A pensive Don Halliday at Las Vegas - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
One of the most respected engineers/designers/inventors in the racing business, Don Halliday has joined AJ Foyt Racing as chief engineer of the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda/Firestone IZOD Indy car driven by Briton Mike Conway.
The alliance came about with Foyt's premier former driver Kenny Brack, who won the Indy car championship in 1998 and followed through with the Indianapolis 500 title in 1999. "Kenny and I were talking about AJ's situation," Halliday explained. "Kenny and AJ have remained in touch ever since he drove for him and Kenny is a very good friend of mine, so there was a connection."
Halliday was Brack's engineer in CART when the Swede drove for Bobby Rahal; in fact, they worked together when Brack won his first CART race at Twin Ring Motegi in 2001. (I vividly remember Brack saying to Halliday over the radio after he took the checkered flags, "It's about time you got your s--t tougher!").
Brack made the suggestion to team director Larry Foyt, who's been interviewing drivers and engineers since october as he began reshaping AJ Foyt Racing in preparation for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.
"It's really exciting to have Don on board with us," said Foyt. "The chief engineer is obviously a very important piece of the puzzle when you talk about building a race team, so getting to know him and watching him interact with our group as we started to work together makes me very optimistic.
"I really enjoy his approach to engineering a race car and his methodology. I think it's going to fit in really well with our team," Larry Foyt continued. "So far everyone has jelled very quickly and we're all really looking forward to getting on the race track and going racing."
Halliday was impressed by the friendly atmosphere and spirit of cooperation at AJ Foyt Racing. "It should be fun; the people are very friendly here," he said. The Kiwi, now a US citizen, is also looking forward to the challenges of sorting out another new car, something he's done throughout his exceptional career.
"It's going to be very interesting to see how everyone handles this new car," Halliday mused. "It's what I've always been used to, from working in Formula 1 and through designing Indy cars as well - that's part of what you do. It's going to be a different challenge for everyone, but it's one that I'm quite used to."
Don Halliday began working with the McLaren Formula 1 team in the late 1970s, moving on to Bernie Ecclestone's Brabham F1 team in 1983-4. He came to Indy car racing in 1985 with Kraco Racing, then spent a couple of years in Formula 3000 before coming back to the Indy cars in 1989.
The 1990s and early 2000s were successful years for Halliday, working with great teams and drivers like Truesports (Scott Pruett), Tasman Motorsports, Team KOOL Green (Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy) and Team Rahal with Brack.
He returned to the Indy cars last year with Dale Coyne Racing, working with rookie James Jakes, whose improvement throughout the season the young Briton attributed greatly to the engineer's input.
Halliday Technologies, formed in 1994 holds several auto safety patented designs including the Grip Evaluation and Management device that determines measurable levels of grip between individual tires and the road surface; he also patented a military vehicle using DMACS technology that vents blasts through the vehicle providing enhanced protection for the war fighter in the event of IED blast.
Halliday's inventive thinking appeals to team owner AJ Foyt Jr. "We spoke about a lot of things and I like the way he thinks," said the first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. "I believe Don will bring a lot to our team this year. My son Larry has done a great job putting together one of the strongest teams I've ever had. I'm really looking forward to the racing season."