Alumnus races toward new opportunity

Apr 8, 2004

Alumnus trades race car driving for designing the new supercharged GT road car.

Neil Hannemann '81 doesn't appear to be the type of individual who once drove racecars for a living. His quiet, speculative persona and soft-spoken demeanor are opposite of those motor sports athletes one might liken to Tom Cruise in a movie like Days of Thunder.

But make no mistake; Hannemann knows what it takes for a successful team to win races. After all, he won the Sports Club of America World Challenge Championship in 1985, 1992, 1994 and 1995, then retired from racing in 1998 when his wife, Carla, gave birth to triplets.

Although he stopped driving racecars, Hannemann never stopped working on them. As an employee of Saleen Inc., he received an assignment to work with the Ford GT Program, where he worked for the last two years. Part of his responsibilities as chief project engineer for the GT Program included helping in the rebirth of the GT road car. This is a reissue and Ford will manufacture 4,500 of these vehicles, which boast a V-8, 5.4 liter, 550 horsepower supercharged engine. Other alumni with whom he worked on the GT program include Neil Ressler '61 and Fred Goodnow '66.

After Ford GT Program was completed in early 2004, Hannemann accepted a new position with McLaren Cars of England as the director of Engineering. The firm designs and produces specialty sports cars and also has a Formula 1 race team. "I would like to do work that ties into my 20 plus years of engineering high performance cars," Hannemann said. He moved to England this past March; his wife, Carla, will move with their children Kailen, 7, Ethan, 4, Jacklyn, 4, and Madelyn, 4, sometime in June after school is out for the summer.

Written by Gary Erwin
(810) 762-9538