Force India success lies in decision to switch focus in 2013

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Just as Sauber’s decision to keep developing its 2013 car has come back to haunt the Swiss team in 2014, Force India’s Otmar Szafnauer has said the team’s call to focus on this year early has proven to be the right one.

In 2013, Force India made a good start to the season before its form fell off towards the end of the year, with the team eventually finishing sixth in the constructors’ behind McLaren.

Although Szafnauer, Force India’s chief operating officer, thinks that the team could have finished fifth, it would not have made such a superb start in 2014, and he feels that the changes made to Pirelli’s compounds damaged Force India more than others.

“We had a dilemma: do we stop what we’re doing for 2014 and react to the new tires, which would have taken us a while, or do we just continue?” he told, reflecting on 2013. “Had we tried to react, it would have had a bigger impact on this year’s car than what we could have gained last year.

“The only thing we could have gained was beating McLaren to fifth, and that was close anyway. So the potential upside was one position, but the downside this year would have been huge.”

Szafnauer was also quick to praise drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, who have scored 98 points to put the team ahead of McLaren in the constructors’ with eight races to go.

“We have a very good relationship, a long-standing one, with Nico,” he said. “He is very intelligent, has good feedback and helps us develop the car.

“Sergio has fitted in very well in his first year. He is a very quick racing driver, especially in the races. He finished on the podium and Nico has scored in every race, so they’ve both done a very good job.”

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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