Engine Manufacturers Make a Proposal

(November 11, 1998) -- CART's four engine manufacturers--Honda, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota--reportedly have proposed an engine formula to Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George that would permit CART's drivers, teams and manufacturers to compete once again in the Indianapolis 500. Although nobody will confirm it, the Indianapolis Star's Robin Miller reports in a story in last week's Star that Ford's racing chief Dan Davis recently delivered the proposal to George on behalf of CART's four engine manufacturers. It's believed the proposal calls for a normally-aspirated 3.0 or 3.5 liter V8 with no push rods, rev limiters or stock-block requirement.

CART's current engine formula is for low boost turbocharged 2.65 liter V8s, and has been in effect for twenty years and more in various guises. George's Indy Racing League uses 4.0 liter stock-block engines from Oldsmobile (Aurora) and Nissan. During the past couple of years CART's engine manufacturers and technical committee have discussed possible new engine formulas for 2000 while the IRL formula was established in 1997 for three years through 1999. According to The Star, George is expected to announce the IRL engine rules for 2000 and beyond on November 21st.

"There's been a lot of talk and some momentum for this and all the engine manufacturers are involved," retired driver and now full-time team owner Bobby Rahal told The Star. "They all want to come back to Indianapolis, like we do. There has to be a willingness to create a compromise and I sense on our side there's a tremendous willingness to do it."

A big stumbling block is CART's commitment to high-tech engines and leasing programs wherein the manufacturers provide and maintain every aspect of their engines for a seasonal lease fee. The IRL's stock-block engines are built by a variety of independent engine builders.

"A group of (CART) engine people did talk to us within the last two or three months," admitted Fred Nation, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's vice president of corporate communications. "Whether there's been much (talk) in the last few weeks, I don't know. I do know the IRL does have a rules package for 2000 and beyond and it will contain differences from the current program. But there will not be a departure from the IRL philosophy of affordable and available."

CART chairman Andrew Craig told the Star that the engine manufacturers competing in the FedEx Championship Series are open-minded about the rules, but will not relinquish technical control of their engines. "We've taken the position of, let's not get ourselves locked into anything right now," Craig said about CART's future engine rules. "Our manufacturers aren't married to turbocharged engines. They don't have a bias to any particular type of engine, providing it's a technical challenge and they can keep that proprietary information intact."

Commented Paul Ray, Ilmor's North American program manager: "We ought to be at Indianapolis if we can. But not at any price. And there can't be negotiating regarding the lease option, either."

Added Roger Penske in Miller's Star story: "If Tony wants to get together, give us an engine rule we can all take a look at that would be realistic for the next four or five years."

MRN