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Brian Wolfe is living out a dream

Ford's new Director of Racing
Tuesday, July 15, 2008

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Brian Wolfe
Brian Wolfe, the new Director of Ford Racing Technology, is living a dream. When long-time Ford Racing boss Dan Davis announced his retirement effective August 1, Wolfe was tabbed as the replacement for Davis. Wolfe, a part-time drag racer, brings the passion of a racer to the job with the wealth of design and development experience from 26 years with Ford Motor Company. He took a few minutes from his busy schedule to answer a few questions.

BRIAN WOLFE – director, Ford Racing Technology – IT HAS BEEN TWO WEEKS SINCE THE ANNOUNCEMENT THAT YOU WERE NAMED AS THE NEW DIRECTOR OF FORD RACING TECHNOLOGY. HAS IT SUNK IN YET? “It sunk in real quick. As soon as you get announced for a position like this it begins to consume everything that is on your mind. My first thoughts were, ‘How fast can I get out of the old job and get that cleaned up for the new guy?’ The big challenge is starting to understand everything associated with the new job. It hit home pretty quick and I am ready to go.”

YOU WERE QUOTED AS SAYING THIS POSITION IS A DREAM COME TRUE.  TALK ABOUT THE REALIZATION OF A DREAM. “The realization of the dream will be a lot clearer a few months. Right now it is still a dream because I am thinking about the things I want to do and how we want to enhance the program. As those things come to a reality, that will be living the dream. This has been a dream because as long as I can remember, I have been around race cars. To be able to have this position and have influence over where we are going and what we are doing with the aftermarket parts program, and what we are going to offer to sportsmen racers, as well as professionals, is pretty exciting.”

HENRY FORD WAS A RACER, AND RACING IS A FOUNDATION AND LEGACY UPON WHICH THE FORD MOTOR COMPANY HAS BEEN BUILT. TALK ABOUT CARRYING ON THAT LEGACY OF HENRY AND THE COMPANY. “It is a long legacy to carry with so many successes in so many areas of racing where Ford has been. Pretty much everywhere that Ford has gone and wanted to compete we have been able to dominate. That legacy of success is in our DNA and blood.  My goal is anywhere we continue to go in the future, we want that same dominance.  It is very clear from the guys I have talked to that are in Ford Racing that is their goal as well. I am looking forward to going back to some of the areas we have been and proving the dominance with our great products.”

FORD RACING TECHNOLOGY HAS A BROAD RANGE OF PROGRAMS IN MULTIPLE DISCIPLINES. HOW HAVE YOUR PREVIOUS POSITIONS WITHIN THE COMPANY PREPARED YOU FOR THE CHALLENGES OF YOUR NEW POSITION? “Overseeing the multiple programs isn’t a concern. Learning a bit more about some of the programs is something I am looking forward to. The position that I came from, I was involved with all forward-model programs for the entire company globally, from powertrain controls to calibration, emissions and powertrain attribute delivery. So, coming to the racing program is actually a much smaller slice, but I plan to be able to go a lot deeper in my understanding and help.”

HOW MUCH PREVIOUS INTERACTION HAVE YOU HAD WITH FORD RACING FROM YOUR POSITIONS IN POWERTRAIN AND ADVANCED ENGINE GROUPS? “In my official Ford capacity it was limited pretty much to assisting with powertrain controls work, calibration work and assisting in the certification of some of the performance packs that we have. One of the things that Ford Racing offers is really complete packages that the consumers can install on their car. Those packages are 50-state legal and they have to be robustly certified. I was involved in helping advise how to get those certifications accomplished.”

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST RACING EXPERIENCE? “My first personal racing experience was just after I picked up my driver’s license. At age 16, on my birthday, I picked up my license. I had bought my first car at age 15. It was a 428 Ford Cobra Jet Fairlane, which I still own. Hours after I picked up my license, I was racing.” 

DRAG RACING IS NEAR AND DEAR TO YOUR HEART.  YOU HAVE BEEN AN AVID AMATEUR RACER SINCE THE AGE OF 15 WHEN YOU BOUGHT A 1969 FAIRLANE COBRA JET. “I was the youngest of several children, and, being that, you always look up to your Dad and your older brothers. In the mid-’60s, my brother had a 427 Fairlane and raced that in stock and super stock, that was the car I wanted. When I was getting my license in the mid-’70s, I was looking for a ’66 Fairlane, but I found this 428 Cobra Jet Fairlane for sale and I got it for $375. I still have it to this day. It only has 42,000 miles on it and I keep it because I’ve always had it and I am attached to it.

“When I started at Ford after college, the second car I bought new was an ’86 Mustang GT, which was the first year of the fuel-injected cars. When I first started to work on that car is when I first got involved in motorsports. My involvement was more in the unofficial capacity.  There was a guy named Hank Durshon who was working at Ford Racing, and a guy named Wally Beeber who was in the five-liter group, and there was a set of hardware called the GT40 parts that were going to be used as a production upgrade to the next motor. For some reason that upgrade didn’t happen. Wally got a hold of Hank and said, ‘I have these parts and it is a shame not to use them.’ Hank took a look at them and made some enhancements and put them in the motorsports catalog. At that point our lives crossed and he said, ‘Let me give you these things to put on your car to test and you can give us some feedback.’ The first time I went out in that car with those parts on it with a few other suspension modifications I had made, I turned 12.40s, which was faster than my 428 Cobra Jet had ever gone. I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is pretty cool, and it is a lot easier to work on than my Cobra Jet.’ From there, that Mustang was the first fuel-injected five-liter to run the 11s,10s and the 9s in the quarter-mile, naturally aspirated. I competed in Pro 5.0 with the car with nitro and the car went 8.30s before I kind of backed away from that program when I got an assignment in Europe. The Pro 5.0 stuff kept going and I am really proud to see how fast those guys are going and what it has evolved to.” 

Dan Davis has been the Director of Ford Racing for the last 11 years, and during his tenure Ford has won multiple championships in multiple series. Those are some big shoes to fill. “When you look back over Dan’s tenure, which is the longest standing lead of Ford Motorsports, you see he was very dedicated and passionate about making it a success. Success from a motorsports perspective is not only about winning championships, which is, of course, a prerequisite, but it is also making sure that there are returns to the company from a marketing perspective, in selling new cars and in enhancing the company’s image. Dan was able to accomplish a lot of those things. The safety work that has been done in Funny Car is nothing short of astounding. How proud are we to claim that Ford has the most Five Star crash cars on the road today, but also that we are the ones pioneering making Funny Cars safer? A lot of people don’t know that as well as they should. They are big shoes to fill and hopefully I can springboard off the things Dan has done and enhance it further.”

HOW ABOUT A FEW RACING FAVORITES? FAVORITE RACING MOMENT? “One of my favorite racing moments is personal anecdote. I was racing at Maple Grove in 1994. A guy named ‘Stormin Norman’ had one of the other Pro 5.0 cars and, to be honest, at this period of time he always had the edge on me. I had the quicker car in the trials and rain clouds were coming and we are exhibition best two out of three. We took off, and Dave Lyle was driving for Norman, and at half-track I was three cars ahead of him. Then, as luck would have it, my very fine fuel filter clogged a little bit and the car leaned out and he passed me right at the end of the quarter-mile. It may seem funny that one of my favorite moments is a race I lost, but just the thrill of being there combined with the agony of not having my maintenance program real sound was a valuable lesson. That is one that really sticks in my mind. The wins are all good and you pile those up and is one better than another? No. The losses are the ones you learn from. That one really taught me the importance of an accessible and proper maintenance program.”

FAVORITE TRACK? “My favorite track is London [Ontario] Motorsport Park back when John Fletcher owned the track. I used to go up there every year and race in an event that Joe DiSilvo, one of the big-time Mustang Pro 5.0 racers, would put on. At the time, I had one of the fastest cars and I really didn’t want to compete because I didn’t want to ruin the competition for everyone else, but I really liked Joe and I liked the track owner so I would go up every year and do exhibition runs and I would always run my fastest times of the year at that track and at that event.”

FAVORITE DRIVER? “That is a tough one.  I have to go with Bob Glidden. Drag racing has been my passion, and Bob, with his multiple championships and his domination of the sport, is something you have to respect. Plus, it was always great to see the Ford in the winner’s circle when he was running. A close second would be John Force. Pro Stock was something I could really relate to as a kid because Pro Stock grew out of Super Stock. John Force and Pro drivers were always above where I was and they were where I aspired to be as a racer, even though I knew I would never get in that position. John is such an ambassador to the sport, and while I have never met him personally, he is truly a great guy. Every time I have seen him at an event or an after-event part at the local pub, you see how genuine and sincere he is with the fans and other competitors.” 

FAVORITE FORD PRODUCTION CAR? FAVORITE FORD RACE VEHICLE? “My favorite Ford production car is the Mustang. I have always loved the Mustang. For me my favorite Ford racecar it is the GT-40. With the 1-2-3 win and the domination four years in a row at LeMans, how can you top that?”

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