Brian Wolfe, the new director of Ford Racing Technology, has worked for Ford for 26 years. He was chosen to replace the retiring Dan Davis because he is, first and foremost, a Ford racer, and second, an extremely talented and experienced engineer. Wolfe's previous job was as director of Ford's global powertrain calibrations, which involves the power, torque, emissions, fuel economy, and durability of every engine Ford produces worldwide.
Wolfe started racing Fords the same day he got his driver's license, using a '69 428 Cobra Jet Fairlane that he's had for decades, and later a Pro 5.0 '86 Mustang that ran as low as 8.35 at well over 160 mph at the drags. That's right, he's a drag racer, and a good one. He's the first real racer to run Ford's factory racing operation since it was created in 1982, including his predecessors, Michael Kranefuss, Dan Rivard, Neil Ressler, and Dan Davis, all of whom were great racing executives, but not racers.
We sent our man in Detroit, Jim McCraw, to sit down with Brian Wolfe at the Ford Racing Technology headquarters in Dearborn. His report: "Brian Wolfe is a slight man with graying hair and brown eyes, neat as a pin, organized, and perceptive. He's aware that, with decreasing budgets, he's probably not going to be able to change the racing world at Ford as we know it, but he's determined to be a good steward of each one of FRT's programs, and a determined fighter for good new ones that come along over time."
Brian Wolfe heats the slicks...
Brian Wolfe heats the slicks on his '86 GT at Atco Raceway in 2007.
MM&FF: First things first, Brian. Our readers want to know if the rumors are true about Ford Racing putting together a fleet of lightweight Cobra Jet Mustangs for NHRA Stock and Super Stock class racing next year.
Wolfe: We have assembled a prototype, and we are confirming our ability to manufacture those cars. We should be making an official announcement in a couple of weeks.
MM&FF: Assuming that the program goes forward, will you build them at the AAI plant in Flat Rock, where all of the other Mustang FR500 race cars are built?
Wolfe: We hope to follow the same process, and we are confirming with the factory that we can build them there online. It's not so much the car itself, but the logistics involved in mixing these cars in with the regular Mustang production run. We want to be able to commit to building the first 50 for NHRA certification, and then building more and more each year for sale to our customers. We don't view this as a one-time in the Sportsman arena. Sportsman racing is fantastic, and it's the inner fabric of the true racing fans, the die-hards, the people who really love our products as much as we do. I love the old stuff. I own a '69 Fairlane Cobra Jet 428, but it would be a lot nicer to see some '05-and-later Mustangs going down the track in Stock and Super Stock.
MM&FF: What kind of specs are you talking about for the drag race package?
Wolfe: We don't have the final specifications for shipping weight and horsepower, but it will be a supercharged 5.4L Four-Valve engine detuned significantly from Shelby [GT500] specifications. We will build both coupes and convertibles, manuals, and automatics, so the customer can have some choices. We don't know what the mix will be yet. We'd like to target the car for A-stock, but it could also run in AA, A, or B, depending on where the final horsepower comes out.
MM&FF: You have won dozens of drag races in brackets and Pro 5.0, racing here in Michigan, as well as in Ohio, Florida, Las Vegas, and Canada, so it sounds like you'd like to see this drag racing program go. Tell us something about your drag racing background.