Volvo Tech Challenges Are Fast Corners for Racing Team Leader, Derek Bell. Confidence in Team's Abilities and Volvo S60R Fundamentals Abounds.
IRVINE, Calif. - It's no small task launching what may be the first transverse mounted engine AWD racing sedan into an already highly competitive – high dollar – event series; but that's what Volvo team leader Derek Bell and his colleagues are facing. Indeed, getting the car shaped and race ready are the first and second corners respectively on the development circuit Volvo now finds itself on…and the early indicators continue to be promising.
"Clearly we are in a good position given Bell's history as both racing champion and development guru. Who better than this racing legend to oversee the development and set-up of our racing sedans," said Volvo chief, Vic Doolan – himself a familiar race manager and someone keenly aware of the risk of driving onto a starting grid before all the kinks are worked out. "But, he's a bit like Captain Kirk of Star Trek – taking a turbocharged AWD S60R where no Volvo has gone before, despite our success in other forms of motorsport."
Determined that his new racecar will be competitive in the SCCA SPEED GT World Challenge series, legendary world champion long distance driver and team leader, Derek Bell, is confident in his team's abilities and the foundation provided by the S60R. Under his supervision the team has begun extensive testing that will soon include full racing conditions to "wring out" the new car before challenging any green flag. During a recent interview Bell explained, "When the AT SPEED Motorsports team goes out on the racetrack, we will be representing the brand and the company. We will race our new cars only when I feel we are ready to be really competitive."
When asked to comment on the progress of the project so far, an obviously enthusiastic Bell quipped, "I honestly have to say that I can never get very excited about a new car until I see it come together. When you actually see the parts unite and there is a chassis, an engine and a "mock-up" transmission; well then, that's when the heart begins pumping and your interest in the whole project shifts into a higher gear. When the engine and gearbox wizards start delivering what they're best at...things get really interesting. David Ford is the team's concept major and my gut feeling is that he is doing a superb job. All of us can't wait to get going! I feel it's rather like Christmastime and I can't wait to open my new present…but I know what's inside…a fire-breathing Volvo speedster and maybe a checkered flag hidden in the trunk space!"
Asked about the team's pre-race testing plans and his expectations for their first race, Bell – like Doolan – offered a pragmatic insight borne of experience on the track and in the development garage. "Testing is vital to any competitive team and I think we are going to need a lot of testing before we race. Volvo's challenge in making the transverse motor and AWD system develop its full technical promise is no small feat. This is a car with unbridled potential and it's really my call when it comes to being race ready or simply race capable. The latter is not what I'm interested in nor is Volvo," he added. "The development process is a huge undertaking for everyone involved."
When asked about his expectations once the car readies on the start grid later this season, Bell said, "Realistically, if we could complete our first race without stopping and finish in a top ten position, I would be over the moon! That's the way I look at it. I will be very, very happy. Absolutely happy. For the time being, this season is all about car development. We have time to become competitive. The Cadillac's and Beemer's can wait for us. The most important thing is to play our hand quietly and aggressively. Everyone knows that Volvo is coming and our likely competitors know what it takes to fully develop a car. Volvo management is committed to the program and no one at the top-levels wants the team to be less than successful. If that means we wait for the cars – so be it…that's racing."
With five Le Mans wins under his seatbelt and scores of other racing accolades earned during a stellar career, who better than Derek Bell to advise aggressive caution when bringing an all-new car and team to a competitive race series? For the time being, Volvo race fans will be pleased to know that their team is now idling in the pit lane and headed for the first set of full race development bends. We'll keep you posted on the lap times and other updates as Bell and company elevate the rev counter and begin to see what the S60R has to say about life at 150mph and beyond…
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