US F1: The Winning Formula

On the aero front, the team's secret weapon is Warren. Before immersing himself in racing, he started a company that writes its own computational fluid dynamics (CFD) code - software that allows engineers to model airflow on a computer. "Most other teams use commercial software that's written for a broad audience, not just racing," he says. Warren, on the other hand, benefits from code customized for motorsports. "So if we have a new piece of hardware to test, we can tailor our program to it."

The most common alternative to CFD analysis is wind-tunnel testing, and here US F1 has another advantage. The team's race shop is less than fifteen miles away from Windshear, a one-of-a-kind, full-scale wind tunnel that uses a gigantic stainless-steel conveyer belt to simulate driving along a road at speeds up to 180 mph. The data generated by the facility is so good that four F1 teams tested there last year. Anderson knows the place like the back of his hand - literally. He designed the wind tunnel and oversaw its construction.

But the team's biggest competitive advantage, he believes, is precisely what critics call its fatal flaw - location. "This time next year," Anderson says, "we'll be the best-funded team in Formula 1 because the buying power is so much better in the United States." Using Yankee dollars instead of pounds or euros allowed him to load up on brand-new equipment, including a rapid-prototyping machine; two autoclaves; a dozen CNC mills, routers, and lathes; and thirty-two CAD stations. He was also able to lure top craftsmen with wages that buy more in Charlotte than they do in Oxfordshire or Maranello. And being the only F1 game in town has a serious cool quotient.

"As soon as Ken called me, I was ready to rock and roll," says machine-shop man Williams, whose three earrings and multiple tattoos don't fit the F1 mold. "Just because the stuff over here is a bit more rudimentary doesn't mean the people are more rudimentary. I get tired of people saying, 'In F1, we did it this way.' You know, we went to the moon in 1969."

Still, by early February, barely six weeks before Bahrain, only one driver - F1 rookie José María López - had been confirmed, and the team's sponsorship package remained incomplete. While critics claimed that the car would be not only late but dead slow, talk of financial constraints fueled speculation that US F1 might seek permission to miss the first races of the season. "It's just total bollocks," Anderson insists. "Short of an airplane going down in the Atlantic with all of our stuff on it, you've got to be at all the races. We're busting our ass to get the car done. We'll be there [in Bahrain]."

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