CHAMPCAR/CART: This Week in Ford Racing, June 8, 1999

This Week in Ford Racing June 8, 1999 FedEx Championship Series "SHOOT THE ENGINEERS, IT'S TIME FOR PRODUCTION!" Jay O'Connell, Ford's current CART program manager and former Lincoln LS engineering team member, talks about the importance...

This Week in Ford Racing June 8, 1999

FedEx Championship Series


Jay O'Connell, Ford's current CART program manager and former Lincoln LS engineering team member, talks about the importance that Ford's racing program played in development of the new Lincoln LS.

Five former Ford engineers assigned to either Ford's CART or Formula One program were heavily involved and credited with some the accolades that the LS is receiving from the motoring press in the realm of ride and handling. O'Connell feels strongly that racing is an extremely valuable tool for the development of engineers and process that can be used to improve Ford passenger vehicles.

JAY O'CONNELL - FORD RACING CART PROGRAM MANAGER - IN YOUR MIND, WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST PROS TO HAVING BEING INVOLVED IN FORD'S RACING PROGRAM AND HOW IT IMPACTS PRODUCTION CARS? "The biggest thing is the flexible attitude -- that "can do" attitude that engineers have in racing. None of the parts off of a CART Champ Car bolt directly on to a production vehicle, but learning about aerodynamics, shock tuning, the atmosphere and the pressure to make quick changes really teach you how to streamline processes. There is a saying that goes, 'It's time to shoot the engineers and start production!' because by nature engineers will keep tweaking and tuning until you have exhausted all options. At a race venue you don't have that option. You have a limited number of practice sessions. You don't have a great deal of time and you have to make the most out of what little time you have. On a greater scale, if you take the typical three-year development that you have on passenger cars and get a lot more done in that three years than has been traditionally done, you can get a lot more refinement done on a particular vehicle. So the computers, the racing tools and the attitude allows you to investigate more options and pursue more development routes quicker over the three years."

THERE WERE FIVE EITHER FORMER OR CURRENT FORD RACING ENGINEERS INVOLVED IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE NEW LINCOLN LS AND YOU WERE ONE OF THEM. WHAT PERSPECTIVE AND KNOWLEDGE ARE ENGINEERS WHO HAVE RACING EXPERIENCE ABLE TO BRING AND SHARE IN REGARDS TO THE DEVELOPMENT, DESIGN AND REFINING OF A PRODUCTION VEHICLE? "They bring the perspective of quick response attitude that there is at a race team. It allows them to get away from old support standard of doing things in a certain order rather than doing things in parallel. It allows us to do things in a much quicker time frame. It takes about three years to develop a car and the race teams are doing it over the course of weekends so the guys that have the racing experience realize that you can do things much quicker than three years and you can do it in spurts. By that I mean you can have a few days of really intense testing and evaluation and then go back and come up with another set of tests."

CAN YOU GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE OF THAT? "The examples would be in two areas. The first would be chassis development and the second would be aerodynamic development. For chassis development, the approach on the Lincoln LS was to make the suspension very adjustable. The design for the suspension the engineers originally had to work with was a very set design. So, the first thing they did was make the parts adjustable like a race team would. That allows them to adjust the geometry of the suspension, settings, ride heights, stabilizer bars and spring rates very quickly during the development process. So they applied a lot of the technologies found in race cars such as rod ends and threaded fasteners which are typically not parts found in production cars but can be used in the development phase to speed up the process. Another example would be the use of the same setup tools that the race teams use at the track. Take for instance, the pads that the teams use to measure a Champ Car's corner weights, ride heights and alignment. Ford engineers on the LS took those with them during testing. In the past, the Ford engineers would have to go to one of the standard garages and have a mechanic align the car there. On the LS we were able to adjust the alignments and other components at the track, on the side of the road, or in Germany so they could save time and go through many more iterations of the car's setup. Basically we could turn a two-hour alignment into a 20-minute change."

IT'S SAID THAT THE LINCOLN LS IS THE NEW BENCHMARK IN RIDE AND HANDLING FOR ALL OTHER FORD PRODUCTS TO BE MEASURED AGAINST. IS THAT TRUE? "Richard Parry-Jones has asked the truck programs and the new Mustang programs to look at the LS as an example of where we need to go with ride and handling. There are a lot of eyes on the program looking for ways to pass off the improvement in our process to the other engineering teams in the company."

WHAT RACE TECHNOLOGIES AND DESIGN PHILOSOPHIES HAVE BEEN EMPLOYED IN THE LINCOLN LS? "We have moved the front wheels forward on the LS and that's one idea we transferred directly from racing. Rear-wheel-drive cars need more weight on the rear end to emphasize traction under acceleration and it also lends to improved braking. The car's battery is in the trunk, the wheels are moved forward, we used aluminum extensively in the front end of the car including the fenders, hood, engine, transmission, cylinder heads, all the suspension components in the front end are aluminum and the calipers are aluminum. These are also all technologies used in racing to reduce weight."

MANY PEOPLE MAY NOT KNOW THIS, BUT MUCH OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE LS WAS DONE ON A VARIETY OF RACE TRACKS ACROSS THE COUNTRY. WHAT WERE YOU HOPING TO LEARN FROM TESTING THE LS ON A RACE TRACK? "We took the LS to a variety of tracks to test from Gratten in Michigan, Road Atlanta and Willow Springs in California to test various components. Testing at a race track allows us to do some very aggressive durability testing than we normally do at our test tracks. On a race track you are really cycling the shocks and brakes much more aggressively at a race track than you do during normal durability development. We worked on refining the agility of the LS on the street and worked on the cars stability at the track."

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