The dismal performance of the Ford EcoBoost DP cars at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona earlier this year has certainly been redeemed with recent victories at Sebring and Long Beach. So, what’s behind the swift turnaround?
“We were lucky to show up for Daytona,” admits John Maddox, road racing program manager at RoushYates, the engine builder behind the EcoBoost’s move into racing on the Tudor United Sports Car Championship circuit. “All we worked on at Daytona was finishing the race. With the data from Daytona and further tests, we’ve gotten better. That’s what it’s going to take for the whole program to be successful, is time. Now we’ve proven it can win.”
Ford is promoting the EcoBoost brand through its involvement with the Daytona Prototype cars on the Tudor circuit, but also using the competition to improve product on the production side.
“We’re working back and forth on all the durability items with Ford,” Maddox tells EngineLabs during a break at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. “We’re using their analysis and modeling capabilities.
The effort isn’t without taking some risks. One of the cars at Daytona suffered a crankshaft failure. But at the next race in Sebring, one of the engines was spinning a stock crankshaft to test the limits of the design and materials.
“The production crank we ran at Sebring was a significant test for Ford,” adds Maddox. “It had a good effect on validating the modeling they’re doing for our program.”
Only the Michael Shank Racing Ford entry was running at the end of Daytona, finishing 47th. Then at Sebring, the team of Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Marino Franchitti drove the Chip Ganassi-owned #01 car to the winner’s circle while two other Ford cars finished in the top 10. Pruett and Rojas followed up with another victory at Long Beach, although a second Ford entry dropped out after 39 laps.
Besides improvements made from track data and testing, Ford was given a helping hand by the sanctioning body with a relaxation of the restrictor inlet tube. Operating under the concept of “balance of performance,” IMSA can adjust certain engine-performance factors or parts between the different manufacturers to help achieve parity on the track. This approach is especially critical given the merging of Grand Am and ALMS and two different styles of prototype cars competing in the same class. Of course, every team was seeking an edge as the rules were set for Daytona, but Maddox says Ford “came out on the short end of the stick.”
“They opened us up a little and brought the Chevrolet back some,” explains Maddox, adding that boost levels were also adjusted after Daytona. “There are slower speeds at Sebring, so intercooler charge temperatures are up. That all has to be factored in the balance of performance.”
RoushYates currently has nine race engines in the pool for teams with another four used in testing and development. And it’s not a one-engine-per-weekend schedule like in NASCAR.
“Our target is a 50-hour race engine,” says Maddox.
As noted in EngineLabs’ original story on the EcoBoost race engine, the DP engine grew out of plan for RoushYates to develop an engine for customers campaigning LMP2 cars. Maddox says that engine is still on the table but on hold.
“We aren’t pursuing it now until we get ourself in a good place with this factory program,” adds Maddox.