Thursday, October 4, 2007

Doctor Doctor

Upon arriving at Indianapolis, I was chauffered to the Brickyard Crossing Hotel by Danny B, checking into my room we ventured off for some much needed nourishment.

Upon returning to the hotel after dinner, Danny noticed that his friend Dave was still there, so we sauntered back into the bar and pulled up stools to chat with Dave and Dr. Who.

And I certainly don’t know how he got the nickname, but Dr. Who’s real name is Tim Wardrop. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? He’s a quite prolific and well traveled Indianapolis 500 Winning race engineer. As in specifically Arie Luyendyk’s 1997 victory for Tredway Racing. Along with engineering The “Flying Dutchman’s” pole position in 1996. You know when Arie posted one and four lap records of 237.498mph and 236.986mph respectively, which still stand today.

Soon we were waltzing down memory lane as Tim was quite willing to engage us in conversation regarding his motorsports career. To which the conversation soon steered towards Formula 1. Of which Messer Wardrop has a quite distinguished career in. Telling us briefly of his exploits of working for Walter Wolf Racing, Williams and McLaren. Not too shabby, eh?

Tim claims that the inspiration for the white stripe on the Wold WR1 came from his seeing those beloved “copper’s Starsky & Hutch! And he reminisced about that being a star crossed lineup of engineering talent. As he worked with Dr. Harvey Postlethwaite and Patrick Head. With Jody Schekter as the driver of the single car entry.

Wardrop fondly stated that Postlethwaite was a great guy. And it was a thrill to have Scheckter win three races in 1977. They won the season opener in Argentina. Startling the F1 community as it was the team’s debut. Scheckter also won the crown jewel of F1, Monaco. Along with the Canadian GP that season.

Sheckter finished second in the Driver’s championship with Wolf finishing fourth in the Constructor’s championship, the team’s best results. Scheckter then Moved to Ferrari. Where he became the Scuderia’s last World champion pre Michael Schumacher.

Tim then told us an entertaining story about discovering ground effects. As he’d gotten ahold of some pictures of the revolutionary Lotus 78 from an Italian magazine. Tim claims he then set to work in his spare time cobbling together a ground effects chassis from various discarded bits. While the team was busy testing Postlethwaite’s latest creation at the MIRA wind tunnel. Wardrop mentioned his mock-up, which was reluctantly tested and came up with numbers twice as good as Postlethwaite’s “winner.” And when they put moving side skirts upon it, the numbers were even higher.

I asked Tim his thoughts upon CFD. (Computational Fluid Dynamics) and he was quite positive about it. I wish we’d had that back when I was at March. As you can simply input your data points and change everything on the fly. Wind Tunnels are so expensive to operate, as they’re running 100% scale models at speeds up to 200mph these days!

Did you work with Robin Herd? Yeah, I worked at March Engineering for eight years. Then I came to the States in 1995 to work for Newman/Haas with Michael andretti and Kevin Cogan.

Tim asked me if I remembered Willy T Ribbs? Sure, while trying to ask him why Ribbs sat out the 1992 Indy 500 over the din of the bar’s patrons. Tim replied that he’d been Ribbs race engineer for both of his Speedway efforts. (1991, 1993)

Yet the 1992 Indy 500 was a most successful year for Tim as his cars finished 1-2 that day. You see Wardrop was involved with Alan Mertens who designed the Galmer G92, driven to victory by Al Unser Jr. And Tim was engineering Scott Goodyear who came from dead last (33rd) to finish second for Derrick Walker that day in what is regarded as the closest finish at the Brickyard!

And speaking about Walker Racing drivers. Tim told us an entertaining story about Robby Gordon, who once asked a teammate when do you turn-in at Turn 1 of Indy? And the response was when you reach 228mph. So bam, Robby turns into the corner as soon as he reads 228 on the dashboard. Not 229 or 227, but exactly 228mph!

And speaking about straight line speed, Wardrop assured us that Luyendyk’s record numbers are correct. Claiming he was reaching 250mph on the front straight. Never dipping below 236, as the car was completely trimmed out… Tim claims that Gugelmin’s & De Ferran’s “record” runs at Fontana, CA are NOT correct as the track distance was measured incorrectly. Therefore the speeds are approx. 6mph too high!

Wardrop’s ex-Indiana neighbor was a chap named Jim McGee. And he worked on Newman/Haas’s 2004 entry for Bruno Junqueira, which just missed winning the race by about 10 minutes, as everybody was watching for precipitation.

Wardrop also was reunited with Arie Sr. in 2006 to attempt qualifying Luyendyk Jr’s entry, which wasn’t successful. While now having been hired as Chief Engineer for the SWE Racing Indy Pro Series team. The team ran gray beard Jon Brownson (54yrs old) n a limited ISP program this season while searching for sponsors. Brownson’s dream is to become the next Marty Roth and race in the Indianapolis 500…

SWE has moved into a new “state of the art” facility. Currently sharing the space with a brand new IPS team; Team KMA co-owned by the “Red Rocker.” A.k.a. Sammy Hagar. With SWE’s website claiming; “Wardrop has won the Indianapolis 500 more times than any other engineer in the history of the 500.”

And as we kept saying just one more question, Tim told us how he’d worked with some chap named Ross Brawn. I mean he was a true junior machinist at Williams when I worked there. Oh you mean the Ross Brawn who worked with some dude named Michael Schumacher!
For more Indianapolis stories, see; D-Squared