AJ Foyt Racing’s new technical director Eric Cowdin says that key to the squad bouncing back in IndyCar’s new spec-aero era will be team members’ self motivation and good communication between its race shops in Indiana and Texas.
Following a day of testing at Sebring this week, Cowdin – who came with new signing Tony Kanaan from Chip Ganassi Racing – said that Foyt’s team was working hard to bounce back from a season in which its best result was a fifth place.
He said: “We are undertaking a very aggressive development program before the start of the season. In the four-week period before the Christmas break we will have done four days on the driver simulator, two days of gearbox development, built a car with the new aero kit and tested it on track.
“In January, we will continue with the same programs with the addition of our first 7-post test of the season to kick off our damper development. Before the first race we will have had six days of track testing so the drivers will have put in their work as well.”
Cowdin acknowledged the challenges of Foyt operating veteran Kanaan’s #14 car from Speedway, IN, and rookie Matheus Leist’s #4 from Waller, TX, but said it didn’t need to be a problem.
“Having two locations emphasizes the need for communication,” Cowdin said. “We have to be more purposeful with our phone calls and emails so we include all the people that may need to know what we are working on.
“Beyond the endless emails and phone calls between the shops, we have video conference equipment in both locations which get used several times a day. It is very often more productive to have four or five people involved in a conversation, as opposed to copying those people on an email chain.”
Commenting on switching from a four-car team to a two-car team, Cowdin believes there are advantages.
“Each person gains experience in several different disciplines,” he said, “discussions and decisions are made more efficiently and communication is easier to keep everyone on the same page.
“For me, the key for success with a smaller group is to have very self-motivated individuals and then give them the tools they need to do their best which is what we are trying to do.”
Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, says he’s happy with the handling of the new car after testing on Wednesday.
“I’m happy with the progress and that we were able to put some good laps in,” he said. “Getting the boys back working together as well as getting to know some of the guys I hadn’t worked with yet made it a good day for the ABC No. 14 team."
“The car is different, it feels a lot quicker on the straightaways which is no surprise. I was happy with the way it came out. It looks really cool; I like the way it looks. You just have to change your driving style a little bit but that was expected as well. I didn’t do a lot of laps to make a solid statement but from what I’ve seen and driven, I’m happy with it.”
Team president Larry Foyt said: “I told A.J. the test was very productive. We achieved everything we came down to do. With the little time the crew had to prepare, I was impressed with the build of the car and the amount of test items we were able to get through.
“Tony liked the car right out of the box, so the engineers did a nice job adapting the setup to the new aero. And lastly I told him he’s going to like Tony. Tony is no nonsense and gets after it right out of the pits – A.J.’s style for sure.”