Bud Moeller’s seen most of what the world of road racing can offer. Though his introduction to the sport — a four-day school at Bondurant — was quite normal, he moved onto some of the fastest cars in existence within a few years. By the end of the ’80s, he’d progressed up the ranks of single-seater racing. Now, 31 years later, he races one of the most desirable and fearsome racing cars in existence, and what’s more — he’s learned to master it.
Four days studying the basics of weight transfer and car control in Bondurant’s Mustangs and Formula Fords started his obsession with racing, and soon he was racing club-level formula cars with Jim Russell. Shortly thereafter, he was taking lengthy strides in Formula Atlantic and setting his sights on IndyCars for the following year. Unfortunately, the recession in the early ’90s put those big-league dreams on the back burner.
He already purchased his first vintage Formula One car by that point. The Ensign N179, as driven by Derek Daly, is a car he still regularly competes with in Masters Historic Formula One racing. That was his first step into racing Grand Prix cars, and within six years, he decided to grab another.
In those years, he’d added a few road-going Ferraris to his stable. The first of them — a 308 — he bought at age 26, which ignited a passion that’s kept him warm through life. Currently, he owns a 458, a 458 Speciale, and a 599 GTO. He has owned most of the modern, mid-engined V8 cars as well as some of the front-engine V12s.
“If you stay with Ferrari for a long time, you get a chance to own some interesting cars and make some money — it’s a bit like a frequent flyer system,” notes Moeller. Because of his familiarity with the exclusive brand, he looked to the “Prancing Horse” when it came time to purchase another racing car.
The second acquisition, and first Ferrari Formula One machine, was another car he took to Masters Historic racing. The ex-Jody Scheckter 312 T5 introduced him to the torque of a flat-twelve, ground effects, and the cachet that comes with one of the scarlet Grand Prix cars. Weighing only 1,300 pounds and boasting 515 hp at 12,300 rpm, it had all the performance an aspiring racer could want. However, for someone with Moeller’s standards there comes a time when a move forward is necessary.
Because the braking forces are so immense, the moisture from my eyes, and the drops of sweat on my forehead, sometimes splatter the inside of the visor during hard braking. — Bud Moeller
Several years later, he moved onto an F310B, formerly driven by Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine. With roughly 650 hp, no traction control, and plenty of downforce, it served as the perfect stepping stone into the world of modern Formula One cars. Within a few more years, Moeller aspired to move up a rung on the ladder and test his mettle in one of the fastest racing cars in existence: the F2003-GA.
Racing with the Prancing Horse
The reasons for becoming the owner of a Ferrari Grand Prix car are numerous. For one, owning one makes you a Ferrari brand ambassador. Owning one also maintains (or even increases) the value of the cars, since demonstrating a car is usable and not just a piece of stationary automotive art, makes it all the more appealing.
Another desirable point is the ability to drive it regularly, with comprehensive support, in a professional atmosphere. Ferrari is one of the few factories which maintains and runs older cars. These vintage Formula One cars also serve to train young engineers, who can improve their approach without worrying about championship points. After a year working for the Ferrari factory in the Corse Clienti team, the engineers can move elsewhere where the stakes are higher.
When racing his F2003-GA with the Corse Cliente program, Moeller typically shares the track with the other F1 machines, the Ferrari XX cars, and the Ferrari Challenge cars. During events in Europe (where most of these cars reside) he might participate in a field of 20 F1 cars, 30 XX cars, and as many as 50 Challenge cars. Ages range from 18-70, with the majority of F1 drivers under age 50.
Perhaps the most appealing feature of the Corse Clienti program is access to world-class coaching. Moeller’s worked with two former F1 drivers, Mark Gene and Olivier Beretta, to better his skills. After a lapping session, Moeller debriefs and reviews telemetry for roughly 45 minutes. When his coaches have addressed and rectified mistakes he made, the engineers help refine the car to suit Moeller’s driving style, which favors a neutral car that borders on slight understeer.
Improving Driver and Setup with Coaching and Telemetry
“Typically, we start with a fairly neutral setup, then observe the telemetry, and adjust the setup throughout the day to suit the temperature change,” Moeller begins. Because of this three decades of experience, the team doesn’t safeguard him with a benignly slower setup; they’re willing to try and stretch the envelope as far as is sensible.
Marc Gene has been an instrumental part in getting Moeller to the point where he’s comfortable pushing such a sophisticated car to the ragged edge. “Gene is a rare breed,” Moeller says. “Since he is both cerebral and has driver feel, he can point out issues in a tangible sense. For instance, Gene can observe the data, glean the important differences in traces, and make practical suggestions such as ‘brushing the brakes’ as opposed to ‘hammering the brakes,'” he kindly adds.
These suggestions are always tempered with some sense. “He’ll coach me corner-by-corner and say, ‘Believe me, you can take this section flat,’ in areas where I actually can. At the same time, he will sometimes warn: ‘I can do this, but you should be cautious.” This is both considerate to Moeller’s well-being and his wallet — nobody wants to hurt themselves or write off such an incredible car. After all, prominent politicians have been assassinated for less than the price of the F2003.
As a natural conclusion to the in-depth coaching, Moeller and Gene have gone on to set quite a few course records in his F2003-GA. As one of the fastest cars in the world, this car (and its successor) held many lap records at Formula 1 circuits until the latest F1 cars inherited their wider tires in 2017. These records were set primarily at European circuits. Moeller saw an opportunity to rewrite several course records across the North American landscape, so he brought Gene along to help.
Rewriting Course Records
Moeller’s owned the F2003 since 2011. Since then, he and Gene managed to simply set five new track records across the country at courses where LMP-style cars previously topped the time sheets. Gene beat the previous record by some five seconds at Road Atlanta; however, where the CART/IndyCar machines reigned supreme, Moeller and Gene had their work cut out.
At NOLA Motorsports Park, Moeller beat the previous record, held by Juan Pablo Montoya in a 2015 IndyCar, by a whopping three seconds — nabbing a 1:18. Considering the tight and technical nature of this course, that’s quite a remarkable achievement. At Sonoma, Moeller snagged the record with a lap of 1:21.
At Laguna Seca, where the two shot some remarkable footage, it was Gene who took the record; just pipping Moeller by a few tenths. The following footage received a lot of publicity for good reason:
At the quick and intimidating Mt. Tremblant, Moeller took the record from a CART rocket by some two seconds. Considering CARTs were making upwards of 1,000 hp in their heyday, that is nothing to sniff at. At Homestead, where he ran a combination of the oval and road course, he took the record, but was later beaten by another Corse Clienti driver in an F2004. While the two aces made rewriting these records look simple, the truth is it was nothing but hard work.
The Grueling G-Force of a Formula One Car
Mastering the modern F1 car is an incredibly physical experience. Due to the ludicrous amount of downforce, the neck takes a serious beating during cornering and braking. “Even something as potent as the 599 XX can only corner at a little over 1 G,” he adds. “Imagine a bowling ball pulling on one side of the helmet, and that’s pretty close to what it feels like to try and keep the head upright at 1 G of cornering force.”
In the F2003, those forces are quadrupled, if not quintupled. “At 4 G, the head, even with a lightweight carbon helmet, weighs somewhere around 70 pounds,” Moeller notes. No wonder F1 drivers have necks and shoulders like those of linebackers.
As incredible as the cornering forces are, what really impresses experienced drivers is the otherworldly braking force. Due to the stability and the incredible grip offered by the wings at speed, Moeller can kick the brake pedal as hard as he likes without any fear of lockup — at least in the first-half of the braking zone. “That’s where telemetry is invaluable, since the data suggest a braking point that common sense might deem impossible,” he adds with a chuckle.
“One of the most difficult things to convey to someone curious, is how quickly things pass by at speed,” Moeller states. “At 200 miles per hour, you’re covering a football field in a second. At that speed, you have to brake incredibly hard and time everything perfectly, since a tenth of a second equates to ten yards covered,” he notes.
“For instance, at Road Atlanta, approaching the downhill Turn 10A at 200 miles per hour, you try to brake at the 70-meter marker. There, you stomp the brake as hard as possible, and make sure the wheel is completely straight — if it is, the car is very stable. Then, you begin to reduce the pedal pressure as soon as the downforce bleeds off and the car starts to rely more on mechanical grip,” he recalls somewhat stoically.
“Brake lockup always happens somewhere between the turn-in point and the apex,” Moeller says. This is perhaps one of the trickiest sections to master and requires the most finesse, since the “braking section is so incredibly short.” For this reason, the occasional spin in the middle of a slow corner preceded by a long straight isn’t that uncommon.
“Because the braking forces are so immense, the moisture from my eyes, and the drops of sweat on my forehead, sometimes splatter the inside of the visor during hard braking,” he adds proudly. “Sometimes, I step out of the car with tears streaming down my face, and people are under the impression I’ve been crying.”
Adjusting to the Power Levels
Coming to terms with 930 hp takes patience, precision, and a lot of gusto. Prior to picking up his first F1, the quickest cars Moeller raced were Formula Atlantics with roughly 250 hp. Adjusting to the Grand Prix-levels of power was a massive hurdle — but a surmountable one.
“It took me three full laps before I was comfortable going flat in the 312 T5,” he admits. After several spins and a few more gray hairs, Moeller learned the art of throttle modulation. Interestingly, it wasn’t a skill he needed much of when he eventually upgraded to the F2003.
Even though the F2003’s 3.0-liter V10 makes nearly 1,000 hp, putting that power down isn’t as much of a challenge as it was in some of the older machinery. “Thanks to traction control, the throttle application is a little more like an on/off switch.” Unless he’s traveling through a long sweeper like Sonoma’s Turn 6, the sophisticated traction-control system allows him to mat the throttle and let the systems sort everything out. “Unlike in road cars, where the traction control is usually quite intrusive, the F1 system really does help, and you’re able to accelerate out of corner faster than you could without it,” he adds.
Managing the Systems
The system only mitigates wheelspin. There’s no stability control, so the car can still break away at either axle if the weight is transferred too abruptly. There’s still so much balancing the driver is responsible for. For example, while a mild lift mid-corner can help neutralize the car, hopping off the pedal abruptly with the car completely loaded, can still produce a spin. With the speeds and cornering forces, delicacy is paramount.
Getting the most out of such a sophisticated car comes down to talent and fine-tuning. To try and neutralize the car, Moeller can adjust the differential settings on the steering wheel to open or lock it according to the course conditions. “If the track is slippery or has lots of adverse camber, sometimes I’ll free up the differential to get sharper turn-in.”
The engine braking of the car can be adjusted to transfer more weight to the nose. This is useful when struggling with high-speed understeer. Fortunately, Moeller’s style is quite classic and he’s comfortable controlling the car’s attitude with his throttle inputs.
Speaking with Moeller, you immediately get a sense of his dedication to the sport, passion for the machinery involved, appreciation of minutia, and his lofty aspirations. I haven’t met many people with that palpable level of enthusiasm, which comes across in the first few minutes of conversation. Even fewer are willing to delve into the seemingly trivial aspects of a racing car that would make some eyes glaze over. It’s because of this obsessive nature that he’s done so much in his racing career — more than most mortals could ever hope for — and why he’s rightfully earned every one of his victories.