This Week in Ford Racing: NASCAR Edition October 27, 2009 Ford's new "FR9" engine will debut this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway in two cars - the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion driven by Matt Kenseth, and the No. 6 UPS Ford Fusion of David ...
This Week in Ford Racing: NASCAR Edition
October 27, 2009
Ford's new "FR9" engine will debut this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway in two cars - the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion driven by Matt Kenseth, and the No. 6 UPS Ford Fusion of David Ragan.
Brian Wolfe, director, Ford North America Motorsports, and Doug Yates, co-owner, Roush Yates Engines, held a teleconference earlier today to discuss the "FR9" rollout.
BRIAN WOLFE, Director, Ford North America Motorsports: "Obviously everyone at Ford and Roush Yates Engines and Roush Fenway and Yates Racing are all very excited to see the debut of the FR9 this coming weekend at Talladega. It's a great engineering feat, I would say, and I just can't wait to see it out in competition."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO GET THIS ENGINE ON THE TRACK THIS WEEKEND AT TALLADEGA BEFORE THE DAYTONA 500?
DOUG YATES, Co-Owner, Roush Yates Engines: "It's really important to get a good look at it before the end of the year in competition. We've had it on the track testing. We tested at Daytona with the tire test in September and had some good results, but to actually see some race competition in preparation is really important, so we can come back and tweak on the things we need to improve to get ready to go down to Daytona for Speedweeks."
DID THAT PLAY A PART IN YOUR DECISION TO BRING IT OUT THIS WEEK?
DOUG YATES: "Yes, absolutely. The engine really looks great in both open and plate format, but for the start of the season we're looking at starting at Daytona racing the FR9, or at least qualifying with the FR9, and for that reason we felt like Talladega was an important date for us, so that drove some of the decisions."
CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE PROCESS OF HOW LONG IT TAKES TO DEVELOP SOMETHING LIKE THIS?
BRIAN WOLFE: "When you talk about coming up with the new architecture, and with the new rules on the current engine that are based off the production Windsor block, 4.380" bore centers and we're running about a nine-inch deck height on that thing. The new rules push us out to about a four-and-a-half inch bore center. But with that, it also took us away from the production block constraints, production cooling systems, etc. There were a lot of things we had to machine that production-based architecture to make it into a viable race motor. So when you put the things together and ask, 'What do you want to accomplish with it?' A lot of it will go back to how it's going to perform as installed in the vehicle, from the cooling system performance, lubrication performance, and the critical valvetrain dynamics. When you run these push-rod engines at the speeds they're running, they have to live for very long periods of time, so those all become critical factors. I think the teams do a pretty good job between the CAE work, the computer and engineering, and the lab work that they do to put the valvetrain setup together, and how the lubrication system is going to work. But then we start going beyond that to the breathing characteristics of the engine, how you're going to arrange the porting precisely, both on the intake and the exhaust side. They start to develop through those things and the guys did a really, really good job. But then when you start to go to put it into a race car, there are other systems that you have to worry about that support the engine itself. The old engine really used conventional motor mounts mounted to the block, whereas the new engine will go to a conventional race setup of motor plates. So that will probably affect the way that the front-end chassis will respond to some extent. The way the loads will go through the engine are a little bit different. So you've got to make sure all those supporting systems are good, but then the other need, from my perspective, if you're looking at it truly from a financial perspective, when the current engine performs as good as it does from a peak power, an average power, and a fuel consumption perspective, it's so good that you don't say, 'Well, we have a big competitive disadvantage because of the current engine, so we've really got to get this new one in and maybe take a little risk here and there, or obsolete a lot of good parts to get that new engine in production.' So those two factors come into play, too. We don't want to obsolete a lot of good parts that are very competitive just to say we launched the new motor, and also, as competitive as it is on the track, you don't want to take any little risk in areas you maybe don't have fully understood or validated because you're already at a very competitive level. I think Dave Simon, our lead Ford engineer working with Doug's team, would say that the new engine's biggest challenge is that the current engine is so very, very good."
DOUG YATES: "It's been an honor to work with Ford on developing this engine. The first part of my career, and most NASCAR engine builders, we were given a block and heads and manifold and we'd take that and develop it and improve on it, and from the time I started in 1990 until now, these engines have gained about 250 horsepower in the format they're in, so to be able to take a clean sheet of paper and design an engine with the features that you've always wanted in an engine - to improve on the things that you've already made better - was really exciting and an honor to work on this project. Our whole team at Roush Yates is real excited about getting it out there, and it is an exciting time to be a part of Ford Racing."
HOW RELIABLE WILL THE FR9 BE IN THE EARLY GOING?
DOUG YATES: "That's always the nervousness about anything new that we do, whether it's a new piston or a new camshaft, not to mention a whole new engine, so that's the reason why we want to get it out there this weekend. It's a good time of the year. The Chase is set and there are some cars that are racing for wins, and we're racing also to gain some knowledge for 2010, and part of that knowledge is getting this engine out there and testing it. We have tested the engine quite a bit. Like I said, we ran a Daytona tire test and basically 500 miles on this engine, and then here in our shop we have a dynamometer that we can load up and run race track simulations, and we do that quite often, so this thing has been through a lot of testing. But once you get it in the car, you experience different things, so we're looking forward to getting it out there and racing and then getting home and dissecting it and tweaking on it from there."
HOW READY WOULD YOU SAY IT IS NOW?
DOUG YATES: "I feel really good about the engine. After the Daytona test we saw some things that after a normal race weekend we would come back and adjust on - the valve spring load loss was a little bit more than what we would like to see. We made some adjustments around the valvetrain, and with our test requirements here in-house, I feel really good about going to the race track this weekend with it. Would I be more nervous if this was the Daytona 500 in 2010? Sure, but I feel pretty good about the engine."
BRIAN WOLFE: "The thing is you never want to jinx anything, and you always want to take the approach that we're very cautiously optimistic, but I think the big key is through the years and years of racing experience that Doug and his team have built up, they do build confidence from laboratory tests of non-firing portions of the engine to durability runs to simulate on-track performance to actual on-track test sessions, where they will bring the engine back and tear it down to look at critical factors. Every one of those steps has been followed coming out with this, so there isn't anything else I know we would do to get more ready at this point than we already are."
WHEN WILL THE ENGINE BE AVAILABLE TO ALL FORD TEAMS?
DOUG YATES: "Right now, this is obviously the first race and the 6 and 17 cars will be racing it. We'd like to get it in some open competition before the end of the year, and then from there we'll evaluate the engine parts and make some good decisions on moving into 2010. But we probably won't start out across the board next year. The beginning of the season is so critical to gain points and to secure your position, that we'll gain some more experience with it and then try to introduce it across the board sometime around mid- season."
SO IN 2010 YOU WILL RUN IT WITH THE EXISTING ENGINE?
DOUG YATES: "Yes, that is the case right now. As we ramp it up and we get more parts in-house, and we gain more confidence in the reliability and the performance of the engine, we'll start bringing it out in more teams across the board, and work our way into having all the teams running the engine, hopefully, by mid- season."
DOES THE NEW ENGINE CHANGE THE CENTER OF GRAVITY WITH THIS NEW CAR?
DOUG YATES: "NASCAR took the engines back at the second Michigan race and they weighed them and they checked them for performance on the engine dynos, and, actually, we have the lightest engine in the field today, which is good. That's a good advantage for our teams, but what we did with the new engine - it's about the same weight - but the cylinder heads are lighter and the front-end accessory drive is lower, so the CG (center of gravity) of the engine is lower and we do feel like that will be an advantage for us moving forward. The mounting of the engine, like Brian said earlier, is a little different so it's gonna be a challenge for the teams to go back and forth between the two engines, but we are optimistic that the center of gravity of the new engine is gonna be advantageous for our teams."
WHEN YOU DID THE DAYTONA TEST WAS IT WITH THE SMALLER PLATE THEY'LL USE THIS WEEKEND? WILL IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
DOUG YATES: "No, it was not with the new plate. I think what we were trying to find there was an rpm range and the rpm range we ran at the test is gonna be similar to what we'll see this weekend at Talladega, so I feel like the testing was valid. Getting on the race track and checking all the car systems was important as well, but it's a great question. It's gonna be interesting to see how the racing is with the smaller plate this weekend. We're looking forward to it."
WILL ANY OF THE FORDS AT THE DAYTONA TEST ON MONDAY AND TUESDAY HAVE THE NEW ENGINE?
DOUG YATES: "No, they will not. The scheduling of that was really tight for everyone, especially for the new engine."
DO YOU DELEGATE SOME OF YOUR TEAM STUFF TO WORK WITH THE ENGINES?
DOUG YATES: "I'm actually looking forward to being able to focus on the engines moving forward. I think it's a good situation with Richard Petty Motorsports and Ford embracing them as well as myself and our team here at the engine shop. We're looking forward to the future. Really, these organizations have grown so much and you have such a great staff of people, and that's what it's really about - it's collecting a good team. It's not about one person anymore, but Ford has been a great part of my family and my dad's part of this sport, and I couldn't be prouder to be able to help them with designing their new engine."
COSWORTH BROUGHT OUT AN OPEN-WHEEL ENGINE YEARS AGO AND IT HAD PROBLEMS IN THE FIRST RACE. IS THIS GOING TO BE A GOOD TEST FOR THE FR9 AT ENGINE OR WILL A BETTER TEST COME AT A DIFFERENT TRACK DOWN THE ROAD?
DOUG YATES: "I think Talladega is a great test for it because you're basically wide-open the entire race, so it's a lot of rpm's. These engines at Talladega in restricted format turn 9,000 rpm, which is amazing. When NASCAR brought the COT on and they put more gear in the car so the drivers would have better throttle response, as an engine builder it was really concerning and we had a lot of work to do to take an engine that used to turn 7,000 rpm and make it turn 9,000 rpm. So this is a very demanding track and it'll be a good test for the engine this weekend. Years ago, we didn't really have the dynamometers to do endurance testing like we do today. We're lucky and very fortunate to have a dyno in-house that you can program any race track in the world and let it run. The thing it can't do is the centrifugal load, so fueling and some oil in the valvetrain area is hard to simulate, but with enough history we kind of know what those requirement are, and I think we've come a long ways. I'd venture to say the Cosworth guys would say technology has come a long way since they brought that engine out."
BRIAN WOLFE: CAN YOU UPDATE US ON THE STATUS OF THE PETTY/YATES TALKS? "We do know that the negotiations are going very well with Yates Racing and RPM. Both sides are very excited about the opportunities, but the final I's dotted and T's crossed has not been completed yet. All parties are working together, assuming that there are no real hard rocks in the road yet, so we're just really excited about the opportunities going forward."
DOUG YATES: "I'd like to add to that. I don't know if people remember this, but back in 1984 when Richard Petty won his 200th race at Daytona, my father was the engine builder. He built Richard's 199th and 200th win, and I was there that day as a young man, so this is a pretty special relationship with the King and the Yates' and, hopefully, we can work together and power them to some more victories."
THERE WAS SOME TALK THE ENGINE WOULD DEBUT EARLIER IN THE YEAR. WHAT PUSHED IT BACK?
DOUG YATES: "This has been a great experience, but there is a lot to be done when you bring a new engine out. We were ready to go to Daytona in July, and we actually had some parts that came in that were wrong, so that got pushed back. But when we did further testing, we found that we were not as ready as we thought we were, so that was a bit of a blessing. Then we were set to go to an open race and we found some things that were just a little bit concerning on the valvetrain, so it's just an iterative process of developing an engine. We've gained a lot of knowledge and now we're ready and ready to move forward with this piece. Like I said earlier in the conversation, on the current engine if we change a piston or a camshaft or any component, we go through a lot of testing to make sure that it's ready to go on the race track. Our number one job starts with reliability as NASCAR engine builders, and we have a lot of checks and processes and procedures to ensure that's there before we roll something out. It's probably a bit different than we used to do it 10 or 15 years ago, but there were some issues along the way and this is probably to be expected with bringing out a whole new product."
WHAT DOES FIRST 'PURPOSE BUILT' NASCAR ENGINE MEAN?
BRIAN WOLFE: "All of the previous engines all the way up to the current engine we're running is based on production architecture, so the bore centers, the standing deck height, the cylinder head - the original architecture that was derived from - were all off of production cars. So things like cooling system optimization, preparation of the valvetrain - things that you adapted going forward to get the results that we have now, those constraints are gone. So when you're looking at a cooling system, that gives Doug's team a chance to work with the engineers and all the modern tools that say, 'If you're gonna put the water jacket wherever you want them to optimize cooling performance on the track and heat transfer away from the engine, both the frictional portions of the engine, the bottom and the combustion heat transfer as well, how would you do that?' The reason that becomes very critical is it starts to affect other systems on the vehicle, and as you have a more efficient heat transfer from the combustion system, you can run the water temp a bit higher, which allows you to put a little bit more tape on the front grille, which allows your downforce and your aerodynamics to be a bit better on the race track. When we say purpose-built, it ties back to the fact that this engine is designed right from a clean sheet of paper to optimize how we need this race engine to perform, and is unconstrained by any of the production boundaries that the current engine had to deal with."
COULD NASCAR SLOW THE CARS AT TALLADEGA AND DAYTONA BY USING GEARING INSTEAD OF PLATES?
BRIAN WOLFE: "Not actually. What we have to do is cut about 200 horsepower out of the engine or more, actually. The only way to cut the power is to restrict the airflow or put more drag on the car, or a combination of both, but the gearing alone would not slow the cars down enough. Unrestricted engines make about 900 horsepower and the plate engines make about 450 horsepower, so it's a big difference between the two configurations and the gear alone would not be able to do it. Actually, NASCAR has us running above the peak power today, so, really, the only way to slow the cars down is to somehow cut the power or increase the drag."
-credit: ford racing