IRL: Chevy 2002 season review

Chevrolet dominates in successful return to open-wheel competition. DETROIT, Sept. 26, 2002 - It seemed like old times in the Indy car winner's circle as Chevrolet drivers celebrated victories in 14 out of 15 events on the Indy Racing League ...

Chevrolet dominates in successful return to open-wheel competition.

DETROIT, Sept. 26, 2002 - It seemed like old times in the Indy car winner's circle as Chevrolet drivers celebrated victories in 14 out of 15 events on the Indy Racing League schedule in 2002. While this dominating performance duplicated the success of Chevy's previous open-wheel racing program that produced 86 victories and five championships in 1987-93, there were significant differences between the Chevy Indy V8 racing engines of yesterday and today.

Nine years ago, Chevrolet competed in the PPG Indy Car World Series with a turbocharged 2.65-liter engine that originated in England. Chevrolet's return to open-wheel racing in 2002 was powered by a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter racing engine designed and developed in-house by GM Racing.

"Chevrolet returned to open-wheel racing with clear goals - to win the Indianapolis 500 and to win the IRL Manufacturers' and Drivers' Championships," said Chevrolet General Manager Kurt Ritter. "We achieved those objectives through the exceptional efforts of GM Racing engineers, our affiliated engine builders and the talented teams and drivers who made the Chevy Indy V8 the dominant engine in the IRL series."

Sam Hornish Jr. won the first pole and led the first lap with the new Chevy Indy V8 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 2, 2002. Seven months and 3,100 laps later, Hornish clinched his second championship by inches in the Chevy 500 season finale at Texas Motor Speedway. Between these bookends to the 2002 season, eight Chevy drivers stood in the winner's circle at tracks ranging from .75-mile bullrings to 2.5-mile superspeedways: Hornish (5 victories), Helio Castroneves (2), Gil de Ferran (2), Alex Barron (1), Airton Dare (1), Felipe Giaffone (1), Scott Sharp (1) and Jeff Ward (1).

Chevrolet engines swept the podium 13 times with 1-2-3 finishes, powered 88 percent of the top-five finishers, led 78 percent of the laps, and completed 61,781 racing miles. Chevy Indy V8 engines were the choice of 75 percent of the starters and 80 percent of the finishers in the 15-race series.

The Chevy Indy V8 was the successor to GM's first-generation IRL engine that swept the series' championships five straight years. Sharing the same architecture as its predecessor, the 2002 Chevy Indy V8 provided a platform to develop and test technology that has been incorporated in the all-new 2003 Chevy Indy V8.

Employing the strategy that has made Chevrolet the most successful manufacturer in American motorsports, GM Racing developed long-term alliances with independent engine builders who supplied Chevy Indy V8 engines to IRL teams. Four builders - Speedway Engine Development, Ilmor Engineering, Comptech Machine and Roush Industries - prepared winning Chevrolet engines in 2002. Indianapolis-based Speedway Engine Development is the most prolific of the GM builders, providing engines that have won 19 IRL races and three consecutive drivers' championships.

While power is a prerequisite for fast laps, Chevrolet engines also demonstrated reliability for the long haul. Hornish completed 2,963 laps en route to the championship, the most among all IRL drivers, without a single engine-related issue.

"Chevrolet has been so good to work with this year, giving us an opportunity to be a contender for the championship all year long," said Hornish after scoring his record fifth win of the season in Texas. "We had zero engine problems. You can't look at many series and say that the champion didn't have a single motor problem."

Dependability is a cornerstone of Chevrolet's racing program, just as it is in the division's production vehicles.

"Success in the Indy Racing League is measured by more than a single fast lap in qualifying," said GM Racing engineer Dick Amacher. "To be successful over an entire season, you need an engine package that is capable of running hundreds of laps with reliability as well as a high level of performance. Dependability has been a focus of the Chevrolet engine program since its inception, and that is reflected in the Chevy Indy V8's exceptional finishing record. You need speed to finish up front, but you also need reliability to be there at the end."

With the 2002 season now in the record book, GM Racing engineers are focused on development and validation of the next-generation Chevy Indy V8 engine. The 2003 Chevy Indy V8 is 3 inches narrower, 3 inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter than the championship-winning 2002 version. The next-generation Chevy Indy V8 will make its competition debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 2, 2003.

"Chevy races to win in every form of motorsports in which we compete," said Steve Shannon, GM executive director - marketing services. "We recognize that the bar will be raised next year with new manufacturers entering the IRL series. This new Chevrolet racing engine, designed and developed in-house at GM, is a symbol of our commitment to continue Chevy's winning tradition. Wherever there's a winner's circle, Chevy will be there."

GEN 2 CHEVY INDY V8 CHRONOLOGY

June 5, 2001: Program announced
Chevrolet General Manager Kurt Ritter announces Chevrolet's return to open-wheel racing and the Indianapolis 500.

Oct. 30, 2001: First 500-mile dyno test
Chevy Indy V8 successfully completes simulated 500-mile race on dynamometer

Dec. 1, 2001: First track test
Sam Hornish Jr. runs 456 trouble-free laps at Phoenix International Raceway in first track test with Chevy Indy V8.

March 1, 2002: First Pole
Sam Hornish Jr. puts new Chevy Indy V8 on pole at Homestead-Miami Speedway with 202.884 mph qualifying lap.

March 2, 2002: First Victory
Hornish leads all 200 laps and scores first victory for new Chevy Indy V8 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Chevrolet engines sweep the first five finishing positions.

May 11, 2001: First Indy 500 pole
Bruno Junqueira puts Chevy Indy V8 on pole for Indianapolis 500 with four-lap average speed of 231.432 mph.

May 26, 2002: First Indy 500 victory
Helio Castroneves wins Indianapolis 500 with Chevy Indy V8 at 166.499 mph average speed as Chevrolet powers 14 of first 15 finishers.

June 29, 2002: First IRL championship
Sam Hornish Jr. clinches IRL Manufacturers' Championship for Chevrolet with victory at Richmond International Raceway.

July 23, 2002: First test of third-generation Chevy Indy V8
Third-generation 2003 Chevy Indy V8 successfully completes dyno test and meets all initial performance objectives.

Sept. 15, 2002: Chevy wins Drivers' Championship
Sam Hornish Jr. wins 2002 Drivers' Championship with record-setting fifth victory of the season in Chevy 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

-chevy racing-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Jeff Ward , Scott Sharp , Airton Daré , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Barron , Sam Hornish Jr.