“Do you want to drive again?”

» Posted by on Feb 8, 2012 in Current projects and Tech Notes, RB6 Formula Ford | 1 comment

“Do you want to drive again?”

Wow. What a question.

My last racing adventure halted in 1996 when I saw the ad in AutoWeek that said Swift was hiring engineers for their start-up CART program. Working with David Bruns at Swift was the job that I always wanted to have, from the moment the company started. I kept sending them resumes from 1983 onward.

My adventures in a DB-1 were going really well in ’96. So well in fact that I lapped the whole FF field both days during my final race weekend. Having just finished 4 years working for Jim Hall’s Indycar team, I was well aware that if I got the job at Swift, it would be full time. In professional racing, full time means that you work, and you sleep. Nothing else is on the schedule. I started very strong and rose to the top tier during my 15 years at Swift, but never had the time and money for driving again. Jim Peruto changed that with this simple question: “Do you want to drive again?”

Formula Ford is the class that suits my style better than any other, and since I was still at Swift when this began, only a DB-6 would do. The one that I found had spent 11 years sitting in a prep shop being cannibalized as a replacement part source to keep other DB6es running. The end result of that was a car that had a good frame, but absolutely everything attached to it was both ridiculously used up and covered in a thick grunge of abuse, mediocrity, and defeat. I had never seen an intact race car in worse shape. For example, the gearbox was, well, see for yourself:

That’s not the worst thing on the car. It’s a just typical example of the condition that everything was in.

The upside to this rolling horror pile was that since there was nothing left worth saving, I had a very good reason to tear it down to the last rivet and rebuild it the way I wanted. Having learned a lot about race car design and development in my profession, almost nothing on the car would go back on without significant alteration. This effort goes beyond a rebuild: it’s a resurrection and a partial reinvention. The car came apart quickly, but it took a very long time to scrape the sludge off the parts that would go back on.

When I say that I tore it down to the last rivet, I mean it.

Original bare frame

The car spent its first several months in my garage like this, exploded to its subatomic particles. Those months were spent measuring everything that I was interested in developing, and conducting several simultaneous engineering optimization programs. We will talk about those as the story unfolds.

I got a stunning amount of help with the engineering development programs from the amazing Formula SAE engineering student talent pool. Ricard Aiguabella Macau and Ross Stringham agreed to perform in-depth engineering analysis and optimization programs for me. Given their talents, self motivation, and far-above-and-beyond willingness to excel, Those two gentlemen are sure to go on to fantastic careers in motorsports. I am glad to say that I knew them before they were famous.

This is an unusual move for an intense competitor, but I’m going to be very, very open with every modification, theory, tweak, detail, and thought behind what I’m doing during the car’s resurrection. There is a sneak preview of nearly everything I’m doing in my book, Think Fast. I’ve had a chance to talk the talk, and this is my chance to walk the walk. My intent with this openness is to provide examples of how I think, and what I consider to be important, so that you will be more likely to pick up your phone or keyboard and find out what I can do to make you faster.

1 Comment

  1. Neil,
    I anxiously await to see your progress.
    Being in a similar position with my DB-6 I only hope I do not have to rework to much of mine after looking at yours.
    Scott