Racers, and more specifically engine builders, are always seeking some sort of an on-track advantage. And when they are successful, tend to guard such an advantage to remain competitive. Can you think of any ways parts manufacturers can work successfully with racers and engine builders in this type of an environment?
I regularly hear stories from parts manufacturers of race teams and race engine builders asking for parts in new specifications as they experiment and innovate. It may even surprise the manufacturer of the component when they first get the request, but this is also where new setups and new combinations of components can be proven on a racetrack. And there have been moments where the parts manufacturer made it clear that the new speed secret was being protected for the race engine builder of team that found it.
In virtually every visit I’ve ever made to a factory that made race parts, the person who provided the tour of the facility spoke like someone who went racing. Racing parts manufacturers want to win races. Almost all racing businesses begin with the passion for speed and the competition of racing cars, and then they find their way as a money-making enterprise. It’s always fun when a parts manufacturer stops to explain a new innovation in a particular part as we stand on the factory floor, and the pride they have that it’s going to really help their customers be more competitive and win more races. The spirit of competition in racing extends all the way into the factories where the race parts are made.
In the interviews Circle Track conducted last year with engine builders, the subject of new and emerging technologies was discussed. Do you think such technologies are good for the motorsports community or not and, if so, why?
Innovation has always been a big part of the formula for fun in racing. Only one person gets to drive, but a whole bunch of people get to be involved in figuring out how to go faster. It’s the never-ending mystery. And I believe this remains a key attraction for many racing fans who love the sense of amazement that a race car can go that fast while providing a great driver with such control.
It may seem odd to speak of joy when it comes to a tough sport like auto racing, but it’s there every weekend when race teams win races or just run far better than they ever have before. There’s a lot of work to win championships, from the local track to the top of the sport: time, effort, commitment, focus, sacrifice, resilience, courage, ambition, creativity and more. The moment someone discovers a new place to gain a competitive advantage is spectacular, and when a new idea is proven on the racetrack with a win, it’s a joyful moment.
I don’t mean to sound poetic. But PRI is on the parts side of racing, and I think it’s important to state and restate that the technological side of the sport of racing has kept many of us enthralled with this sport for decades. It’s a critical part of the attraction of the sport. Listen to the great stories you hear in racing, and you really recognize how many of the stories have to do with parts and technology.
I realize that my job is not filing up the grandstands every weekend, but I have to seriously suggest from my perspective that we should promote and celebrate innovation in racing in a big way.
During the current year, CT will be reaching out to selected motorsports parts manufacturers to discuss their views about the current and future needs of racers and how they, as parts designers, plan to address those needs and opportunities. From your perspective, how do you feel they should approach the future growth of the sport?
I think the parts manufacturers are already doing a pretty spectacular job. As I mentioned, there’s no fat in the system, that’s for sure. A lot of parts manufacturers and race engine builders have told me over the years that they would very much welcome more opportunities to engage in strategy sessions with race promoters and race sanctioning bodies on how to boost car counts. More of that would be good for the sport, I believe.
When it comes to the future growth of the sport, I have a lot of confidence in the racing industry as a whole in its ability to approach challenges. Overcoming obstacles and rising to meet challenges is what racers do. I may be prejudiced, but I believe a night at the local short track beats everything for entertainment value. It may be just me, but I think movies are boring. Baseball is boring. Facebook is boring. My Blackberry is boring. But, if I pay a very reasonable price to get into my local short track, grab a beer, sit high in the grandstands and the first heat race starts, I’m in another world. I’m far away from office life and all my chores around the house. It’s loud. It’s fast. It’s thrilling. Racing has an incredible product at a great price. And I think all of the racing industry is figuring out ways to more or less reintroduce the sport to many local residents who haven’t experienced it, especially younger folks. And I believe we can do this.