Q & A with Honda's Jacky Eeckelaert
|By Steve Cooper||Thursday, August 30th 2007, 11:13 GMT|
Q: Can you tell us about the upgrade planned for Fuji?
Jacky Eeckelaert (Honda director of engineering): There will be some new parts for Fuji. But they haven't been tested yet on the car and are still in development in the wind tunnel.
Q: Are these the first fruits from new aerodynamicists Loic Bigois and John Owen?
JE: They will have an impact on the package, for sure. It's still early for everyone to expect big changes. I think they want to test different concepts on the car before 2008. Of course, they both come from teams that have different bargeboard concepts on their cars - a forward and a main rear bargeboard – and I believe they want to test that concept on this year's car. But these guys have just arrived, so you cannot expect them to come here and immediately make the car a second faster.
Q: So will this be a kind of 'Fuji Special' like we saw Honda do at Suzuka in recent years?
JE: It's more difficult than in the past to make an engine evolution with a bit more revs. But nowadays, with frozen engine spec, there's still some engine development work going on within the window that is allowed.
The Fuji upgrade was always planned for the last three races. But now with the arrival of the new guys in the aero department it will be different from what we originally planned because we have new philosophies and different concepts from their previous teams. And they want to try those out on this year's car – even though this year's car has been designed around another concept.
Nevertheless, they want to give it another try. And why not? Where we are in the championship, it doesn't make any difference.
Q: Is the focus on 2008 now?
JE: Yes. Anything we can try on this year's car that can help us for next year is not a waste of time. That's why I'm quite pleased that they already want to change the concept a bit around the front-end of the car to see if we have a good correlation between car and track. And we'll see if it improves the car's performance.
Q: Are there also changes being made back at the factory?
JE: You can feel that it's already a different approach. Everybody understands quite well that there was a growth explosion of our aero department, going from one tunnel to two tunnels, but there was not enough time to organise everything properly and we paid for that, of course.
Now everybody understands that you've got to work closely together. All the compromises you make between aero and mechanical are very important at the early stages of the car concept definition. If you make wrong decisions at the start, then it's much harder to claw them back.
Q: Have you still got a good engineering culture?
JE: For sure, in terms of the production of mechanical and composite parts and quality control – those were the first areas that Geoff addressed when he arrived at BAR. And that is still very strong. They are really able to make reliable parts. Chassis parts are really reliable, we've had the quick-shift gearbox for many years – two seasons already – and very rarely we had problems on the track.
But maybe with the car concept – where the aero guys want this and the mechanical guys want something else then it isn't compatible. Then you've got to find the best compromise.
Q: Who is in charge of the car development?
JE: It's a small committee. (Shuhei) Nakamoto is the boss of the committee – and the senior engineers or directors are myself, Craig Wilson – who before was chief race engineer and is now leading vehicle dynamics, Ian Wright, Kevin Taylor – chief designer, and Loic Bigois. There are a key group of five engineers and we hold core performance meetings. Sometimes Nakamoto presides and we decide. As long as you are in a small group, you can get things done easily.
Q: Are you confident about the 2008 car?
JE: We clearly know what is wrong on the car. Anything that touches the aerodynamic side, the guys all agree that it is an area where we are lagging behind. The concept has been pushed too far in any given direction – which worked pretty well with the Michelin tyre but not with the Bridgestone, so we're prepared for change.