Thursday, June 16, 2011

An Interview with Craig Pollock

If your aware of who Craig Pollock is, then you’ll probably know that he was 1995 CART Champion and 1997 F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve’s manager, before becoming the Team Principal of Formula One Constructor BAR in 1999, (British American Racing) for which Villeneuve served as the team’s lead driver. Pollock departed BAR and subsequently co-established in 2003 the Champ Car team PK Racing with Kevin Kalkoven with BAR Test Driver Patrick Lemarie before the team saw Pollock depart and become PKV Racing the following year with the addition of Dan Petitt and Jimmy Vasser – now known as KV Racing Technology in the Indy Car Series...

Thus, without trying to reinvent the wheel, (see interview above) albeit Mr. Pollock will most naturally wish to discuss his current venture known as PURE, (Propulsion Universelle et Recuperation d’Energie) hopefully he’ll be willing to allow me to ask him a few different motorsports related topics before getting to the “Meat-in-the-Sandwich,” eh?  

Tomaso (T)
Having just returned from this year’s Centennial Indy 500 – I’d assume that your best memory of the Speedway is 1995 when your charge Jacques Villeneuve won the race. What other memories of Indianapolis can you briefly share and have you been back since ’95?

Craig Pollock (CP)
Yes the best memory by far was when JV won the 500. It was by far the best race I have ever seen as he had to drive 500 plus 2.5 miles to win. In actual fact he was one lap ahead of the field. He was penalized 2 laps for overtaking the pace car twice. He finished with thread bare tires. I have been back a few times and have to say that this is one of the best motor sports events in the world.

(T) Having forgotten that your Champ Car team was formed out of the Ashes of PacWest Racing, which long-long ago, was my Hometown racing team. Did you enjoy your brief tenure as a Champ Car World Series Team Owner. What caused you to depart PK Racing and did it have anything to do with Patrick Lemarie’s dismissal?

(CP) It was nothing to do with Patrick We replace Patrick with another old F1 friend Mika Salo. The reason for my departure was that I did not see eye to eye with my business partners wishes and it was better to move on.

(T) While I seem to recall that BAR attempted to run two different liveried Tobacco sponsorship cars a la CART/Champ Car with the brands 555 & Lucky Strike – which I think was vetoed by either Bernie Ecclestone or the FIA. Whose idea was it to run that double livery paint scheme on what I affectionately denote as the “Zipper Car” (BAR001) in 1999.

(CP) It was a joint decision between BAT and myself. In reality I had another idea but was veto’d (with good reason) as I wanted the zip to open progressively showing a middle finger but I guess that would have been a bit over the top!

The FIA has recently confirmed the 2013 rules as follows:
Power units will be four cylinders, 1.6 litre with high pressure gasoline injection up to 500 bar with a maximum of 12,000 rpm, with extensive energy management and energy recovery systems (now known as ERS), reflecting the decision taken by the WMSC in December 2010…

(T) Anything you can say about the recent Engine Manufacturer’s meeting held in Monaco. (Did you attend?) Or what is your take upon the scuttlebutt of the FIA supposedly leaving the door ajar for a possible delay/cancellation of the 2013 implemented turbo engine package.

(CP) The meeting took place on May 21st in Barcelona and yes I did participate. It was an interesting meeting and a lot calmer than I expected. In reality I am still the new guy on the block so I reacted when absolutely necessary. It would be a great pity if the FIA have to go back on their decision.

PURE (Propulsion Universelle et Recuperation d’Energie) has been set up and joined by partners TEOS, Mecachrome, D2T and IFP Energies Nouvelles – all labeled as specialists in powertrain design.

(T) So, I’ve heard of Mecachrome  – since it’s involvement as an engine assembler for Renault beginning back in the 1990’s; but I don’t know anything about the other three parties mentioned above. Yet a very brief search resulted in the name TEOS Engineering - a Prototype Manufacturer with some linkage to Mecachrome. And have just read that IFP Energies Nouvelles Is a Hybrid Systems expert, while it looks like D2T may be an Electronics firm? Can you elaborate a little more upon each of these companies and their respective roles in your partnership.

(CP) Mecachrome manufacture certain engine parts for each and every F1 engine program and have done so throughout the last 20 or so years. They actually manufactured and assembled the whole Renault engine when the same company left the sport in 1998 when the engine reappeared as a “Supertech”.TEOS is our design and development office and is half owned by Mecachrome and the IFP. D2T is the company that will test what we produce and the IFP are our experts in Hybridation.

(T) Does PURE engine production just consist of the 4-cylinder ‘lump, or do you work with potential Gearbox producers such as XTRAC, etc – not to mention how are the correlating Hydraulics developed?

(CP) The drive train will be developed with an outside partner as yet to be fully exposed!

(T) Does PURE get involved with the Engine mapping/Exhaust gas/Blown diffusers portion of the chassis? And are there strict guidelines for this in the 2013 rules package.

(CP) Yes to all.

(T) And it seems if the FIA was truly wishing to push the “GREEN” envelope – then they’d also mandate running upon some sort of high concentration Biofuel mixture in 2013, although I believe that a small amount (5%) of Biofuel is mandated as a blend in the current “Pump” gasoline F1 engines run upon. Does PURE intend to utilize a standard “Base” pump-gasoline or establish a relationship with a Petroleum supplier? How critical is the fuel and lubricants in engine development and how does it impact engine design?

(CP) PURE will have a relationship with a fuel and lubricant supplier and we are currently in contact with a few interested parties. This is a very important area that we do not want to miss out on.

(T) And although I’d assume you’ll run your engine upon a Dyno when/if possible. (Which you mentioned in the interview above) I’ve read that Bench Testing cannot completely simulate the forces of an actual racecar. Do you have any intensions of purchasing an F1 “Mule” chassis – say a Toyota TF110? (For example)

(CP) No intentions as yet to purchase a mule. We do want to be linked to a current team as soon as possible.

(T) Naturally, I’m guessing you’ll be targeting any interested current Formula One Constructors – although I’d assume you’re limited to the Midfield runners and below, i.e.; Force India, Hispania, Lotus, Renault, Toro Rosso, Virgin and Williams... Is there a possibility of targeting a brand new Formula 1 Constructor; for example I believe Jacques Villeneuve tried to create his own F1 concern with Durango back in 2010; any chance you’d be interested in partnering with JV (or ANY other interested party) if he so decided  to try securing the 13th Grid Slot for 2013?

(CP) As far as I know there will be no 13th grid slot as there remains limited space in the paddock. We are looking at all teams from the top down and have had meetings with all teams not just middle of the grid teams.

(T) Will you be satisfied by landing a single F1 Constructor in 2013? Obviously I’m guessing PURE may prefer more then one engine supply deal. Yet is there a maximum production limit and can PURE break even financially by supplying just one customer?

(CP) We will have to start by walking and not running! However, we would be happy to supply all teams without a contract. How many that may be is speculation. There is no doubt that multiple supply is the way forward and at 2 teams we can easily break even in a few years.

(T) And is PURE solely interested in Formula 1 engine productions due to its perceived “GREEN” image with the various Hybrid technologies proposed, or would it be interested in potentially producing a 2.2-liter turbocharged IndyCar engine running on Ethanol – provided the series is still seeking more engine partners?

(CP) Absolutely!

(T) What are your thoughts upon the current batteries utilized in today’s KERS systems and will the new rules encourage better battery design?

(CP) We are already working on this subject and will try to take it to another level in the near future. This is an area where we could find a clear advantage.

(T) And on a personal note as a legally blind Blogger – I found the article by James Allen (above) about the new 2013 chassis potentially using a “Run Silent” mode upon Pitlane both intriguing and yet somewhat worrisome. If this is indeed correct – then what are your thoughts about F1 mandating some sort of noisemaking requirements, i.e.; recently passed Pedestrian Safety legislation spurred by the NFB (National Federation of the Blind) being required from 2013 onwards on Formula 1 racing cars too – in order to warn wandering mechanics, reporters, etc, since I can personally attest to the importance of audible noise in regards to detecting moving foreign objects...

(CP) This makes sense. Running electric does not mean running without noise to warn in advance.

(T) And lastly, typically new engine design in racing use to require a 2yr head start – although this timeline seems to be getting compressed. Being approximately 21-months away (March, 2013) from the start of the 2013 Formula One season – is there a “Drop-dead” date by when PURE needs to have a customer “Inked” in order to begin engine production & development, or will you continue seeking customers past 2013?

(CP) We are seeking customers now and will continue to do so until the end of 2012. 2013 for that season is too late. Do not forget that the engine has to fit the car and vice versa!

Thank you for your time + answering my questions Mr. Pollock and good luck with your new endeavour. Kudos to Tom Nutt for making this interview possible...