Through the Esses - Huang Ends His Chase
© Andrew S. Hartwell
This appeared on TheRaceSite.com on 01/06/04
[Editor's Note -- Last month we reported on the situation that arose during the December Test Days at Homestead between Chase Competition Engineering LLC and Silverstone Racing Services. We have corrected that article to clarify that it was meant to reflect the views of Silverstone Racing Services, and not those of TheRaceSite.Com or the author.]
There was to have been a Chevy powered Chase-built Daytona Prototype testing at Homestead recently, running right alongside the Fabcar, Doran, Multimatic and Crawford models, but the Robert Chase-constructed car spent just a few short hours parked under Florida's evening skies before going right back into the transporter. The Larry Huang - Silverstone Racing entry never even fired up. It appears the long trip to Homestead was simply a trip made too far and too soon.
It apparently was a case of hurry up and wait. The Chase construction crew had hurried to get the car to the track, but they still kept its owner waiting all day for them to arrive. Testing for the day had already ended when the truck carrying the very first black CCE-001 Daytona Prototype finally came to a stop in the paddock. And there were several sets of eyes awaiting the opening of the doors and the exit of the car.
One pair of eyes standing at the back of the transporter belonged to Chris Hall, Huang's co-driver and the Team Manager of Silverstone Racing, the team that was to race the Chase. But now, after having seen the first car to come out of the shop, Silverstone will be going with another chassis. Larry Huang terminated his agreement with Robert Chase right then and there.
Hall told us the reasons behind Larry Huang's decision.
"First of all, the car was a day late. Everyone in the pit lane knew we had been waiting all day for the car to arrive. Expectations were high. We had no communication from Chase that it wouldn't be there on the first day of testing. We realized that this sort of thing can happen when you are traveling and such so we didn't worry too much about that at first. I've been around racing long enough to know that things like that can happen.
"But basically, the transporter arrived around 7:00 PM, when all the other teams had already packed up and gone. The only other team still there was Max Crawford and his crew. Well, they finally unloaded the trailer and we sort of stood back and just watched the car come off. They pushed it under some lights and&well, to be honest, the bodywork looked fairly awful. It was not only a poor quality carbon fiber it was also badly fitted. Needless to say Larry was extremely disappointed.
"Another thing we thought odd was how the car arrived at Homestead with three driver's names on the roof. There was my name and Larry's and Robert Chase! We wondered what that was all about.
"When we stood about 50 feet away from the car it really didn't look bad. But when you are right there standing next to it, you knew that no one in their right mind would have accepted it as ready to go. There were several other issues with the build of the car as well; all of which were most disappointing to us.
"Up to that time, we were quite enthused about the progress of the car. We liked the lines of the car in the drawings we saw, and the way it looked similar to the Corvette we had raced this year in the Grand-Am Cup series. We had been up to the shop several times and the chassis actually looked very good. It was on that basis that Larry entered into an agreement with Chase to build the car in the first place. That was the reason, along with a desire on Larry's part to lend a hand to a start up venture, which is what the Chase effort obviously was.
"Our first impressions (with Chase) were good ones. But now, in hindsight, there were some situations and conversations along the way that didn't quite make sense but, again, we wanted to move up to the prototypes and so we carried on.
"After seeing the car, Larry was quite unhappy and he told Chase the best thing to do would be to put the car back on the trailer before too many other eyes had a chance to look at it up close. Larry wanted to protect Robert from embarrassment. Larry didn't want anyone else to see the car in that condition. Simply stated, it was awful.
"To be honest, if we had tried to run the car, it is entirely possible that Grand-Am would have prevented us from doing so. The car was simply not ready to go.
"We recognized early on just how hard it is to build your first car. We appreciated the difficulty inherent in that. But the last few weeks found us feeling a bit unsettled about it all. After seeing what had been produced, Larry decided to terminate the agreement then and there and just chalk it up to a difference in expectations."
Huang became successful by working his way from the ground up, as one of the founders of the CIENA Corporation (a data managing company of considerable size). He experienced the hard work and determination needed to build a business and he thought he would be helping Chase along a similar path by going with his design over the more established constructors out there. Unfortunately, this particular attempt to grow a business has hit a wall. Whether or not Chase can climb over it is no longer Huang's concern. He has decided to move to another constructor for his first run at the prototype class.
Hall explains: "Larry had a good conversation with Max Crawford and, after seeing the testing success his car enjoyed at Homestead, he asked if a car were available. Max said he had a fourth car under construction. Larry told Max he wanted to meet with him after the holidays to discuss possibly purchasing the car.
"We considered Dave Klym's Fabcar and, while we thought it to be a good car, the Crawford just seemed so beautifully built. And once we sat down with Max and talked to him about what he has done business wise, and his history, we were very impressed. Larry has talked with Max several times since then and we are going to go up to his shop after the holidays."
The first race for Silverstone was to be the Rolex 24, in the Chase Chevy. Instead, Hall and Huang will team up with Sylvan Tremblay and Selby Wellman in the Multimatic-FORD entry at Daytona. The race will give them seat time in a prototype while Max Crawford's shop continues to build what could become their new car. "We don't have a fixed date in mind for a delivery yet, should we be able to buy the car, but we are shooting for the Homestead event."
"You know, joining Tremblay and Wellman is one good thing to come out of this bad situation. We further believe the switch to the Crawford could be another, as we would then be running a better-prepared car and possibly a more competitive one than the Chase."
Huang and Chase have legal issues to resolve over this entire situation. Anytime money and hard work become at odds there will always be a need for mediation. The legal people on both sides will address that process, primarily because an interim settlement agreement between Huang and Chase was said to be broken shortly after it was made. It is a difficult and delicate situation for both parties.
But, moving forward, there may yet be another Crawford on the track in 2004. And the new owner and team manager should be quite happy to be in a position to compete effectively.
"I'm a firm believer that things happen for a reason. I think this is the best thing to happen because we now have a shot at a working relationship with Max Crawford. Down the road, I think his car could be an easier program for us because of all the testing that has already been done.
"For a fairly new team like ourselves, the last thing we really wanted to do was get involved in a lot of development. We were hopeful that the Chase would be competitive but now we feel more confident that can happen with a car like the Crawford."
What will become of the Chase prototype? That is another story that is still being written. We contacted Robert Chase to ask for his take on all that has transpired. He chose not to comment.
Whatever the issues that lie at the heart of this "business deal" gone wrong, one thing is certain Larry Huang has moved away from the Chase and will pursue his options elsewhere.