IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-02-07

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. 2007-spec Honda engine draws rave reviews 2. Justice to drive third Sam Schmidt entry in Indy Pro Series 3. Crawford serves as Indy Pro Series' unofficial welcome wagon 1. 2007-spec Honda...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. 2007-spec Honda engine draws rave reviews
2. Justice to drive third Sam Schmidt entry in Indy Pro Series
3. Crawford serves as Indy Pro Series' unofficial welcome wagon

1. 2007-spec Honda engine draws rave reviews: IndyCar Series drivers came out of the Daytona Open Test raving about the work done by Honda during the offseason.

Two major changes were made to the Honda HI7R Indy V-8 engine for the 2007 IndyCar Series season -- an increase in engine displacement to 3.5 liters and a shift from a fuel blended from primarily methanol (with 10 percent ethanol added) to 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol, a renewable energy source.

The results from Daytona show improved reliability and add to the level of competition while keeping the performance level and costs the same.

Roger Griffiths, race team technical leader for Honda Performance Development, discussed the changes and their effect on the engine program following the test.

Q: Why the increase to a 3.5-liter engine, and how did you make the change?

ROGER GRIFFITHS: With the addition of more road course events on the IndyCar Series calendar, we felt it was important to improve the torque response of the Honda Indy V-8, and increase the width of the usable power band.

This makes the engine less "peaky" and better suited to road racing. It also means the engine will be less stressed, which is good for reliability and helps us reduce costs to the teams as well.

Increasing the displacement to 3.5 liters was relatively simple to accomplish by changing the crankshaft and connecting rods. All other major components are the same as in the previous 3.0-liter engine.

There also are some minor revisions to the intake system to achieve the targeted performance levels, reduce costs, and simplify the engine building process. The last two are key components in the plan to once again reduce the overall program costs to the teams.

Q: What additional changes were needed to accept 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol?

ROGER GRIFFITHS: The most important aspect to the fuel change is making sure that all components in the engine that come into contact with the fuel are "ethanol compatible." This includes the fuel injectors, fuel lines and seals. The Engine Control Unit [ECU] settings also have been adjusted to meet the "burn" requirements of ethanol. Fuel mileage also has improved, to the point that the 2007 fuel cells have been reduced in size to 22 gallons.

Q: Based on the mix of street/road course and various-sized ovals, what are your thoughts/projections for '07 regarding a less-costly engine program for teams but one they can have confidence in?

ROGER GRIFFITHS: With the increased engine life, teams may well get an additional event out of an engine build, and that helps further reduce costs. Engines that ran two races between rebuilds should now last for at least three events.

Despite the fact that our cost targets are significantly lower for 2007, we've been able to maintain Honda's high quality assurance procedures. We have very thorough mileage tracking and development testing procedures that will remain for 2007 and beyond.

In fact, in durability testing of the engine, we regularly run far in excess of the track mileage limit and under tougher running conditions, so that we go into the races with a high degree of confidence about the reliability and performance of the Honda Indy V-8. We're looking forward to another great season this year.

2. Justice to drive third Sam Schmidt entry in Indy Pro Series: Sam Schmidt Motorsports announced Feb. 5 that Ryan Justice will compete in the No. 38 entry for the 2007 Indy Pro Series title.

Justice, 21, from Portland, Oregon, contested the two Infineon Raceway events with the team in 2006, finishing eighth in both races. He will be teammates with Alex Lloyd and Logan Gomez.

"Competing this season in the Indy Pro Series with a team the caliber of Sam Schmidt Motorsports is precisely what I have been working towards since I started racing," Justice said. "Although we took a very conservative approach to the races last year to gain experience, I recognized that I enjoyed the cars and felt I could compete for the championship if given the proper opportunity. We've already completed an initial test and those results have only made me more anxious to get started. The team is the most successful in series history, so the expectations are quite high."

"Ryan is a great individual, which is why we have worked very hard to make sure he was racing with our team this year," team owner Sam Schmidt said. "Although he hasn't been racing as long as some of the other competitors, he makes up for it with above average intellect and maturity. Our experience with him already noted a high level of technical ability and extreme dedication to improving each time he gets in the car. Those qualities motivate me as an owner as well as the guys working on the car."

Justice began competing in go-karts in 2001, eventually becoming the SuperKarts USA Northwest Champion and finishing third in the country in the S1 Category. At that time, he was also the youngest driver to be licensed and drive in the Russell Racing School Series (won his first event) and an American LeMans Series event. In 2004 and 2005, he finished fifth in karting's Super Pro category and sixth overall in the Star Mazda Pro Series, while also competing in the ASA Speed Truck Series on a limited schedule. Last season, he finished third in the Star Mazda championship on the strength of three pole positions and two race wins.

"Our expectations for the year are to win rookie of the year honors and compete for the championship," Justice said. "The level of competition has increased substantially with new teams and better quality drivers. Whoever is fortunate to win the title should have no problem moving up to the next level in 2008. That's where I want to be."

3. Crawford serves as Indy Pro Series' unofficial welcome wagon: "Welcome, to the Indy Pro Series."

That friendly greeting has been extended to numerous new teams for 2007. But the warm welcome hasn't only come from league officials. It's also come from fellow competitors, who despite competing for high stakes on the track, maintain a sense of community with each other.

The "one big, happy family" atmosphere was evident at a recent test at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Second-year team owner Michael Crawford, who is still searching for drivers to fill his two seats in 2007, tested six rookies on the 1.5-mile oval -- four of them specifically for other teams.

"I think most of us, as team owners, have been in that situation before," Crawford said. "When you start a team, it takes a lot of time and effort to get your new equipment ready to go racing. They're scrambling to be ready for the Open Test and the first race. They realized that we have a reliable team that's ready to go, so we were happy to help these guys pass their rookie tests."

Micky Gilbert, co-owner of first-year entrant Mile High Motorsports, was first in the car. Gilbert started two races on the road course at Infineon Raceway last year. Andersen Racing drivers Andrew Prendeville and Joey Scarallo also passed their rookie tests in the Michael Crawford Motorsports machine.

Supermodified driver AJ Russell, who is looking to form his own team, as well as Grand Am's Shane Lewis and Star Mazda's Ron White also completed their rookie tests.

"Ideally, we would be at Homestead with just two drivers," Crawford said. "On the bright side, the test introduced us to some of our competitors as well as gave us the opportunity to test drivers for our own program. We hope to build on our eight top-10 finishes from a year ago."

***

The 2007 IndyCar Series season begins under the lights with the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 24. The race will be telecast live by ESPN2 at 8 p.m. (EDT) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The sixth season of Indy Pro Series competition begins with the Miami 100 on March 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast on at 5 p.m. (EDT) on March 28 by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Shane Lewis , Sam Schmidt , Andrew Prendeville , Alex Lloyd , Ryan Justice , Ron White , Logan Gomez