Multimatic’s Larry Holt has been enjoying an unexpected return to race engineering with Mazda Team Joest’s No. 55 RT24-P DPi.
Since IMSA’s visit to Long Beach in April, the chief technical officer for the renowned Canadian auto manufacturing and racing technology firm, along with his trademark lambchop sideburns, has filled the role normally occupied by Multimatic’s Dave Wilcock. Wth a podium earned last weekend in Mid-Ohio, the temporary assignment is already paying dividends.
“I’ve always enjoyed race engineering, more recently with the [Multimatic-built GT4 Michelin Pilot Challenge] Mustangs, but then our guys kind of took that over, and it has been a few years since I engineered real prototypes,” Holt told RACER. “The last time was when I took a stint with Level 5, race engineering on the longer races when the Franchitti brothers were there. We were doing a lot of the development work and the dampers and everything for Level 5 on those cars.”
For most people in the sport, ascending to the rank of CTO would coincide with relinquishing all race-engineering duties. With Holt, whose efforts have made Multimatic’s motor racing division a powerhouse within the industry, conformity is of little interest. With Wilcock returning his focus to the Multimatic-led Ford Chip Ganassi Racing FIA World Endurance Program, an engineering need was identified on the No. 55 Mazda and quickly filled with someone who just happens to be the boss.
“Last year, you had some [engineers] on the box and that wasn’t working out so well, so we all agreed that we’d take over the front-line race engineering this year, and it was a happy coincidence Lena Gade joined me on the [No. 77 Mazda],” Holt said. “So, I had Dave Wilcock come in and he race engineered one car and Lena did the other. Ford looked at that and went, ‘Yeah that’s okay here, but you’re not doing that all the time, right?’ So Dave’s back with the WEC program through Le Mans, and then he’ll be back here. I said I’d engineer through Detroit, only temporarily, while he’s finishing the WEC season with Ford.”
Holt’s No. 55 RT24-P, which Multimatic manufactures, was impressively fast at Mid-Ohio in the hands of Jonathan Bomarito and guest driver Ryan Hunter-Reay. A third-place result, bolstered by RHR’s constant forward moves, brought a smile to Holt’s face. Despite decades of intense technical knowledge being acquired, it turns out the interaction between race engineer and his drivers is where most of the satisfaction is found.
“We’ve got great performance engineering helping with a lot of the directions to make on vehicle dynamics. So really, the race-engineering side of this deal is being the guy on the radio, and they feed me great information,” Holt said. “And I still have that rapport with the drivers. I did it at Long Beach, and it wasn’t a great race weekend for us, but both those guys said, ‘Hey this is really good.’
“I have a couple guys in the background here doing the performance engineering and they could engineer a car tomorrow with their eyes shut, they absolutely could. But there’s so much head work with the drivers, psychologically, and you don’t learn that out of a text book.
“I’ve curated this kind of interaction with all the drivers here, who are really good, and that’s where experience means something.”