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David Simon, Ford Racing engineer, has been working alongside Doug Yates on creating the FR9 engine that will be rolled out full-time later this year. As the new engine gets set for its first race on an open track in 2010, Simon talks about why the engine has been rolled out in this fashion and the confidence he has in its future performance.
Q. IS IT A CASE WHERE THE SITUATION IS GOOD TO GET THE FR9 OUT THERE WITH A TEAM LIKE THE WOOD BROTHERS, WHICH IS RUNNING A LIMITED SCHEDULE?
A. Yes. The Wood Brothers have been willing to run the FR9 full-time since last year. They’ve always been really receptive to it and it’s one of those deals where it will help them out in the long run because they get a head start with it, and it helps us out because it gives us an opportunity to run the engine and then get their feedback and some race miles on it.
Q. IS IT ALSO GOOD IN THE SENSE THAT IF THERE’S A PROBLEM, IT’S NOT GOING TO HURT THEM AS FAR AS MAKING THE CHASE BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT RUNNING FULL-TIME?
A. That’s certainly the reality of the situation. It wouldn’t knock them out of a championship run if there’s a problem with the engine, but, on the other side, we’ve spent a lot of time working on the durability of the engine and the performance of the engine and we wouldn’t give it to anybody unless we felt confident it was a package that was not only going to run well but last the entire race. So there’s probably a little bit more risk for those guys because they’re really the first ones to use it, but, at the same time, it’s gone through all the same durability testing and validation work that the current engine has gone through. We’re pretty confident that they’re not going to have any issues with it.”
Q. THE ONLY NON-RESTRICTOR PLATE RACE FOR THE FR9 TO DATE HAS BEEN AT HOMESTEAD WITH DAVID RAGAN. HOW DID THAT ENGINE LOOK AFTERWARDS?
A. The Homestead engine looked great. The engines coming back from Daytona earlier this year looked great. Granted, they were plate engines, but we haven’t seen anything alarming, so we’re pretty confident the package the 21 car is running will be fine. It’s a new spec and has some new stuff, but all of it is for increased performance and, as of right now, we haven’t seen anything that would be adverse to durability. It should be pretty good.
Q. WHY HAS THE FR9 BEEN ROLLED OUT IN THIS FASHION? SOME SAY IT HAS BEEN SLOW.
A. There are a couple of reasons for the slow rollout. The first reason is you’ve got to get your race package complete. You can’t go out there with an engine that isn’t fully developed, not at this level. So with that in mind, the old “452” engine, compared to the other engines out there, is really competitive. I mean, it’s not just hanging on because it’s old, it’s really competitive so we haven’t been under a lot of pressure to roll the new engine out early. With that said, the new engine is at a point where we’re very confident in it. The performance is there and it’s time to get it out, but up until now we’ve been able to get our development work done, get the package set, and get everything with the engine right prior to putting it out on the race track. We didn’t want to do development on the race track and continuously be changing it while being under the pressure of racing it. The other reason is that once you get the package set, you’ve got to get the entire pipeline going. The engine shop has a lot of parts they need to make, and we have parts to supply, so if you do that before your race package is set, you run the risk of having to change things and ending up with a lot of scrap parts. We didn’t want to be in that situation, so that’s why the rollout of this open engine is gonna be a little bit slower.
Q. THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT BUILDING UP THE PARTS SUPPLY. HOW MANY FR9 ENGINES NEED TO BE IN THE PIPELINE PER TEAM?
A. It’s a five-engine rotation per team. Basically what happens is an engine gets raced on any given weekend, but the engine for the next weekend is already built. When the engine from the first weekend comes in and gets torn down, it’s about a three-week process to get it back through the system and rebuilt. So, if you have a third consecutive weekend, that engine has already been built and goes out the door. Since we race just about every single weekend and you’ve got about a three-week turnaround time for an engine after it’s been raced and is ready to race again, you end up needing four to five engines in rotation just to support one car.
Q. SO, LOOKING AT JUST ROUSH FENWAY AND RICHARD PETTY MOTORSPORTS THAT’S 40 ENGINES THAT HAVE TO BE READY ONCE THE FULL-TIME ROLLOUT STARTS.
A. That’s right and on top of that you’ve got development engines that stay here at Roush Yates, and test engines that go out with the test cars when the race teams do testing on their own. You’ve got back-up spare engines. Right now, I think Roush Yates has over 130 engines in inventory right now with the “452” engine. You’ve got an inventory of plate engines that sit around and get raced four times a year, and then you’ve got a rotation of open engines. You look at Daytona itself and Roush Yates sent 30 engines just to support Daytona.
Q. WE’VE HEARD AROUND MID-SEASON FOR A FULL ROLLOUT. IS THAT STILL THE PLAN?
A. The plan is it will run in the 21 car the whole season in the races that they run, and it may trickle into a few other cars but we’re not necessarily signing up for that in the first half of the season. In the second half of the season, other than a few selected events where we’ll run the old engine, our plan is pretty much to be FR9 across the board.