“Fontana was a nice way to finish the season,”
McCaw stated. “The whole organization ran well, and
we were fast all weekend. We probably had the best
pit stops in the race. So, we were very much there, and
I think everybody knew we were there. It’s nice to go
into the off season feeling good about the organization
and where we are and what we’re doing.”
With a disappointing season behind them, PacWest
had no time, nor the inclination, to sit around and lick
their wounds. They had survived the battle, and it was
time to move forward and prepare for the next round.
As the old saying goes, when you fall off the horse,
the best thing to do is get back on; and PacWest is ready
to ride this horse for all it’s worth in 1999.
Unlike in 1998, the team is ahead of the
development curve this year. They’ve had a season to
dial in the ’98 cars, and they’re working with basically
the same Reynard-Mercedes platform for ’99. The
Ilmor/Mercedes IC 108E engine has pretty much
matured out of the teething stage, and reliability is no
longer an issue with the Magneti Marelli fuel injection
system. “That engine will be in the new ’99 car with
a season’s development under its belt,” commented
Anderson. Things are looking good.
shop is where the CART cars of
Mauricio Gugelmin and Mark Blundell are brought to
life. Although new cars are received fully assembled
from Reynard, PacWest immediately takes them apart
and rebuilds them to their own specification.
The team has been working with scale models of
the ’99 car since about mid season last year, making
modifications to the aerodynamic package and testing
the results in the new Reynard wind tunnel conveniently
located next door to PacWest’s Indianapolis facility.
“We think having the aero program next
door, as opposed to in the UK where we did it
last year, will be a big help to us,” McCaw said.
“We have some ideas about how to use the
program more effectively.”
Reynard’s new facility, known as the Auto
Research Center, also houses a computerized
seven-post “shaker” rig for testing suspension
setups. Using information gathered during races
from sensors located throughout the cars, the
“shaker” simulates the actual conditions
encountered at a specific track, allowing
engineers to see first-hand how the suspension
is reacting, and develop optimal setups without
having to go to the track.
“As long as you have the data from the
track,” said Julian Karras, PacWest’s drawing office
manager, “you can simulate a lap.” The advantage of the
seven-post rig is that it can fire forces not only into the four
corners of the car (wheels and suspension), but into the
chassis as well to simulate the effect of aerodynamic forces
on the car.
“You’re able to simulate other forces being exerted
on the car, such as pitch and roll and rake,” Karras said.
“If you can do that at tracks like Cleveland and Long
Beach, where you can’t go and test because it’s a street
course, then you’re going to get some useful data that
you normally couldn’t get.”
Having the new Reynard facility right next door
obviously is an advantage for PacWest; but the
relationship goes both ways. PacWest has been
instrumental in helping Reynard set up and test their
new facility. In fact, one of the team’s ’97 race cars was
used to calibrate the seven-poster.
“They took a ’97 car and loaded it with
accelerometers and strain gauges, and ran it around
Putnam with a set of tires on it,” explained Karras.
“Then they pretty much wrapped it up in brown paper
and packed it off to England. They calibrated the data
against their four-poster rig over there, and using that
information, they were able to bring the car back over
here and dial-in the seven-poster.”
All of PacWest’s early aero work came to fruition
when the first Reynard Champ Car for ’99, chassis
number 001, arrived at PacWest’s racing shop Sunday,
November 8 – a mere seven days after the close of the
’98 season, and six weeks earlier than they received last
“It’s earlier than we’ve ever had a car before,”
Anderson said when the chassis was delivered. “It’s
going to be a great competitive advantage. If you look at
where we were last year and where we are now, we’re already months ahead of the game.”
The new car got its first shake down in the hands of
Mauricio Gugelmin at Sebring International Raceway in
Florida in mid November. Following three successful
days of testing, Gugelmin came away very optimistic.
Mechanic Charlie Guilinger works
on the bulkhead of one of Mark Blundell’s Motorola
cars. The aluminum bulkhead, which joins the front of
the chassis to the engine, is machined on a Haas VF-4
at Reynard Racing Cars in Oxfordshire, England.
“It’s very encouraging to have such a successful first
test,” he said. “We did around 600 miles overall and had
no problems whatsoever. The car was really reliable.
“We’re basically learning all we can about the new
car,” he continued. “We kept it simple, but looked at a
lot of things. I’m very optimistic; there’s potentially a lot
more to come. At least I know I have a car in which I can
use the brakes to attack corners rather than a car that
wants to attack me!
“One of the keys to our success in 1997 was getting
the new car early and putting in a lot of miles to learn
what it liked and didn’t like,” Gugelmin said. “It’s a
tremendous advantage for us to be the first team out
testing our ’99 package.”
Such testing will be a crucial part of PacWest’s
program for ’99. “We’ve established an autonomous test
team this year,” Anderson said, “so we have five cars.
We’ll use the fifth car for testing. The test team will be
equipped with its own gear, its own equipment and its
own transporter, so we can take the test team and not
interrupt the preparation of the cars for a particular
race.” This will free the race cars from testing duty,
allowing more freedom to test new components and
modifications throughout the season.
“Clearly, having a fifth car will help our testing,”
McCaw added. “It primarily gives us an opportunity to
have a car ready to set up and go testing maybe the day
after a race, instead of having to take a race car back
and repair it and rebuild it. It makes our people a lot
more effective; and, of course, if we have a problem, it
becomes a fairly instant source of spare parts.”
In addition to bringing their aerodynamic division
in-house, PacWest also has brought their research &
development division on board. “In the past, we’ve had
a relationship with a company in England called Galmer
Engineering,” Anderson explained. “But with the
location of the two entities, it got unwieldy sometimes: different time zones, the logistics of getting parts made
over there and sent over here to fit cars they don’t see.
The name of the game, especially with 20 races, is time.
So if you can do the job faster, that’s the key to it.”
Brian Williams, Julian Karras and Chris Jaynes check a
prototype throttle linkage component coming off the Haas VF-4.
Haas CNCs have allowed PacWest to bring their machining and
R&D programs in-house, reducing lead times and giving them
more flexibility to build and modify components.
Getting the job done faster meant bringing in the
equipment to do it. To this end, PacWest has set up a full
machine shop outfitted with two CNC machining centers
(VF-2 and VF-4) and two CNC lathes (HL-2 and HL-4) from
Haas Automation. They also have HP Kayak workstations
running AutoCAD for the design work, and Mastercam
software for developing the machining programs.
The new equipment is a vast improvement over
what they used to have. Previously, any in-house
machining was done on a manual knee mill with a
digital read out and a small manual lathe.
“Those machines have performed several
miracles,” Karras said, referring to the manual
machines. “We’ve made stuff on there that you wouldn’t
believe. Back in the old days, that was how it was done:
one at a time, manually, and every part was different.”
But when you’re building five separate race cars and
running 20 races a season, not to mention all the testing,
you can’t afford to make parts one at a time. And if
you’re trying to make a batch of identical parts, you
definitely don’t want every one to be different.
According to Karras, PacWest used to send out at
least 75 percent of their work, which required a lot of
lead time. “We’d have to get parts drawn up and ready
a couple weeks in advance. We’d have to have it quoted
by a couple of subcontractors and find one who could
make it on time. Then we’d get a P.O. written up and fax
it to him, and then he’d make the parts and ship them
back. That all takes a bunch of time. Whereas now, if we
need ten of something, we’ll make them in two days.
The story’s completely different now that we have this
With the manual machines, the parts had to be fairly
simple. “We were a little constricted as to what we drew,”
Karras said. “If we knew we had a short time to make it,
we drew it with that in mind. Now, even though it still has
to be done in a short time, we can be more ambitious
with what we draw, because we have the CNC power.
“Something else which is very important,” Karras
continues, “is the control over that piece. If the guys are
halfway through making a piece and suddenly you find
you need to modify a certain part of it, they’re able to do
that. You can run out into the shop and say, ‘Stop.’ But
when some guy in Colorado or England is making it for
you, you can’t do that. You wait for the bits to come in,
then you try to modify them. Or you try to ring him with
the change, and if you’re too late, then you’ve got to
pay for them. That’s been a problem, sometimes. You
have to have them redone, so you’re paying for them
“The old enemy is time,” stresses Anderson. “There
are a lot of good machine shops around, and they’re
there to make money. They’ve got other customers, and
if you’re the second, or third, or fourth on the list to get a
job done, your parts are going to take more time than if
you do them yourself. We didn’t have the capability, and
we couldn’t compete with just a manual lathe and mill.”
The CNC power, as Karras puts it, gives PacWest the
capability to compete, and speeds up the development
“This is a just-in-time business,” McCaw remarked,
“and you have to be able to do things on your own
schedule, not somebody else’s.”
PacWest’s machinists, Brian Williams and Chris
Jaynes, are thrilled to have the new equipment. Both
had been pushing for quite some time to make the
move to CNC.
Crockett works on one of Mark Blundell’s
Motorola cars. On the wall behind is a Gerhard Berger F187
Ferrari Formula One car which recorded three F1 wins.
The Ferrari is part of team owner Bruce McCaw’s personal
collection of vintage race cars.
“We went from having VW Microbuses to having
Porche 911 Carreras,” exclaimed Williams. “It was a
huge difference. Now the engineers are thinking, ‘Yeah, they can do this, and they can do this and . . ..’ They’ll
be designing parts for us to build, instead of having
somebody else do it.”
“The engineers used to have to consider whether or
not we could actually make the part in-house,” Jaynes
explained. “And then if we couldn’t, we would send it
out to a local machine shop and pay a lot of money to
get it done, because everything we do has got to be
done in a short period of time.”
Now, with the CNCs, the process is different. “On
Monday they figure out what they want. On Tuesday the
part’s drawn. By Wednesday we’re machining it, and
hopefully, by Friday the part’s on the car and on its way
to the race track,” Jaynes said.
“A lot of times it’s drawn, designed, built, anodized,
almost in the same day,” said Williams.
And there’s been no shortage of work for PacWest’s
new machine shop. “We haven’t sent any work out for a
long time,” said Karras. “We’ve even modified a few
Reynard pieces ourselves.
We’ve changed stuff
around and made it to our
own liking. We’re going to
make as much as
physically possible, and
the guys are pretty
stacked up right now.
We’ve got things like
front-upright tooling to
make – so you can put the
bearings in properly – and
this kind of stuff. It’s not
just parts that go on the
car, it’s the backup pieces,
One group of parts in particular, the skid plates, has
really benefitted from the CNCs. These thin aluminum or
brass plates bolt to the bottom of the cars to prevent the
carbon fiber chassis from wearing away when the car
bottoms out. Although they’re not the most complicated
part, they are crucial to the race car.
“They’re such a throwaway item,” Karras explained.
“We get through hundreds of them a year with four cars
beating them on the ground. They don’t last that long,
and we have to change them and put brand-new ones
on. So for that reason, we make our own. The CNCs
have been churning those out.
“The way it used to work was,” he continued,
“we would take the first ones that came with the car
and make a pattern off them, then sort of cut them out
on the bandsaw and mark off where the holes were
supposed to go. That’s so unreliable, with human error
involved there, you know.”
“Now,” said Jaynes, “we just sheer the plate
square, stick it in the machine, and it cuts the profile,
drills the holes and countersinks them in three minutes.
So, the job that was taking a guy probably two hours to
do, is taking us three minutes to do now.” Because they
are pulled directly off the drawings from Reynard, the
profiles and hole locations for the plates are exact.
Such time savings are crucial when you’re racing
or testing nearly every weekend. But cost is another
consideration. After all, race cars are expensive.
A Reynard chassis will set you back about $450,000, and
that’s without an engine, or any spares. Multiply that by
five – two race cars, two back ups and a test car – and
you’re talking major bucks.
If you break something and need a replacement, or
just want to have a couple spares around, you have two
options: buy them direct from Reynard, or make your
own. Obviously, Reynard is going to charge a premium.
They’ve got it, and you need it – it’s simple supply and
demand. But if you have
the capability and can
make it yourself, well,
you’re that much further
ahead of the game. Not
only have you saved a lot
of time, but a bunch of
money, to boot.
|One of the high points of PacWest’s ’98 season was the success of driver Didier André in the
PPG-Dayton Indy Lights series. Racking up numerous top-five finishes and a win at Laguna
André earned enough points to end the season with 2nd place overall in the series.
Another reason to
bring things in-house is
security. Every race team
has their own speed
secrets, and they don’t
want them to get out.
“Any race team will
tell you,” Karras said,
“that the best speed secret they have is keeping their
speed secret secret. And that applies to us, obviously, as
well. I would say about a third of the stuff we do is
strictly PacWest related.”
By manufacturing and modifying their components
in-house, they eliminate the chance that another team
working with the same supplier – be it Reynard or a
local machine shop – could find out their secrets.
Summing up their reasons for bringing the
processes in-house, Anderson put it this way: “You are
master of your own destiny. You can react far quicker
than if you’re doing stuff outside, you have the security,
and then there’s the financial consideration. When you
farm stuff out to an outside contractor, you’re obviously
paying for his profit and his overhead. To bring that in-house,
it’s a major advantage to us. It’s money saved.
What you save there you can spend somewhere else to
make that car go quicker.”
And, after all, that’s what
racing’s all about.
|Mauricio "Big Mo"
Since they got the CNC
machines, PacWest has jumped in
with both feet, making just about
anything they can think of.
“We make all kinds of bobbins or
washers or pieces that get lost or
broken easily,” Karras explained.
“For example, if you have a crash
and you lose a side pod– which
generally you do, that’s the first
thing that makes contact with the
wall after the wheel – in that side
pod there’s all kinds of clevises and
washers and stuff that hold it down.
That’s all gone, because it’s broken
or cracked, so they all get replaced.
“I think we’re going to be
playing around with the suspension mounts just to
experiment with geometry,” he continued. “That’s going
to require some full-blown CNC power to produce those.
We have no requirement at the moment to get into
making our own suspension, simply because the parts,
everything we need, come with the car. But when we
start stuffing them into the walls, we have to think about
where to get the spares.”
Rather than buy the spares from
Reynard, they will
probably make their own. “We make anything we can,
at any point, because Reynard makes a pretty decent
mark-up. When you have the kind of hardware sitting on
the floor that we have [the Haas CNCs], you make use of
it,” Karras said.
The list of bits they’ll be making is endless: anti-roll-bar
pieces, weight jackers, suspension components, skid
plates, shock parts, quick jacks, underwing supports,
rear wing pillars, pit equipment, fasteners, bushings,
spacers. And they’ll be working with a multitude of
different materials: 6061 and 7075 aluminum, 17-4
stainless, a little bit of steel, and even some exotic
materials like Zymaxx, a NASA-grade carbon-based
Mauricio “Big Mo” Gugelmin gives the first Reynard Champ car, number 001,
successful shakedown at Sebring in November (photo by Dan R. Boyd).
The move to CNCs and bringing everything in-house,
while being very beneficial, also has been a
learning process for PacWest. Neither Brian Williams or
Chris Jaynes had much experience with CNC equipment
prior to the Haas machines. In fact, both machinists
originally were hired as mechanics for the team. When
the decision was made to acquire CNC equipment, they
were asked to put together a wish list.
After poring over brochures and literature, and
talking with some other manufacturers, the decision was made to go with Haas, which was Williams’ first choice.
“From what I’d read and the people I talked to, it
just seemed to be the best package all around for what
we’re doing here,” he said. “I’d never actually seen one
run until we went down and looked at one at the local
distributor, Technical Equipment.”
“We went down to the local distributor and saw the
machines in operation,” Anderson said. “It was a
feeling, really, from those guys: the enthusiasm was
there. These guys followed up, they were enthusiastic,
they wanted to see us involved, and it just made the
difference. We went down there a couple of times. We
had a look at the machines; we measured them up. They
made parts for us while we stood there and watched.”
Once the machines were delivered, it was time for
the machinists to go to school, as there’s a little bit of
difference between running a manual machine and
programming a CNC.
shop now houses a pair of Haas VMCs and a
pair of Haas lathes. The two manual machines in the corner still see some
use, but it’s the Haas CNCs that allowed PacWest to bring their R&D and
aerodynamics programs in-house.
“Chris, myself and Chris Griffis (PacWest’s machine
shop manager) went to Technical Equipment in Cincinnati
for the training,” Williams said, “and the week after we
got back the guy from Technical Equipment came in and
initialized the machines and did all the setup and got us
going. About a week later we were making chips.”
They’ve been making chips ever since, and having a
great time doing it.
“I love coming to work every day,” Williams
enthused. “That’s the reason I wake up every morning,
so I can come in and be building parts. If I didn’t like
what I was doing, I wouldn’t be here.” And things are
even better now with the Haas equipment, he said.
“It’s definitely better now. When you get a part out and
it looks extremely nice, and everything is exactly the
numbers that you punched in, it’s a good feeling.
Whatever work you put into it has paid off, because the parts you get out are perfect.”
Above is just a small sampling of components and tooling PacWest has
made with the Haas machines. Many more are planned for the ’99 season.
And the more complicated the part, the better.
“That’s the type of stuff that Brian and I look forward to
doing,” Jaynes commented, “the really challenging stuff
that we have to actually sit down and think about.”
Both machinists tout the Haas control as one of the
best things about the machines, emphasizing the fact
that it’s the same on both the lathe and the mill. “Once
you learn one, you’re able to really run them both,”
Since many of the parts they make are similar, the
machinists also really like the word-processor-style
editing. “You can take a chunk of your program out here
and stick it over on the clipboard, then write another
program that you know is going to have the same
operation, and slide it right back in,” Jaynes said.
Other features of the Haas control they rely on are the
built-in calculator and graphic dry-run function. “I use the
calculator quite a bit,” Williams said, “especially with
angles and whatnot on the lathe. You can transfer the
numbers right from the calculator into the program.”
And they use the graphic dry-run every time they
run the machine, according to Jaynes. “It’s a life saver,”
Williams agreed, “The graphics are definitely good,
even for debugging programs. If you’ve got something
in there that you accidentally put in, you can see that on
the graphics, instead of wasting a piece. I don’t know
how you’d live without it, really.”
Now that they’ve had a taste of CNC power,
PacWest probably is wondering how they ever lived
without it. The Haas machines have definitely become
vital members of the PacWest team.
|Suspension components like these Ohlins shock absorbers are one area
where PacWest uses Haas CNCs to make and modify parts. Although they
successfully used a shock of their own design in 1997, it didn’t work as well
as expected on the ’98 cars, so they went back to the Ohlins for the ’98 and
’99 cars. PacWest’s shock program is currently on hold pending further
development of the design.
“When you talk to the guys who are running them,”
explained McCaw, “man, they just love the equipment;
they love working with it. That speaks volumes, because
at the end of the day the guys who use the equipment
are the ones who really know if you’ve got the right
thing or not. And I know our people are thrilled with it.”
“The main role of the Haas machines, obviously,
is to produce parts in less time, and more of them,”
Anderson said. “You’ve got to be able to take advantage
of what modern technology can do for you. The ones
who can are the ones who are going to get a leg up on
the competition. The name of the game is to beat the
other guy. If we can do it faster, better and more cost
effectively, that’s our advantage over the competition
who hasn’t got that capability.
“You’re only as good as your last results,”
Anderson continued. “For the ’99 season we want to
be competing for the championship. From the time that
bloody green flag drops at the start of the first race,
we want to be running with the lead bunch.”
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in our organization,
and I think we have two of the finest drivers in the
series,” concluded McCaw. “You have to get better to
stay in the game, and if you want to get really good,
you’ve got to get a lot better. We feel we’ve got a
combination that can win, and we expect to be right
at the top all year.”
photo by Dan R.Boyd
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