Hau Thai-Tang will celebrate his 30th anniversary at Ford Motor Co. next month — but one year in particular stands out as his favorite.
It was 1993, and Ford's future head of purchasing and product development was assigned to spend a year embedded with the Newman/Haas racing team near Chicago for the upcoming IndyCar season.
The team already boasted legendary driver Mario Andretti and had just signed Nigel Mansell, a hotshot Brit coming off a championship season in Formula One.
As a vehicle dynamics engineer, Thai-Tang had the job of monitoring the race cars and ensuring they were performing at optimal levels. The yearlong stint taught him how to work on nearly every aspect of a vehicle, from electronics to powertrain to fuel levels, and how to quickly diagnose a problem during high-stress situations without ever getting behind the wheel.
"It shaped me into the person that I am," he told Automotive News.
The team's results that year were impressive: six victories, 11 podium finishes and the overall driver's and manufacturer's championships. Thai-Tang went on to become chief engineer of the Ford Mustang, among other high-profile product development roles.
"It was a watershed moment for me," he said. "It became one of the assignments that catapulted me in the company. To this day, I still talk about it."
Here are some of the stories — and lessons — Thai-Tang took from his year in IndyCar.