USF1: Interview with Ken Anderson and pictures

There have been lots of rumours in recent weeks that the USF1 team was not going to make it. This has prompted the team to give a few more details of what is going on at its base at Charlotte, North Carolina. Team boss Ken Anderson explains what has been happening.

Ken, what is going on at US F1 Team?

“It has been quite a ride since we started the team last year, and has become far more intense since the signing of the Concorde Agreement. Our world headquarters is now complete and fully functional, and the 2010 racecar is in the construction phase.”

So the car is finally being built? Isn’t it a little late to get something like that started?

“Funny that you ask that question – we get that one a lot. Thanks to our in-house design and engineering staff and the aid of our technical partners, for the last 10 to 12 months, the car has gone through thousands of iterations in a virtual environment. With this virtual design, we can test and be sure that it’s right from structural, design and engineering standpoints, so we don’t have to make a part, test it, break it and start again. Instead, we’ve taken out a lot of the guesswork and can get close to a race-ready piece right off of the machines, which is happening now. Our timing is according to plan, with an early November “roller” and a finished car in time for January 2010 testing.”

So who’s building the car? Americans? Europeans? Are you building the car in Charlotte?

“I’ll answer the last part of the question first. Yes, we’re building the car in our shop here in Charlotte. America is known as a “melting pot” and our team is a reflection of just that. Americans, Europeans, New Zealanders, Welshmen and more are responsible for the racecar, including many who have high-level experience in the current Formula One environment. Many of our new hires we connected with back in June and July, and they will be joining the team formally at the end of the month. We are very grateful to the current Formula One teams for releasing some of our “newest” team members early – that has been a huge help as we continue to prepare for the 2010 Formula One season.”

Let’s talk about what we’re seeing in some of these pictures…what are we looking at here?

“In two words, we’re “fully equipped.” Our machine shop features three- and five-axis CNC machines; we have a composite shop with autoclaves and a 24-foot CNC cutting table; a complete fab shop; assembly and sub-assembly; electronics; research and development; design and engineering; CFD and aerodynamics; marketing and communications; and a full in-house HD production facility, just to name a few departments. Building a team and a world class manufacturing facility are a work-in-progress but we’re ahead of schedule and are excited about going racing next year.”

Can you talk a little about the cost efficiency of manufacturing a Formula One car in the U.S. How can the operation be cheaper than what we’ve seen out there?

“The major cost savings will be that the engineering and production of the cars will be done in the United States. Our technical partners located within a 30-mile radius of our shop contribute to this savings, as there are some departments we don’t have to have in-house, such as a wind tunnel, shaker rig, K&C machine, additional CFD support and a center of gravity machine. What most people see – the transporters, motorcoaches and the “lifestyle” side of Formula One – are a much smaller part of the overall budget and will be located at our European facility, which we’ll tell you about soon!”

US F1 Team 5--A2

US F1 Team Auto-Clave-1

US F1 Team Design-2

US F1 Team Machine-Shop-2LR

US F1 Team Design-3

32 thoughts on “USF1: Interview with Ken Anderson and pictures

  1. Joe, thanks for posting this-it’s encouraging to see actual news and progress coming out of USF1; being an F1 fan in the US, I really hope they actually make it to the grid, and that one day I can see them race at home at a revived US Grand Prix. And, a general thanks for all that you do-Grandprix.com, GPPlus, your podcasts through Sidepodcast-you make following F1 in the US much easier and enjoyable.

  2. They are going to suffer a lot.At least,its what i aprended from the interview.
    By the way ,you blog is very good.

  3. Did I miss something? Does it not need a motor? Or is that virtual as well?

    So far, it looks like a refurbed Kwik-Copy in a strip mall with some surplus hospital equipment thrown in.

    But hope springs eternal, and ‘Ray, ‘Ray USA.

  4. I don’t see any American drivers, and according to Peter Winsors comments to Autosport we may not see 1 for 2010. What a disapointment =(

  5. Great stuff Joe as usual, although I think USF1 are a bit late to swerve off the rumors. My thought is that they will make it in time, and they have an interesting cost efficient approach to manufacturing. although whether that philosophy fits in today’s f1 world or doesn’t is still to be debated, but it will be very interesting to see if it works.

    That place looks so clean and spiffy, I’d like to go for a visit sometime…

  6. How can it be cost effective to base in Charlotte? Even the French and German manufacturers happily operate out of England. Hinwil is dead in the water. Only the Japanese reckon it’s good to base your operations in Germany, and look how much that’s cost them (and surely not retaining Glock is a hint they won’t be there next year). I can see a stronger case for Spain, the climate’s tempting for more northerly europeans, and it’s close to the main testing tracks. But there’s so little testing now…
    It’s just I get this feeling in my water that USF1 has the ability to be a complete stinker, the worst debutant since Lola 1997. All the signs are there to see. Good luck to them, but I don’t think they quite *get it*.
    But hey, look how wrong we all were about Brawn.

  7. Interesting to see all the HAAS cnc’s. While I’m familiar with HAAS sponsorship in racing (namely NASCAR), their mills are not considered top-notch when it comes to working hard materials (e.g. inconel). They are GREAT mills for many purposes – but simply put, the consensus is that in a world like F1, where compromise is rare, it’s an interesting choice (well, not really a choice)

  8. Face it: Many young American racers are training to be Spec Racer NASCAR/Oval Track drivers and not Formula 1 drivers. So, I’m liking this ‘David’ team of Peter and Ken getting ready for the ‘Goliaths’ of McLaren/Ferrari. Unlike BrawnGP which was Honda re-born, USF1 is a NEW race team, with NEW Drivers (or at least not on this year’s grid). Side note: I would support NP, Jr. who shows he can follow Team Orders and shouldn’t be burned for being a Team Player. He has potential as well.

    Regardless, I’ll support USF1 like any other upstart sports teams with potential.

  9. @GFehr: IIRC, USF1 is using a Cosworth engine, so no, they don’t need the engine itself during the design and manufacturing phase, as long as they’ve got a CAD model of what the engine’s dimensions are. Once the body is built and tested, dropping the engine in and putting it all together is just a couple of days work. And it really looks like they’re on schedule. I’m definitely planning a trip down to Charlotte if they do a public launch.

  10. Joe, haven’t you heard? Wales was expelled from the EEC on the grounds that we are far too handsome, intelligent and modest.

    By the way, the coffee machine in photo number 2 is just obscene!

    Iachi da!

  11. John,

    Surely, that depends what they are cutting with the CNCs and why. For example, they could be using them as a cheap way to make scale models (even if they are 1:1 scale) to take to the wind tunnel before manufacturing the real thing.

    I liked the look of the place. Never seen a CNC as big as that before.

    There was a reference to HD in the answers – anyone know what that is, surely not High Def TV 🙂

    If they can’t get a USA drive they should try for a continental (both North and South) driver, just to keep the Americas link: Jacques Villeneuve or JPM. I’d prefer the latter.

  12. John,

    Interesting bit of info about the Haas machines. But does F1 use a lot of Inconel? I thought its only in aerospace but not a lot in F1….

    But seeing Haas machines in USF1 shop is not surprising at all given that they also use or plan to use the “Windshear” wind tunnel which i think is owned by Haas….

  13. Snail,

    2010 regulations don’t allow 1:1 scale models. Only 60% scale….but they could do literally any component they want if the have 5 axis CNC as seems to be the case.

    @Joe,

    What are thye doing with the gearbox? Are the manufacturing in house? or is it Xtrac?

  14. Great stuff Joe- looking forward to seeing the team on the grid in 2010! When the season kicks off in Bahrain, we’ll have lots of U.S. Military personnell from the nearby bases on hand to cheer them on.

  15. Those pictures don’t tell much and what do you want with two giant CNC’s for F1 components anyway?

    The last pic is a complete mockery, a faked computer, just look at the key-pad!

  16. Wino,
    That is a Mac computer and a Mac keypad.

    I think they will get Villeneuve to drive, at least americans know his name. I think this is going to be extremely interesting. just because it isn’t done like F1 has always been done doesn’t mean it is wrong or isn’t going to work.

  17. I believe the last computer is real. It looks like a Mac. I have an identical keyboard at home. The pictures are credible on first glance, and I realize that F1 factories are clean, but this looks much too clean. Where are the parts? Why do all the of the machines look like they’ve never been breathed on? I hope they have an entry by the first race next year.

  18. I know they use inconel for the exhaust (which I readily admit isn’t where you need high precision). I guess the other question is whether the exhaust is made by Cosworth. Aluminum would be relatively fine on a HAAS, but still, I bet you won’t find a single HAAS touching another F1 part. FWIW, I had the chance to tour Maranello this summer and the machine shop their had exactly what you’d expect: MAZAK and MORI’s – the most rugged, robust machines out there.

    The HAAS machines would be probably be great for the 3D (read: 5 axis) molds they have to make (sometimes ASAP) for the carbon fiber parts.

  19. John,

    I was amazed when I saw those photos of the USF1 machine shop. I am a “semi retired” cutting tool engineer, and those HAAS machines are just light weight toys.

    McLaren have MAZAK as a technical partner as well.

    Did you see any photos of horizontal spindle CNC machining centers there on the USF1 article? What will they machining their gearboxes on etc.?

    Maybe they just sub-contract out everything.

  20. @ Uppili – Windshear is Ken Anderson’s bit of kit. It’s about 6 minutes from my house and a very nicely laid out facility.

    Interesting how next year’s rules include such limited windtunnel time and, IIRC, require 60% scale. This seems intended to cut USF1 off at the knees since Windshear (essentially an internal test facility) is probably the best windtunnel in the world, capable of testing 2 cars at 100% scale on a 180 mph rolling road.

    F1 teams have been bringing their cars here since it was completed.

    When I last talked to Ken Anderson, he was still openly excited about the progress being made.

  21. DeltaV

    I noticed you mentioned that you talk to Anderson. Do you know or has he told you if he has his race team all sorted out or are they still hiring for mechanics. Its sounds by this interview that he has all his personel in place and the majority of them are European. Just curious. You can answer me at my email J3Jr@aol.com

  22. I know most F1 fans regard NASCAR as sub-neanderthal, but that’s mostly snobbery. Admittedly NASCAR budgets are far smaller than F1, but the technology is pretty serious. And Charlotte, has the biggest concentration of racing expertise and capability outside England. I believe, the best racing wind tunnel in the world is in Charlotte, and even if its not the best, it will do just fine for USF1.

    NASCAR is all about 30 cars crashing at 190mph on steep ovals. The cars are more like armored personnel carriers than race cars, if you ask me. Never-the-less, they make pretty sophisticated cars on a shoestring. You don’t see their engines failing in 500 mile races, and lugging a 3400 lb car around at 200 mph+ requires some serious grunt.

    The discussion on milling machines is fascinating, thanks. I would not be surprised if they out-source the more difficult things you mention, gearboxes, and precision parts out of difficult alloys. We know they aren’t making their own engines, which have most of the high-tech alloys. And possibly they aren’t making the gearbox either.

    I suppose some of the suspension parts and hydraulic sub-systems need to be both precise and strong, but that doesn’t seem all that exotic.

  23. Dear Sirs,

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    These types of engines have a number of disadvantages:

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    Pavel Shehter
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    Tel.: +972 544587621

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