Editor's note: A conversation with Comp Cam's Billy Godbold is both interesting and revealing. He brings viewpoints that are not only thought-provoking but clear evidence of his penchant to bring new and supportive technologies to the motorsports community. With an M.S. degree in Physics from Florida State University and while working for the Nuclear Physics Group, he chose to join the ranks of the Comp Performance Group to combine his academic background with a passion to improve race engine performance. You'll enjoy his comments.
Over time and from a design perspective, how have you developed programs with racers and engine builders to address specific needs for their applications?
At Comp, we do not believe anything is more critical to success than listening to customers. Once you establish a relationship of mutual trust and respect, then communication flow is great, and we can focus on steps to improve performance.
Customers have to know that we will never share what they are doing with a competitor before they can give us good feedback and information. Once they can tell us where exactly they have issues, what is working well, and how they are trying to improve their system, then we can lock arms with the customer and bring all of our experience, testing and manufacturing resources to bear on their specific needs.
Over my 19 years with Comp Cams, I have seen that model work extraordinarily well while developing everything from new lobe families and lifters to literally hundreds of parts throughout our CPG family of companies. Earning trust, maintaining great communication and nurturing excellent partnerships are absolutely critical.
Billy Godbold stands in front of one of Comp's eight Okuma GC-34NH CNC Cam Grinding Machin
In the past, before engine dynamometers became rather commonplace among the racing community, parts manufacturers essentially aimed their products toward presumed needs and manufacturing techniques. Today, the level of parts specialization has increased dramatically. How have you adjusted to this changing environment?
I really have to thank SEMA for the access to information we have on the OEM side, and give equal thanks to all the race teams and OE suppliers for sharing CAD drawings, models and detailed information on all the new engines.
At times it almost seems as easy as in the late '90s. The difference is our engineering team has grown from two to almost 20, and the tools are so much better from design to testing to manufacturing.
We made a very conscious decision many years ago to stop designing "camshaft lobes" and "tappet lift" as the goal, but instead focus on designing what we thought would be the optimum valve motion for a given application. I know that seems simple, but it is quite difficult. Instead of making a given lobe shape and finding out how the valve moved, we would focus on designing valve motion, then back out the required cam profile needed to achieve that motion. If that profile could not be made, we would work around the system and design until we would get as close as possible.
Implementing that paradigm shift was painfully slow at first, but it put us miles ahead of everyone when the mass influx of new engines and specialization took place. It really was no more difficult for us to design valve motion for an R07, Ford Modular, TRD or anything that came our way than it would have been for a standard small block Chevy. We had great experience with what valve motion characteristics made power, and we were already extremely proficient at designing "at the valve" then working backwards to the camshaft.
The difficulties balancing what the rules makers require and what the engine building and racers want is an ongoing challenge. What role do you see parts manufacturers taking to help satisfy the requirements of these three areas of interest?
The short answer will always be that Comp Cams will make whatever our customers want, and then they can deal with the sanctioning body. We must understand that we are in business to serve our customer, so the balance on the design and manufacturing end is pretty easy.
The long answer comes from our place as a leader in our industry. Racers always do the following: Complain to the sanctioning bodies that they need more rules to be competitive then work their backsides off trying to evade those rules when implemented.
As an industry leader, we should communicate that the most valuable product in motorsports is innovation. In spite of massive efforts by extremely smart individuals, thicker rule books always result in higher cost, less opportunity for the clever engine builders, and more dominance by very wealthy teams. In NASCAR Cup, small engine builders begged for things like a gear rule, no qualifying engines, common chassis and less testing so they could keep up with the super teams. The result was exactly opposite of their intentions. The super teams bought everything from teams of engineers and elaborate endurance dynamometers to test tracks and copied tires. The new rules to save the small guys became the death to the small engine builder in the Cup series. All the parts manufacturers need to communicate the law of unintended consequences to sanctioning bodies, and help them see the pitfalls we have seen in other series.