Chevrolet announced today that it is replacing engines in all 11 of its V-6-powered entries prior to this weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the third race of the IZOD IndyCar Series season. The decision was reached following a tear-down and inspection of an engine that had an issue during an IndyCar-sanctioned test earlier this week at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
No specifics of the problem were divulged but Chevrolet believed it prudent to make the wholesale change. The engine replacements were seen taking place in the paddock area at Long Beach on Thursday afternoon.
...we feel it is prudent to change all engines prior to the start of the on- track activities this weekend
“We are still learning the limitations of the new engine controls calibration,” said Chris Berube, Chevrolet Racing IZOD IndyCar Series Program Manager. “Through our testing in Sonoma, as indicated by an engine issue, we uncovered a problem that we believe could affect all engines. So, as a result, we feel it is prudent to change all engines prior to the start of the on- track activities this weekend.”
Per the provisions set forth in the IndyCar rule book (rules 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52) that outlines the penalty for a change-out if the engine has not reached its minimum mileage threshold of 1,850 miles, each of the 11 drivers will be levied with a 10 position penalty on the starting grid prior to the green flag for the Long Beach race.
Chevrolet-powered cars have taken the pole and the race wins in the first two races of the season – and without a hiccup, so to speak.
“We developed an issue with my motor (at Infineon),” said James Hinchcliffe, who drives the Team Go-Daddy.com Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport. “When Chevrolet looked over the engine, they had some concerns with the units in other cars and instead of taking a risk of losing points in a race, we figured we would take the qualifying penalties and still have good motors for the race.”
While Hinchcliffe would have preferred to start up front, he knows he will have to play catch-up as will the other 10 Chevrolet-powered entrants. “It will have a very bizarre effect on the grid, but it is a long race,” the Canadian driver said. “For a street race, there are some decent passing opportunities, so we will play it by ear. There’s no sense in complaining; we just have to put our heads down and do our job. We are in a very competitive manufacturer war, and for Chevy, it was a bold decision to take.”
Added Will Power, the winner of the second race of the season, “I guess Chevy is taking measures so that no problems happen during the race. Our best possible starting position will be 11th, and it is very difficult to pass around here. We will just have to do what we can in the race.”
Power exploded through the field at Barber Motorsports and surprised even himself with a victory, so he knows it can be done. “What we did at Barber just kept putting me into a position to use our speed,” he noted, crediting Tim Cindric, his team’s strategist and the president of Penske Racing. “I think it will be a two-stop race and a tough one to win.”
Cindric stated, “It is a risk and we already know we are starting 11 spots back. We have accepted it and will make the best of it. You don’t know what will happen, and you don’t give up until it is over.”
The Penske executive has been a vocal opponent of the engine replacement penalty. “I have never been a supporter of the rule,” he said. “I voiced my concerns with all parties and in the first year of an engine situation, my recommendation was to wait until at least Indy before you had these kinds of penalties or at least to pro-rate the penalties based on the mileage of the engines.”
In addition to the race teams, Cindric said it wasn’t fair to the fans and made it difficult to explain what happened to interested parties.