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US team: Expect our car to be inventive, not a clone 19 Jan 2010

Inside the US F1 Team factory, Charlotte, NC, USA © US F1 Team Inside the US F1 Team factory, Charlotte, NC, USA © US F1 Team Inside the US F1 Team factory, Charlotte, NC, USA © US F1 Team Inside the US F1 Team factory, Charlotte, NC, USA © US F1 Team Inside the US F1 Team factory, Charlotte, NC, USA © US F1 Team

As last season’s innovative double diffusers demonstrated, thinking outside of the box can bring Formula One teams some pretty substantial rewards. As one of four new squads joining the 2010 grid, the North Carolina-based US team have started from scratch and are hopeful that the resulting fresh outlook will serve them well once the season gets underway in March.

“When we started this car, we started with nothing but fundamentals,” explained one of the team’s senior designers, Scott Bennett, in his official blog. “The majority of a modern F1 car is tightly defined by the rules, so there isn't scope these days to come out with a Lotus 88 or Tyrrell P34. But there is still a daunting set of basic parameters that you have to define before you can even start designing anything - things like wheelbase, drive-train configuration, suspension layout, weight distribution.

“And when you're doing it for the first time, you don't have an in-built knowledge of what's worked in the past. Throw in some major rules changes in each of the last two off-seasons, and there are even more unknowns. On the other hand, knowing that you're facing a lot of unknowns also means you don't think you already know everything.”

And it’s this unimpeded perspective that Bennett believes could play into his team’s hands this season, especially as they’ve tried to devise and implement some inventive solutions.

“I'm extremely fortunate in that I've been able to do most of the car's layout from day one - I've seen and had a hand in almost every step of its evolution,” he said. “Primarily I've been responsible for the front and rear suspension, particularly packaging. This has been a huge challenge. F1 cars are small, and we are fitting a lot of stuff into a very tight volume.

“We're doing a few things quite differently than they have been done in recent years. I can't give specifics (yet), but we've looked at everything with a fresh perspective, and come up with some different answers. We'll know whether they were the right or wrong answers soon enough, but our car certainly won't be a clone of anything else out there.”

Bennett, who has worked with the team’s CEO Ken Anderson in a variety of other racing series over the years, was also keen to point out that of the four new teams joining the grid, they are the only one who have designed their own gearbox. For the Loughborough University- trained engineer, watching the car gradually take shape has been a privilege and he’s eager to see it in action.

“Here we are, only a handful of weeks away from having our car run its first race,” he concluded. “In less than a year we've built a very capable shop, put together the smartest and most talented group of people I've ever had the privilege of working with, and designed what should be a fast, reliable, safe, drivable, and yes, beautiful car. This team means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but for me it's literally a dream come true. When those lights go out at the start of our first race, it will be both the end of a long road, and the start of a new one. I can't wait.”