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Indy Car Racing Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indy Racing League

Indy Car Racing Media Conference

Dan Rivard
June 6, 1995


JOHN PROCIDA: Well, I want to thank you all for joining us today. We're going to open up the teleconference with Dan Rivard and then Michael Andretti is scheduled to join us immediately following Dan's participation. One thing I want to mention going in is that we do have some radio people trying to get sound bites today, so if it's possible to use a mute button on your phone, we would prefer you to do that. If it's not possible, please try to keep the background noise to a minimum because all of the typing coming through the phone has a major affect on our radio people. A couple facts about the Ford program to start with, the Ford IndyCar program. They do have five wins in seven races this season and those wins have been captured by three different teams, the Newman/Haas team has won twice, Team Green has won twice and Walker Racing has won once. In addition, they have six polls in seven races and those have actually been scattered over four different teams and that would be Newman/Haas, Chip Ganassi, Walker Racing and Forsythe Racing. And let me see if Mr. Rivard is back with us.

DAN RIVARD: Yes, I'm here.

JOHN PROCIDA: Okay. Dan, I'm going to go open questions right now. Folks, please try to be orderly but we will open the line for questions. Go ahead.

Q. This is a question about the pop off valves everybody is having trouble with. I understand that the engine folks can manage the pressures quite well. Is there any reason why the teams -- why it's good news?

DAN RIVARD: Not being absolutely up to date technically on the valves, I can't give you a good answer. But it would seem to me that with modern technology, that those valves should be made to be fairly precise and fairly controllable. I do know that our guys spend an awful lot of time with this management system to make sure that you get to the point of blowing the valve and staying just below it because if those valves go, sometimes it takes a lot of time for them to seat again and they do lose quite a bit getting that valve back down in the seat.

Q. The revised engine, when will we begin to see that being raced?

DAN RIVARD: That was tried out a few races before Indy and it was pulled from the Indy schedule because there were a few development issues. We're back at it again and we'll be in all likelihood trying it in practice and getting it ready to race later this season. A race hasn't been picked for schedule on that.

Q. Can you assess the Ford program today?

DAN RIVARD: This year I think we're doing really tremendously well with the fact that our efforts are scattered across a variety of teams. We carried some 23 odd teams in the Indy race and have regularly about 18 or so franchises with our power in it. And not concentrating with any one particular team. I think seeing the variety of people have been able to perform with our car makes us feel very, very good. The Honda people are coming on to witness Indy, Toyota will be here soon. We're in anticipation of that and one can never, ever do anything to count the Ilmor Penske people out. What we saw this year at Indianapolis I think was a high anomaly probably never to be seen again by any of us in our lifetime. That team would not make it if it didn't make it in the front half of the field someplace. So I think we're looking at a very, very competitive sport. We're thrilled to be in it and we're thrilled to be doing as well as we are this year.

Q. Dan, talk a moment about how the Ford engineers work with the teams. And you talked about that they are spread out. What kind of communications factor is there and how do you bring it all under one umbrella?

DAN RIVARD: Well, as we started, we started basically with Carl Haas, the Newman/Haas people and Chip Ganassi and his people, so we had two teams that started with us and that's relatively easy. As the series opens up our Indy Car manager Don Hayword becomes a very busy person keeping in contact with all the people and our partners, Cosworth have that same difficulty. Our main involvement though is with the teams is what we'll call synergistic projects, so we try to help where we can bring the skills of our production engineers to bear out a particular problem wherein we can make racing a two-way street; in areas of competitional fluid dynamics, areas of power transmission, vehicle handling predictions, shock absorber predicting, that sort of thing. We'll isolate a project with a given team, work with the team engineers, broker in our production people and make sure that that's a reasonable interface. And the biggest thing that we have to do in that relationship is honor the confidentiality of the project with a given team. So we juggle a lot of balls, Don Hayward juggles a lot of balls. And we of necessity have to keep the projects separate because people aren't anxious to give their advantage away to the competitors, even though they may be running the same power. So we find it very rewarding that we can take our technology to the race course and use that as a prove out field. And then in quite the few cases, the technology from the race car flows back to the production vehicle and at the end of the day we feel that this gives ours retail customer a much better car or truck that serves our purposes because, as you know, racing pushes all the corners of the envelop and it gives us a way to look at very, very severe duty cycles and high usage factors, high load factors that we can't get easily in any of our other testing. And there's some really big boost to find fair quality programs inside the company.

Q. When a team comes across as you mentioned the technology advantage, is there a certain time period that that team has that advantage that it may be something that you can spread out at some point to the other teams to help the entire Ford team effort?

DAN RIVARD: If it's not engine related and Cosworth controls the engine technology, if it's not engine related, that traffic is directed by the team. Which is after all their project, and they've put a lot into it. If it's a project that we work on generically, and we do this work this out with the teams we worked on projects with generically, then we would be the spreader of that information. But if it's a teams suggested project and they heavily invest in it in terms of intellectual time and test time and so on and so forth, they're the masters of the destiny of that particular, primarily chassis or body project, because the engine pieces are down stream to all of the teams as quickly as they can across the grid. And Cosworth does, I think, does a pretty admirable job of doing that in keeping all of our people competitive with the latest power.

Q. Talking about the technology flow from the racetrack back to the retail product, what's the time line in that before you get something actually in production whether it's been developed in racing?

DAN RIVARD: Some of it can go pretty quick. One of the examples that I'll use is from a different series, but we ran an automatic transmission in one of the class eight trucks in the desert last year, and in that particular racing series we had an F three times; pretty much broke all the power transmission points in the transmission the first three races out and by the end of the season had cycled through 27 engineering changes and proved it out in one racing season. So we probably got the equivalent of about three or four years of very, very high mileage testing compressed into six months. So things move very quickly in the racing environment as you well know because every weekend there's a race and you can't wait for two years to prove it out, you've got to be ready to go. So we were very excited about the fact that we could move those changes so quickly through our system and put 27 improvements into one of our main line truck transmissions in a period of four to six months. Tremendous technology advancement.

Q. Dan, with this weekend ITT Automotive Detroit Grand Prix, Ford obviously has a huge presence. How important is this weekend for you?

DAN RIVARD: A great weekend for us. We get a chance, and I think IndyCar as well, is seeing the importance of Detroit, the Motor City as the capital of the auto industry as a real showcase of their racing technology. And I think it's a great partnership between ourselves and the sanctioning people, the people that control the PPG people, the Detroit people that are involved in this. All of the manufacturers are there. Unfortunately we're the only domestic people with IndyCar presence. But you'll see Chrysler and General Motors people involved in the Saturday races and so on. So I think it's just a great thing to have this sort of a thing to showcase Detroit -- nothing is prettier than Belle Isle on a nice sunny Sunday afternoon and hear those cars and watch all the colors and see that skyline and the river, I think it's just a great day for Detroit and Michigan and for the United States because of the international exposure.

Q. You had mentioned your Trans Am program. How much importance does it have to the Trans Am race? They, themselves, say that this may be more important than winning the championship.

DAN RIVARD: I think because of the presence again in Detroit and I think because of the heavy interest of ourselves and General Motors in the Trans Am series, that this is a very key race for us and for GM and Chevy and for our teams. And I think you'll see a very, very competitive Trans Am this weekend. And we're looking to bring one home again this weekend if we can.

JOHN PROCIDA: Do we have anymore questions for Dan? Okay. Well, Dan, I want to thank you for joining us today.

DAN RIVARD: Been my pleasure and everybody come down and watch things on the island this weekend. I think it's going to be a very, very great show and I think we'll all grow to appreciate what this means to the sport, what it means to the industry. And here's hoping for a good, fast, safe weekend for everybody.

JOHN PROCIDA: Thanks Dan.

DAN RIVARD: Thank you.

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