Matt Rivard is the Regional Director for NASA Central. He has raced many different platforms, including Mazda Miatas and RX-8’s and even a Ford Focus. He was one of the first 25 people to buy a NASA Prototype and was the first ever NASA Champion in an NP01, winning the class at Watkins Glen International Raceway in 2016. For a guy who has no similar results in any other racing class, he seems to have settled nicely into the cockpit of his NP01. We caught up with him in April to learn more about his experiences with the NASA Prototype.
Q: You once described yourself as a “bad driver,” yet you managed to be the inaugural NP01 Champion. How’d you pull that off?
A: Surrounding myself with a great support team, and a little luck. I may be exaggerating a bit when I say bad driver, more appropriate would be bad racer. Thanks to Ben Anderson, Crispin Beaver, and Bryan Cohn all helping in various ways to put me on the podium. With this all-star supporting cast it seems like an unfair advantage.
Q: What has racing the NP01 taught you about driving fast?
A: Downforce is fun, really fun. After taking nearly the entire 2016 season to acclimate to the grip levels in the high-speed corners, I never want to go back. My bad habits and mistakes are amplified and it has been very enjoyable working to correct them. Focus needs to shift much farther ahead than in a car with lower cornering speeds.
Q: What are some setup secrets about the NP01 that you’d be willing to share?
A:I have shared some tips with my fellow NP01 drivers. Let’s just say experimentation is key. Go outside the box. There is a lot of speed left in the setup, and I intend to find all of it. I have driven it on every spring, bar, and shock setting within the spec rules. I have tried massive extremes in alignment setups, tire pressures, wing angles, and ride heights. Everything plays a role, and as we go faster we find we have to go back and revisit each item again. There are also track- specific factors, of course. You could write a book on this stuff, but you told me to be brief.
Q: Can you tell us a few things about the NP01 that you wish everyone knew?
A: It is durable, much more than people may realize. We have 3,000 race/TT miles on mine and it is going strong. The brakes last forever it seems. You don’t use them much. It is also faster than most people realize. At many events, I am the fastest car overall. This is with a 10.8:1 horsepower-to-weight ratio based on the average horsepower rules, just momentum and downforce. It trails like nothing I have ever felt, simply amazing to drive, but it takes time to adjust. Those who have done test drives are probably more intimidated and not feeling the true ability.
Q: What is the key to pouring the seat properly in the NP01?
A: Call Johnny Cichowski, and remember to take your cell phone out of your pocket! I am really happy with my fit, but we worked to get Zane Dexter set up and missed. The lesson is be sure to have the wheel and pedals in exactly the right position before pouring. Then get ready to sweat a little as the exothermic reaction takes place.