Future IndyCar engine development talks continue

Discussions press on as IndyCar series officials and manufacturer representatives look to develop their new engine formula for the 2011 season. Five manufacturers - Honda Performance Development, Audi, Fiat Powertrain Technologies, Porsche and ...

Discussions press on as IndyCar series officials and manufacturer representatives look to develop their new engine formula for the 2011 season. Five manufacturers - Honda Performance Development, Audi, Fiat Powertrain Technologies, Porsche and Volkswagen - are engaged in the conversations of the IndyCar Series Automotive Manufacturers Roundtables.

In addition to the manufacturers, six race engine design companies are working with the series to develop the specifications. Some details, such as turbochargers, have already been discussed as the series of meetings date to last June at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In particular, the series looks to these new specifications for the power plants of the cars: 4-stroke engines with reciprocating pistons, engine capacity not exceeding 2.0 liters, dual-overhead cam shaft with 4 valves per cylinder, single turbo charger and direct injection systems, while continuing to expand on alternative fuel use.

Officials are looking to continue cost containment and limit the amount of development that goes into the new formula. The series wants engines to last around 3,750 miles before rebuilds, with a five-year sealed engine homologation process that limits tweaks to just a few minimal annual updates.

Dallara and Firestone, the exclusive chassis and tire suppliers of IndyCar, have also offered their thoughts into the new package. Series president of competition and racing operations Brian Barnhart and commercial division president Terry Angstadt also participated in today's teleconference.

"The input we have received through the collective manufacturer roundtable process is very important and will be seriously considered by the IndyCar Series in determining its future engine platform," Barnhart said.

"This process was designed to showcase the league's position as an innovator and bring relevance to the forefront for the manufacturers," Angstadt said. "What we have found in the ensuing months during the economic downturn is that the IndyCar Series has really hit on the relevance point with the manufacturers and quite possibly helped the motorsports industry usher in a new era of responsible cost containment, performance standard and engine development."

Each of the manufacturers offered their input on the ongoing talks and development of the new formula. Honda is the lynchpin at the moment, as they currently supply all IndyCar teams and will do so through the conclusion of 2010.

"Honda charged our partner IndyCar to define a relevant global and sustainable platform that would be attractive to multiple automotive brands," said Erik Berkman, president of HPD. "We applaud the Series' responsiveness to our request, and look forward to actively participating in the Roundtable process moving forward."

Rumors have abounded that either Audi or Volkswagen, not both, would take up the mantle as top challenger to Honda. It is intriguing to note each has been present when Volkswagen Group is Audi AG's parent company, plus given Audi has reduced its North American involvement in motorsport this year with the pullout of full-time American Le Mans Series competition.

"IndyCar's process of soliciting direct and unfiltered input from the automotive manufacturers has been a unique and refreshing approach," said Ulrich Baretzky, head of race and special engine for Audi. "This is a responsible and realistic approach to all of motorsports and presents an opportunity to integrate it directly with consumer relevance."

"The IndyCar Series is steeped in history and synonymous with automotive technical innovation," said Donatus Wichelhaus, head of engine development for Volkswagen Motorsport. "The IndyCar Series has been proactive to take a global leadership role in defining an engine and technical platform that will further promote R&D development and innovation that will have positive effects on production-based consumer cars."

Porsche and Fiat have not had glorious histories this side of the Atlantic in terms of open-wheel participation. Porsche had a brief tenure in the 1980s with Teo Fabi, while Fiat's offshoot, Ferrari, tested a prototype but it never raced.

"IndyCar has done an extremely thorough job at examining all the future technical considerations that automotive brands are faced with," said Paolo Martinelli, vice president of Fiat Powertrain Technologies. "Working in concert with my peers to help define the next generation of IndyCars has been an enlightening and productive process that will likely have positive connections to other global motorsports."

"Porsche has a long and successful history in various motorsports disciplines, including the Indianapolis 500," said Thomas Laudenbach, Porsche's head of motorsport development - Powertrain. "Our production- based cars, like our motorsports programs, are based upon performance and technical innovation."

"The IndyCar Series' Manufacturer Roundtable has brought a consensus approach between competing automotive brands that may also have possible connotations to other motorsport series around the globe. The IndyCar Series should be recognized for its positive approach to this important initiative," he added."

Collectively, the IndyCar Series is working with these manufacturers to ensure Honda will have some competition come 2011. More meetings will occur over the course of the year, especially around the month of May and the Indianapolis 500.

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