CHAMPCAR/CART: This week in Ford Racing - Cosworth Racing interview

This Week in Ford Racing September 18, 2001 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...

This Week in Ford Racing
September 18, 2001

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. Based out of Cosworth Racing's headquarters in Northampton, England, Wood comments on the inaugural CART race at Rockingham Motor Speedway.

BRUCE WOOD - CART Program Director, Cosworth Racing:

WITH COSWORTH RACING BEING BASED IN ENGLAND, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS WEEKEND'S CART RACE AT ROCKINGHAM?

"I think it'll be great. When the talk of a speedway at Rockingham first started in England it was about four or five years ago and none of us really believed that they were building a brand new circuit literally just up the road from our facility in Northampton. And I must say that because we're so close that we've been kind of lucky to watch the track come together over the last couple of years. I can remember driving around it when it was a mud track in a Land Rover some time ago, and it's been fantastic to watch it come together. I think it'll be wonderful to see CART race there because so many people in England ask us at Cosworth what we do. When we tell them that we're involved in racing in America, they always say, 'isn't that just like going around in circles?' It's so difficult to convey to people the excitement and the thrill and the atmosphere of oval racing, and for my money oval racing is much more exciting than road course racing, especially at the superspeedways. To see the cars three abreast at over 200 miles per hour in the corners is an awesome sight, and I think this will be a real eye-opener for everyone in Europe. For the people who have likened American racing to just going around in circles, I've told them to come to Rockingham because they'll see much more than cars just going around in circles. And I really think that England will embrace the race there because it's going to be a spectacle. I talked a bit with Alex Barron after he had tested at Rockingham and he thought it was a great racetrack. It's a very wide track, it's got some tight corners, but there's some good banking and I think there will be cars, two and three abreast in the corners. For sure it's really nice for Cosworth because it's sort of our home race and there'll be hundreds of people from Cosworth there, and for every person from Cosworth there'll be dozens of friends and family with them, so it's going to be a real party atmosphere. I really hope that it does excite everybody's imagination, and it would be great if this race and the one in Germany really became fixtures for the future."

HOW EXCITED ARE THE FOLKS AT COSWORTH ABOUT SEEING THEIR FIRST CART RACE IN PERSON?

"Very excited. For year and years Cosworth has had a policy where everybody at the company could buy a half-price Formula One ticket. But his year we offered as alternative a half-priced Rockingham ticket, and I think about 70 percent of the people have purchased tickets for Rockingham compared to 30 percent for Formula One. Pretty much everybody at Cosworth has been to a Formula One race and lots and lots of people are anxious to see their first CART race. To be honest, times have been hard for us in Formula One and are still difficult as we speak, but we've got success right now in CART and a lot of people coming to Rockingham are going to be expecting Cosworth to do well, so I hope we don't disappoint. And I must say that for everybody that works at Cosworth who's been making CART engines for years and have never had the opportunity to see a race in person, this will be a great experience for them."

HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE OR CONTRAST CHAMP CAR RACING TO OTHER FORMS OF MOTORSPORTS IN EUROPE?

"I think the fans are going to be both shocked and excited at how easy it is to mingle with the cars and the drivers at a CART race. In Formula One it's simply impossible to get near the paddock unless you have the pass personally signed by Bernie Eccelestone himself, and the fans can't get near the cars or drivers. If you like, that's the kind of aura that Formula One has built up around itself and that works well for Formula One - to make each driver a distance figure with sort of a superstar aura around them, and people have gotten used to that. In CART, the fans at Rockingham should be thrilled with the kind of access they're going to have. You see everyday in the [CART] paddock somebody stops a driver on his scooter and gets a photo with him and a signed hat and I think people will be really thrilled to see that in Europe. Formula One is very popular in Europe partly because of the technology involved, but the technology that we have in CART is just as high as that in Formula One except that it's a bit different. I think a lot of the fans will be really excited to get into the pits of a top-level series and see the cars close up and watch them getting warmed up, which are things that you can't get do in Formula One. In England, the kind of access we have in CART is probably something more akin to British Touring Car or something like that, which doesn't have anywhere near the technology or crowd interest as a CART race will have."

HOW DO YOU THINK THE FANS AT ROCKINGHAM WILL REACT WHEN THEY SEE CARS GOING TWO- OR THREE-WIDE THROUGH THE CORNERS AT 200-PLUS MILES PER HOUR WITH MULTIPLE LEAD CHANGES?

"I think they'll think that's wonderful. The truth is right now in Formula One is it's pretty well determined who's going to be on the podium and typically there hasn't been too many surprises this year. If you look at the CART race at Michigan, you have no idea who's going to be on the podium until the last lap, and in fact, probably not until the last corner of the last lap. Although I'm not sure that Rockingham will have as many lead changes as Michigan, I think we can expect dozens of lead changes at the very least and it'll be fantastic to see from a spectator's point of view. People should be really excited after seeing those cars going two and three abreast, the amount of passing that'll go on, and the fact that it's all happening at 200 miles per hour. And with the whole circuit in full view of the grandstands, I think it'll be a fantastic for the fans because now they can follow the car that they're rooting for all the way around the track."

HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE THE FACILITY AT ROCKINGHAM TO SOME OF THE OVAL TRACKS YOU'VE BEEN TO IN THE UNITED STATES?

"The track is absolutely fantastic, and it's a state-of-the-art facility. For the teams in terms of the garages it's going to be excellent, and for the fans the seating, the access areas and the hospitality areas are wonderful. I believe that Rockingham will become of the best facilities that CART goes to both in the United States and abroad. The track surface is very smooth, almost like glass, and one thing that all the drivers worry about is the track's surface. Certainly in the past, Michigan was a bumpy circuit and it used to put the fear of God into everybody, understandably, and that was a limitation on the racing. People knew that if they went over the bump in Turn Two, the car would jump three feet sideways so they didn't try to pass there. I think the fact that Rockingham has a smooth surface is going to mean that the entire circuit is going to be open to passing. The track should also be fairly exciting for the drivers because there's quite a change in elevation from one side of the track to the other, which is quite unusual for an oval circuit. All four corners are quite different, and I think it's Turn Four that has the biggest elevation change off the turn onto the straightaway. It's also the steepest-banked turn and I'm told that it's the most exciting corner to drive."

HAVING NEVER RACED COMPETITIVELY AT ROCKINGHAM BEFORE, HOW IS COSWORTH GOING ABOUT PREPARING FOR THIS RACE? WERE YOU ABLE TO GET ANY DATA FROM THE TEST THAT ALEX BARRON DID THAT WILL HELP YOU?

"Obviously none of [the engine manufacturers] know what to expect in terms of duty cycle, but the information that came from the test was shared with all the teams in the pit lane, not just the teams powered by Ford-Cosworth. I think the test was very useful for everybody and I think the key is to make sure that there aren't any surprises which could be dangerous, so the information gathered from the test will allow the teams to prepare properly. From an engine point of view, it's always very difficult to learn anything when you just have one car going around the track and we don't feel like that test told us anything that we really didn't know already. We've done simulations of the circuit and what we ran was pretty much what we expected. But in the first year of a new race it's always difficult to know how to approach it. I remember when we first went to Motegi [Japan] we really didn't know how to approach it. Although we won that first race there, we also broke quite a lot of other stuff because we really hadn't done our homework to find out just how hard that race would be on our engines. We're treating the Rockingham race very much like a 500-miler, so we're going to go in fairly conservative. It's going to be all about finishing the race and we're going to base the specification on our experiences at Motegi and the 500-mile races instead of trying to guess what will happen. We feel much more comfortable running something that we know instead of running a specification that we've designed specifically for Rockingham."

Cosworth Racing track support engineer Chris Horton manages the 850-horsepower XF engine for Player's/Forsythe driver Patrick Carpentier. Prior to joining CART program this season, Horton worked out of Cosworth's Northampton headquarters and provided track support for Ford's touring car program.

CHRIS HORTON - Cosworth Racing Track Support Engineer for Patrick Carpentier [Player's/Forsythe]:

BEING BASED IN ENGLAND AND COMMUTING TO EACH OF THE CART RACES, ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT THIS WEEKEND'S RACE AT ROCKINGHAM?

"I'm really looking forward to it, and there's a lot of enthusiasm to see what CART is about in the UK and in Europe. Obviously the speeds will be impressive and I'm sure the fans will be excited to see some different drivers in some different cars. The facility at Rockingham is beautiful and they've done a wonderful job putting it together, so it should be an exciting race. The track is slightly different from the ovals that I've been to here in the United States, and that should pose some new challenges for the drivers and the engineers."

YOU'VE GOT EXPERIENCE WORKING IN DIFFERENT FORMS OF EUROPEAN MOTORSPORTS, TOURING CARS SPECIFICALLY. HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE AND CONTRAST CHAMP CAR RACING FROM THE OTHER TYPES OF RACING THAT EUROPEANS ARE ACCUSTOMED TO SEEING?

"A lot of it is very similar with the set up of the teams, but when it comes to the racing the added issue of telemetry, which we weren't allowed to run with touring cars in Europe, definitely adds a big element. The use of telemetry allows you to analyze and discuss with the driver what's going on in real time rather than trying to have the driver describe to you what he thinks is going on, which is a big change. The distance of a Champ Car race poses challenges, such as fuel mileage, and running under the yellow flag, which is not used as much in Europe. This obviously serves to spice things up when the field is all bunched up late in the race, like it was at Michigan where Patrick [Carpentier] was nearly two laps down but with a good strategy and helpful yellows he managed to win the race at the end."

DO YOU THINK THE EUROPEAN RACE FANS, WHO ARE USED TO WATCHING ROAD COURSE EVENTS, WILL FIND OVAL RACING EXCITING?

"I think it's going to be very interesting because I think there will be a lot of passing. Drafting and passing is a fairly lost art in Formula One and I think the fact that CART racing features a lot of both should make it a lot more interesting for the UK fans. The cars are obviously a lot closer than they are in Formula One and it's a lot more of a lottery, which should make it more interesting for everybody going into it. I'm sure there will be a lot of new fans of the drivers out there once they see some of the maneuvers that they pull."

SINCE YOU WERE AT THE ROCKINGHAM TEST WITH ALEX BARRON AND JOHNNY HERBERT, WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS? WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT TO SEE ONCE THE CARS ROLL ONTO THE TRACK THIS WEEKEND?

"It's a good surface, and both Alex and Johnny were very happy with the grip and the feel of the surface. When it comes to the actual racing layout, there seems to be basically two hard braking points at the end of the straightaways that should give good opportunities for overtaking. But it's definitely slightly different because the track is unevenly shaped, which is quite novel, and the gearing should be quite interesting. Judging from what I saw at the test, I would think that we'll see laps in the 205 mile-per-hour range. It's wide circuit and both the drivers felt that it should be a nice place to race with a lot of places to pass."

CAN YOU COMPARE THE TRACK TO ANY OTHER OVAL TRACK THAT YOU'VE SEEN THUS FAR THIS SEASON?

"I think it's unique, and there's definitely nothing that I've been to this year that's similar so it should pose a bunch of new questions for the teams and engineers. The banking in the corners is similar, but it's just the overall shape is strange."

WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS AFTER GOING TO YOUR FIRST CART EVENT ON A HIGH-OVAL TRACK?

"I don't think anything really prepares you for that experience. The sight of the cars flashing past, especially at close corners, is extremely impressive. Come race day, as with all racing, the speed is particularly impressive while they're going and absolutely phenomenal if anything goes wrong because you get this huge impression of what they're really doing and what it takes to drive in those conditions. I'm sure that it's inevitable that we're going to see some things going on that will absolutely blow peoples' minds away because it so different from what they're accustomed to seeing."

Cosworth Racing track support engineer Andy Gregory manages the 850-plus horsepower XF engine for Player's/Forsythe driver Alex Tagliani. Prior to joining CART program this season, Gregory spent three years providing track support for Cosworth's Formula One engine program with Minardi.

ANDY GREGORY - Cosworth Racing Track Support Engineer for Alex Tagliani [Player's/Forsythe]:

WITH COSWORTH BEING BASED IN ENGLAND, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS WEEKEND'S CART RACE AT ROCKINGHAM?

"I think it should be really good for the fans because the racing is so much more interesting than a general Formula One race. Any one of 10 or 12 drivers can win a CART race and they run so close together on an oval that the spectacle is good and you can see the entire track from anywhere in the grandstands. But the big thing is that almost anybody can win the race, or at least do well, where as in Formula One there are only two or three teams that have a realistic chance to win."

WHAT YOUR IMPRESSIONS AFTER SEEING THE CHAMP CARS ON A HIGH SPEED OVAL FOR THE FIRST TIME?

"It's something that's very, very different, and it's unbelievable how fast the cars go past. You can actually hear the air being pushed out of the way and that's the first time I've ever heard anything like that. It's something that's completely different from what anybody in Europe has seen before and I think it's going to be really exciting for the fans."

IS THERE ANYTHING THAT THE EUROPEAN FANS CAN COMPARE THIS TYPE OF RACING TO?

"No, I think it's something completely new. The cars look a bit similar to the Formula One cars, although the Champ Cars are slightly bigger. But CART's rolling starts are different; the pit stops are different with only six people allowed over the wall so they're longer. The cars run so close together, and if the race at Rockingham is anything like the one at Michigan, they'll be overtaking each other nonstop all day long. Hopefully there won't be too many yellows. We've had a lot of races this year with a lot of yellows, but if it goes green most of the way it should be fantastic for everybody."

HOW DIFFERENT IS THE CART PADDOCK FROM A FORMULA ONE PADDOCK?

"For me the two series are basically the same, but the CART paddock is totally accessible. Sometimes that's a good thing and sometimes it's not because when you're trying to get through it can be mayhem in there. But it's good that the fans actually get to see the cars and the drivers up close. After three years in Formula One the paddock is a bit of a club but nobody gets to see what the mechanics do. Everything over there is all very secret while over here it's much more open. I mean everybody covers things up, but you can get to see what happens and the fans can get a better understanding of what everybody does. For me personally, I think CART is more interesting than Formula One because even if you're not with the best team, if your driver and your team can put together a good effort then there's no reason why you can't finish in the top 10. Then if you role the dice on a strategy you can be on the podium or even win a race, just by calling it right on the strategy, where in Formula One it's basically one of four or five cars that will finish at the front. Every race is a new experience for me and we always have a chance of getting pole position, winning the race, or even finishing at the back. We can even start from the back and win the race, just like Michael Andretti did in Toronto. Although gambling can produce great results, sometimes you roll the dice and sometimes it's completely wrong and you can go from pole to the back of the pack. That's what's interesting to me, and I look forward to every weekend because you never know, it could be our weekend."

QUALIFYING IS OBVIOUSLY AN IMPORTANT PART OF A FORMULA ONE RACE, BUT IS IT AS IMPORTANT FOR YOU ON AN OVAL?

"I don't think it is because the cars run so close together. On an oval you don't have to start up front because as long as you stay in the draft and have a car good enough to use the draft, then there's no reason why you can't overtake people. And if you play the strategy right and get good fuel mileage then there's no reason why you can't be running at the front all day. On a road course you really need to qualify at the front, but on an oval it's not that big a deal. You never know what's going to happen, and that's what's so good for me. Everybody works hard and suddenly you can be running at the front, although sometimes you work hard and you end up at the back, but that's what makes it exciting."

WHAT SHOULD THE ENGLISH FANS EXPECT TO SEE THE TEAMS WORKING ON DURING PRACTICE LEADING UP TO THE RACE?

"We'll work on our race and qualifying set ups, but it's important that the car be able to run in traffic because of the turbulence. If you've got a good car that can run in traffic and can run more than one race line around the track that can make a big difference when it comes to the race. But for qualifying you need a car that can run on its own, so it's very different. You work perhaps all day on Friday to get the car so it can run in traffic, but then on Saturday morning we're working on making the car go fast on its own. There are definitely two different things that we work on, especially when it comes to races on high-speed ovals like Michigan, Fontana, and I think Rockingham, because it's so fast. The difference between a lap in traffic and a lap on your own is enormous. On a lap by yourself you might be flat all the way around, but when in traffic you have to lift twice for the corners, and big lifts as well, so you need to have good compromise in the car."

-Ford Racing-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Alex Barron