go through a systems check with a laptop to make sure that everything is reading correctly. The guys check that the sensors and electronics are reading properly when the engine is running. The teams usually fire up the engine to check for leaks, which is monitored by our engineers to make sure the car is ready run on Friday morning. This is done so the driver and the team can maximize their time on the track. Typically, because we test the engines in Torrance, we know that it's going to be good from the get-go. At the track we check to make sure that the car systems are all functioning and the engine installation went well by the team. On Friday, when the cars are running, they go along and do similar things, like monitoring the engine through the teams' live telemetry, looking at things like pressure, RPM's, and running temperatures. On Sunday the guys do the same thing as Saturday, monitor the team's telemetry during the race."

Does Cosworth bring extra engines to the track? "If a team mileages out an engine, which is 1200 miles, we can swap one out. We carry about a dozen engines to the track and we randomly select another engine for the team. We have a computer software program that randomly picks a number from a batch of engines. So it's impossible to give a team preferential treatment because it's all random. Fortunately, when we started this program last year there were concerns about preferential treatment, but I have to say all that talk disappeared quickly. The drivers and the teams found that all the engines were practically the same and they couldn't feel a difference between a used-up engine to a new engine, which really gave us a lot of credibility and helped us out."

DOES Champ Car still control the distribution of the pop-off valves? "Champ Car looks after the pop-off valves and hands them out to the teams, but that's more of an insurance policy than anything else. We can monitor the boost the engines are getting from telemetry and the same thing goes for the ECU or brain unit. We give those to Champ Car and they randomly give those out to the teams as well. This relieves the concern that a team might try to dabble with a unit and gain an unfair advantage. Now they have to give the ECU back on Friday evening and get a different one on Saturday and a different one on Sunday. It would be obvious if someone tried to do something because the software is monitored very well."

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Series IndyCar