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By Team Ford Racing Correspondent

Eighty one-hundreths of one second (0.081) is difficult to say, write or even imagine. According to the Harvard Database of Useful Biological Numbers, an average human eye between one-tenth and four-tenths of a second to blink.

In racing's little corner of the universe, the Circuit Of The Americas (COTA), the difference between Richard Westbrook's fastest overall time in the No. 90 Chevrolet Corvette at the end of Friday's sole TUDOR USCC practice and that of Ozz Negri, driving Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian's Ford EcoBoost-powered No. 60 AeroWrap Riley prototype, is nearly three car lengths at top speed.

"We had a bit of understeer in the car (Thursday) and I could've gone quite a bit quicker if the car were set up better," Negri said early Friday, just before he and co-driver John Pew were to undertake the Tudor United SportsCar Championship's second one-hour practice session.

"The difference between now and just a few weeks ago at Road America -- which I believe is similar in many ways to COTA -- is that we can now actually set up the car even better," said the wiry Brazilian, who was once a European racing teammate to the late, great Ayrton Sena.
Negri's higher confidence, along with that of co-driver Pew -- as well as Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in the Ford EcoBoost-powered No. 01 Telmex Riley -- comes with some new parts developed and tested, in some cases beginning in early 2014, that attacked two principal problem areas.

The first was the mechanical grip on the front suspension, which hadn't been changed since the car's original suspension package was developed. Many changes have taken place with respect to the aerodymics of the front end and, to a leseer degree, aero changes around the Riley.

While the suspension components have been under development since the first of the year, it wasn't until a couple of months ago at Mid-Ohio that they got their first strenuous test on a track known for its technical nature.

It was Pew who got the call for the test, "And I loved the new stuff," Pew said Friday.

"I realized their impact right away. Even though I don't know all the technical aspects or even the names of all of the components, it was clear from the start that they'd have a huge impact on the car."

On Friday, Pew had the honor of taking the new components onto the track in earnest for the first time.

"It was fantastic," Pew enthused afterward.

The second area concerned "drivability," a word drivers use most often in connection with a drivetrain's response to the driver's input through his feet.

Both are improved, according to Pew, Negri, Pruett and Rojas.

While the suspension pieces are likely a fun exercise for Ford engineers, it's doubtful they'll ever be seen in a domestic passenger vehicle.

However, the drivability factor is another matter. The biggest negative of a turbo-charged engine is the lag between the time a driver's foot says "go fast" and when the turbocharger actually can do so. Due to fans that cannot "spool up" as quickly as a foot may move, that's where the greatest focus of study is being undertaken.

Someday there will be little or no lag for the everyday driver. If such is achieved, much will be owed to what is happening today as the Ford EcoBoost engine technologies are getting tweaked to make the product still better.

Yet, as any racer or race follower knows, tweaking requires human input -- two or more humans in the case of these prototypes. This can be equally rewarding and frustrating.

"I'm frustrated over the qualification, to be honest," Negri said after qualifying seventh (2:00.042 @ 101.964 mph) for Saturday's race. "I thought we had a P3, P4 car. We were fighting some understeer and went the other way on the high-speed stuff, because we started encountering oversteer. I think we overdid it."

With the Shank and Ganassi teams still working together, learning what the other knows so as to become better individually, it's likely Pew and Negri will have a slighly different set up on their car come Saturday inasmuch as Rojas posted the third-best time (1:58.928 @ 102.919 mph) and starts four spots ahead of Pew. Alex Brundle (with Gustavo Yacaman co-driving) put the Ligier chassis from OAK Racing on the pole (1:57.809 @ 103.897 mph) for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race at Circuit of The Americas in the car's first race with Honda power.

Television Broadcast Information
  • Live Race: Saturday at 1:20 pm EDT on IMSA.com
  • Tape-Broadcast Highlights: Sept. 28 at noon EDT on FOX Sports 1

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