No. 947
May 23, 2018
 

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Fumes


Tuesday
Feb032009

FUMES

February 4, 2009

Excruciatingly slow progress for IndyCar - and one glaring omission.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit.
The Indy Racing League held a media conference call yesterday to outline the progress they've made in coming up with a new engine package for the IndyCar Series. The IRL confirmed that five engine manufacturers - Honda Performance Development, Audi, Fiat Powertrain Technologies, Porsche and Volkswagen - along with six engine design companies were still participating in the IndyCar Series Automotive Manufacturers Roundtables. Translation? No one has folded their cards and gone home yet, but no one has jumped on board officially either. The idea, as you might recall, was to come up with an engine specification package that would lead to expanded engine manufacturer participation (meaning more than just Honda) in the IndyCar Series beginning by the 2011 season.

So far the IRL and its technical partners have agreed on the following specifications: 4-stroke engines with reciprocating pistons, an engine capacity that will not exceed 2.0 liters, dual-overhead cam shaft with 4-valves per cylinder, a single turbocharger will be permitted, direct injection systems will be permitted, alternative fuel use will be continued, a mandatory engine rebuild interval of 3,750 miles, a five-year sealed engine homologation process that will define areas with possible annual updates, and a cost containment engine lease ceiling, which will be applicable to all participants.

Turbo engines? Check. Direct injection? Check. Alternative fuels? Check. Built-in cost containment? Check. So far, so good, until it became apparent during yesterday's conference call that there were no guarantees that this new engine specification package would even see the light of day by 2011. Huh? And they've been talking about this since last summer? Not Good in my book. What could possibly be taking so long?

And where are the provisions for alternative technologies? They're MIA too. No big deal you say? Remember, we're talking about an engine specification package that will power IndyCar racing for at least six seasons, if not longer. So if the new engines don't appear until the 2012 season, that means the IRL will still be running without alternative technologies in 2018. That doesn't sound right to me.

And the most glaring omission? No Ford or GM. The true impact of the domestic manufacturers' precarious financial situation is out there for everyone to see. Detroit's fight for survival is part of every newscast and every business show, and it even dominates the political debate in Washington. So to see Ford and GM not represented as one of the interested engine manufacturers is not a big surprise, but still, the ramifications of their absence are clear: It means that no domestic manufacturer will be represented at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - unless a financial miracle occurs of course - for the next decade. And that's distressing to say the least.

That said, I expected more from the IRL at this juncture. Much more.

Are there some positives? Of course. Knowing that the distinctive sounds of turbocharged racing engines will be returning to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is certainly something to look forward to. But then again, waiting for the IRL and the engine manufacturers to get their act together seems painfully unnecessary at this point and a giant waste of time.

Let's hope they see the light, and soon too.

 

Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Ford Racing Archives)
Indianapolis, May 1966. Dan Gurney takes the very first All American Racers Eagle out for practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Gurney struggled in qualifying, ending up in 19th position, and then had a miserable race as a massive 16-car crash in the first turn of the first lap eliminated eleven cars (including Gurney's Eagle). Graham Hill won the race (the first "rookie" to do so since 1927), but only 7 cars were running at the finish.

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