Foster, Maxwell, Allison - Ford interview 2008-10-08

Last weekend, Mustangs secured championships on two different continents, including Ford Mustang FR500C, which helped Ford win the Grand-Am KONI Challenge manufacturers' championship. Additionally, Mustang teams claimed five of the top eight spots...

Last weekend, Mustangs secured championships on two different continents, including Ford Mustang FR500C, which helped Ford win the Grand-Am KONI Challenge manufacturers' championship. Additionally, Mustang teams claimed five of the top eight spots in the standings. The top Mustang was the No. 55 Mustang FR500C of Joe Foster and Scott Maxwell, who won both the drivers' and team championship. In Europe, Eric de Doncker repeated as GT4 European Cup champion, clinching the title in his No. 1 Mustang FR500GT4. Foster, Maxwell and Jamie Allison, manager of the Ford Racing Performance Group, talk about the accomplishments.

JAMIE ALLISON, manager of the Ford Racing Performance Group

WHAT DO THE EVENTS OF THE PAST WEEKEND MEAN TO YOU AND THE REST OF THE FORD RACING PERFORMANCE GROUP? "Clearly, this is a moment of pride and excitement. This is validation for a great car that's been out since 2005 and continues to perform at the highest level in this elite series."

HOW INVOLVED IS THE FORD RACING PERFORMANCE GROUP IN WHAT HAPPENS ON THE TRACK? "All the parts that are on this race car are released and available for sale to any enthusiast. So, every bit of this car has been designed, engineered, developed, tested and released for anybody to partake and enjoy. So, yes, we're intimately involved. Everything that we learn on the track doesn't just make its way into the parts; some of it actually makes its way into the production Mustang. As we've said in the past, some of that has made its way into the GT500. The venting on the hood was a direct translation from some of the high speeds that we've seen on the car in Grand-Am, and there's other evidence of translation between on-track and on- the-street Mustangs."

THIS MUSTANG ALSO WON CHAMPIONSHIPS IN ITS DEBUT SEASONS IN BOTH THE KONI CHALLENGE, IN 2005, AND IN GT4, IN 2007. "This is production-based racing. This is 70 to 80 percent based architecture on a Mustang GT. All of the take-off points for the suspension and a lot of the hardware on the car is effectively Mustang GT. In production-based racing, the underlying platform by which you build upon has got to be stout, robust and capable of being modified. A lot of credit goes to the base Mustang engineers who developed a great car. Building on top of that, obviously, was because of a special relationship that we have with Multimatic, who is also a supplier on the Mustang. They're intimately familiar with the suspension on the car and intimately familiar with the demands of that series and they helped us develop a very robust and very championship-capable car overall that any enthusiast or any racer could just literally pick up and go racing in the series and be championship-worthy."

THE NO. 37 JBS TEAM PROVES THAT AS THEY MAY BE THE LOWEST FUNDED TEAM IN THE SERIES AND THEY FINISHED SECOND IN THE STANDINGS. "Hats off to the JBS guys. They came in second, but they easily could have been first. The real testament there is that the car that they drove is one of the first five cars that we developed and sold, and it's the only car on the grid that has been campaigned since 2005. We really have proof point of a car that was purchased in the first five cars and has been campaigning for four solid seasons."

HOW INSTRUMENTAL HAS ERIC DE DONCKER BEEN TO THE SUCCESS OF THE MUSTANG IN EUROPE? "In most cases, you need a great car, a great team, a great driver and a little bit of good luck to have all things work your way. I'll tell you, Eric de Doncker is a guy who can compensate for everything else because he is just a phenomenal drive. He obviously has a great car, but his passion for Ford, his love for Mustangs and his will to win is what drives him day-in and day-out, and all of his podiums are a testament. I think he's been on the podium in almost every single race save a few. That's just a phenomenal, phenomenal achievement and it speaks volumes for his skill and it is also attributed to his passion for the Mustang and Ford in a continent that really doesn't pay a lot of attention to that car. He's a standout and we are very proud to have him be our champion."

JOE FOSTER - No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang FR500C

CONGRATULATIONS ON WINNING THE TITLE. "It was quite an up-and-down week, obviously with many people in the running to win the points championship. You had the JBS Mustang, which is a fantastic group, in the running and you had the BGB Porsche and the Automatic BMW. So there was a wide array of scenarios and everybody was, of course, trying to screw themselves into the ground with all of the possibilities and we really had a calm week in the sense that, as a team, we purposely tried to ignore all of that until halfway into the race and then take a look at it. Scott, myself and the team just focused on our car and the setup on the car and trying to get the car good on old tires and empty fuel tanks, which is what we knew we needed to do at the end of the race. We didn't do a whole lot of running on new tires. We just worked on setups. We didn't even run all of the sessions, not wanting the car to wear out before a long race and just focus on that. We knew it would take a little bit of luck, like these things always do. We certainly had our share of bad luck in the past and this time we had good luck in the sense that we got a yellow when we needed it at the end of the race. We got hit by a car that was not involved in the points chase in the middle of the race and that really damaged one of the front toe links on the car. So, the handling of our car went south at that point but we were able to keep it together and keep the pace that we needed. The JBS guys had a motor problem near the end and we got a yellow that we needed. So, luck obviously came our way and the whole outcome was really in question until the last few minutes."

DO YOU FEEL ANY PRESSURE RACING IN THOSE SITUATIONS, OR ARE YOU SO FOCUSED THAT YOU DON'T REALLY FEEL DIFFERENT? "Certainly there's always pressure and we had a strategy to try and minimize opportunities to mess things up, like driver changes. So we only did two driver changes the whole race and we ran double stints. Both Scott and I led for a lot of laps at different points in the race and then once we were slightly injured in terms of handling and once we saw the strategy evolved - and we also needed to conserve fuel - that's when we directed Scott to slow up on the RPM and to conserve fuel, which is why he kind of drifted down the order at the end of the race. You always feel pressure, but in this case it's just pressure to focus on what's on your own plate and just not make mistakes and just let everything happen if it's going to happen."

LAST YEAR YOU ENTERED VIR IN THE POINTS LEAD AND A CHANCE TO CLINCH AS WELL. DO YOU THINK THAT EXPERIENCE HELPED YOU THIS SEASON? "Oh, absolutely it helped. Every bit of experience helps. We ran good last year, led the race last year and had a fuel pump issue which made it such that we had to stop every 35 minutes to get gas, and that's kind of what happened. So what do you know? This year we started the race with brand-new fuel pumps. And then in the end that's what sort of befell the Automatic BMW was a similar fuel pump issue. It can happen to the best of us. It just comes your way or it doesn't."

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOU TO COME AWAY FROM THIS SEASON AS A CHAMPION? "It means an incredible amount - not only to the team and the ownership in terms of Patrick Dempsey and the Multimatic guys - everybody has put in so much work over the past two or three years. So it's nice to see that work have a culmination. Just my family, my wife, my children and my mom - these are folks that have invested emotionally in this endeavor for up to 30 years. I mean, my mom and I were sleeping in the car at go-kart tracks together 30 years ago. If you look that far back, in terms of my friends and family, even my friend Bill Meyn, who was helping call pit strategy there [on Sunday], was at the go-kart track with me and my mom 30 years ago and I've known him since seventh grade. So it's a culmination of a lot of things for a lot of people, not just me. It meant the world to me, for my mom, my wife and my two daughters who sacrifice so much."

SCOTT MAXWELL - No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang FR500C

WAS THERE ANY POINT IN THE RACE THAT YOU FELT THAT YOU HAD EVERYTHING WRAPPED UP, OR DO YOU JUST HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE CAR THE CROSS THE FINISH LINE? "It was going really well for the first couple of hours because we led for a bunch of it. Then about three hours in, Joe had that coming together another car, so from that point on it was a real struggle. We went from having a first place, or a fairly dominant car, to one that was struggling to keep up with the leaders. The last half of the race was really nail biting. Honestly, it wasn't until really the last lap - and even then we still had some fuel issues - that I started to think we had it. It literally was until we crossed the finish line; not because of anything other than there were some elements playing against us at the time."

WAS IT MORE NERVE-WRACKING WHEN YOU WERE DRIVING BECAUSE OF THE PRESSURE TO PERFORM, OR RATHER WHEN YOU NOT IN THE CAR AND WATCHING FROM THE SIDELINES? "I find it a lot more difficult being out of the car. So, like I said, the first two hours went perfectly and then sitting on the sidelines, everything is out of your control and when something happens you just want to get back in the car. I much prefer being hands-on and being in the car. So I was fortunate in that respect that I was fortunate to the first two and the last two hours, so I was in the car quite a bit."

WAS ANYTHING GOING THROUGH YOUR HEAD RIGHT BEFORE YOU CROSSED THE FINISH LINE? "Just a huge amount of relief because it was a fairly dramatic last couple of hours. Even with half-an-hour to go, we were short on fuel and I had a car behind me and in front of me that could still win the championship. When I say behind and in front, they were directly in front of me and directly behind me. It was just a lot of pressure, for that last hour especially. Just a lot of relief and a big burden off my shoulders as we crossed the line."

-credit: ford racing

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Series Road racing
Drivers Scott Maxwell , Joe Foster , Patrick Dempsey , Eric de Doncker