IRL: Engine Development Indy 500 Media Tour transcript, part 2

2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript Wednesday, March 24, 2004 Indy Racing League/Speedway Engine Dev.: Brian Barnhart, Phil Casey, Milt Woods Part 2 of 2 Q: Any time you make any kind of an engine change, it seems to create little...

2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript
Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Indy Racing League/Speedway Engine Dev.: Brian Barnhart, Phil Casey, Milt Woods

Part 2 of 2

Q: Any time you make any kind of an engine change, it seems to create little inherent problems. In what area might we expect to see the need for further tweaking or further development to get these engines to perform as expected?

CASEY: We really don't foresee any real problems. I think the biggest thing will be their carburetion and things like that on the engine and spark thing, they'll figure out how much they can run. I think they'll do some camshaft, a little bit of camshaft things because naturally the volume of air you're taking in is less. So they'll probably do some camshaft work to try and get a little bit of horsepower back. But as far as any problems, we don't foresee any problems with the engine as far as reliability goes.

KING: By the way, I'll make one note very quickly. Brian and Phil both talked about the aerodynamic changes made to the package this year. If you have not traveled with us or not attended any of the open tests at Miami or Phoenix and have yet seen an Indy series car, don't look for those changes on the two cars sitting behind them. These are not current generation aerodynamic changes. The slot, for example, that they both referred to on the rear of the engine cowling is not; it is not present on either of these cars.

Q: Phil, does that change the torque curve at all? I mean obviously it's going to reduce some horsepower. Does that change the driveability of the cars at all?

CASEY: Probably a little bit. It will change the torque curve some. The torque curve, you know, naturally you have smaller engines so that you have less amount of torque. Another thing I failed to mention a few minutes ago, we've had unbelievable reliability out of the 3.5-liter engine. I think at Homestead and Phoenix, I don't think we had an engine failure at either one. I think at one of the tests they were trying some experimental stuff and they had a few problems, but the engine reliability has been excellent.

Q: Is the goal with this package at places like Texas, Chicagoland, Michigan and so forth to get down around 212, at most 215, is that the objective?

CASEY: Yes, it is, and that will be in the 212 to 215 range, and that is what our goal is.

Q: Brian, how much of these changes were in the works prior to Tony's (Renna) accident here last fall?

BARNHART: Well, I think that probably accelerated the program by about six months. By implementing these changes beginning in May of 2004, it's probably about six months sooner. I think we were looking in our original conversations with the manufacturers and within the league was that we'd make this step and this change beginning with the 2005 season. In light of Kenny's situation at Texas, as well as Tony's situation 10 days later here at the Speedway, coupled with I think the other thing that contributed a large amount to accelerating this, as well, I think we underestimated the amount of development that the manufacturers would bring to the table. As I said, we were anticipating making this change in 2005, but with the competitive nature of Honda and Toyota joining Chevrolet as our manufacturers, the R & D and acceleration of the technology into the series probably was more than we anticipated. Speeds started going quicker more rapidly than we thought they would. Combining that with the way the season ended and the situation, I think, I think a lot of communication took place between us and the manufacturers in the month of November in deciding what was the best thing to do and making sure we could debut these things with a reliable engine, and we also needed to be careful about the economics of it because all three manufacturers had a lot of crankshafts, rods and pistons that were for 3.5-liter engines and to give them the opportunity to inventory them out, life them out as well as produce and manufacture new cranks, rods and pistons from December through the beginning of May, they've got about five to six months and they've just responded in a great fashion to be able to be prepared to make this change for May.

Q: Brian, what are the changes that are going to be in effect chassis-wise for the 500?

BARNHART: We haven't quite finalized those. As I've said, we've had an ongoing CFD program and wind tunnel work. Part of what happens on Saturday, April the 3rd will be the first iteration of chassis changes to balance the reduction in horsepower, and that's going to be a little work in progress. Your procedure is CFD, computational fluid dynamics, all your computer work, and then you validate it with wind tunnel work, and then of course you have to be on track and make sure that also validates and that's the stage where we're at. We have validated the CFD work with tunnel work, and Saturday, April 3rd, will be our first run of the changes aerodynamically to balance the reduction in horsepower. Probably the one that we're for sure that is going to take place, is we are going to fill the slot, the 3-by-12 that has been utilized for the first three races will no longer be required. That was a makeshift horsepower reduction to get us through the first three races until the engine capacity reduction took place. So a couple of things come out of that. Not only will we fill the slot, we will restore a cap over the snorkel area that you've seen the cars run the first two races with and that they'll run with at Japan. They've got the air box going in and they've got the flat shelf where the slot is. We're going to put a smooth continuous cap over that, restore the identity of our engine covers and chassis that we've had since 1997, which like I say, that does basically two-fold. One is restore the identity of our cars that we've had for the last seven or eight years, and it also is an important aspect for our owners to restore sponsor identification space for them because that's a high profile area and we give them some more square inches to put the decals for the all-important sponsors. The slot will be filled, a cap will be put over that, and then we have some minor changes aerodynamically that I think will balance the numbers for the Speedway. An ongoing project as well, we're continuing the CFD work and the wind tun nel work, and our bigger challenge is actually the aerodynamic specs for Texas. The high-bank tracks we run there to balance the reduction of horsepower, if we don't balance the aero aspect correctly, then we'll have a situation where the cars are literally not be able to get away from each other, they'll just be underpowered and too easy to drive. The whole field would be on top of each other. So we're continuing our Texas work as well and for our high-bank type of tracks. So it's kind of phased in two different ways. We did aero specs for Indy first, they'll be tried out Saturday April 3rd, we continue the CFD and tunnel work for Texas and beyond, and that's to be finalized by the end of April, and we'll do a Texas test the first of May.

Q: Brian, can you just address the Texas issue in a little bit more detail just in terms of the cars running so close together? Some of the drivers have talked about some concerns there. What type of research do you do to go into separating the cars a little bit?

BARNHART: Well, the numbers that you come up with the downforce numbers of the car, the banking obviously adds a ton of stability to the cars. And we have a number that we have shown that we've got excess amount of downforce to be able to run a flat lap around a place like Texas. If we decrease the horsepower and do not change the aerodynamics, then we have an over abundance of downforce. I mean, it gets a really large number for too much downforce to run a flat lap around Texas to virtually where anybody could. So we have to cut the downforce and drag numbers back to coincide with the horsepower output to a balancing number to where it is more of a challenge to drive around a place like Texas. Our goal is to reduce the excess downforce to a point where we do create a little separation. I think the Homestead race, though, was the first tip that really showed that we were heading in the right direction. Even though they added the banking to the Homestead Racetrack and they went to 20 degrees variable banking, 18, 19 and 20, we had an outstanding event in which guys were still capable of passing and overtaking. That's the key to what we have to do, is we have to maintain the ability to pass and overtake. That's the spirit and essence of our sport. We were in a situation where we had to put some makeshift parameters on the cars to control the speeds at the high-bank tracks like Texas and Chicago that we actually artificially created pack racing to where they couldn't get away from each other. You literally get side by side and couldn't go anywhere. As exciting as that may be at some point, that's really not in the best interest of anybody to get cars stuck side by side. I want you to be able to race side by side, and I want you to be able to race nose to tail, but if you're better than me or I'm better than you, you need to be able to pull out and pass. At Homestead we got a first taste of that, like I say, and we just had an outstanding event at Homestead where we still had incredibly close competition where the cars were very competitive. But the ability to pass when one car was better than the other is evidenced by Sam's pass of Helio on the white-flag lap, and just the overall quality of the competition that we put on the racetrack at Homestead is a good indication we're heading in the right direction on the high banks.

Q: Last year's race here proved that it was very difficult to pass even with those rules as far as on-track lead changes. How much of a concern is there with the combination of engine and aero changes that will be very difficult to pass here on race day?

BARNHART: Well, it falls in the same category; it's our goal to improve the ability to pass. I think what you described is right, I think it got more difficult to pass last year because we had an overabundance of downforce. Also it led to the increase in speeds. When you saw guys running rear-wing angles nose up by as much as 7 degrees or 8 degrees, that's just telling you that those cars have got too much downforce. And I don't think you're going to see a situation this year where guys are going to be able to, based on our preliminary work of the aero specs, they're not going to be able to do that. And certain guys are going to have to run more wing than others, that's going to create the opportunity to pass, and we won't get in that situation, or our goal is not to get into that situation as we move into May. It is the most important aspect of what we do is maintain the ability to pass for the entertainment aspect for the fans and everybody on TV.

KING: We're going to take one more question, because we're coming up on 9:00, and we want to give you all a chance to talk to Brian and to Phil and to Milt, if you like, in a one-on-one basis before we move to the next event. We'll take one more question, and then we'll break for one-on-ones. The next event starts at 9:15.

Q: Brian and Phil, both you guys were working with the cars back in the '90s when the speed was getting up to 240 miles an hour. Did you at that time see that there was definitely a need, that it was reaching a point beyond reason?

BARNHART: Well, there's a number of aspects from that. I think one of the first ones that comes into play is simply driver comfort level, and I think a lot of the places that the guys have run, even in a CART car when they ran close to 240 at Fontana, when we've run here at Indianapolis, as you mentioned, I think in '95 or '96 I guess it was when they ran 235 to 239, right in that range. The drivers have less confidence and a lower comfort level running that type of speed, as well. Just from a pure safety standpoint, you know, you know the faster you go, the less safe it is. So we are always trying to control speeds. There also comes the entertainment value derivative. If the drivers aren't comfortable and the car is unstable enough and they aren't capable of racing their fellow drivers very well, then you're not going to put a very entertaining product on the racetrack. So there's a number of things that come into play with that. From my standpoint, it is one thing to watch the sheer thrill I guess in qualifying of watching man push the limits of speed, but you have to remember we're not here just to qualify, we are here to race them and entertain with a good race product on race day, as well. So I think we have always known that we need to be reducing speeds to a more comfortable level for the drivers and also from a safety aspect. I don't know if Phil has more to add.

CASEY: In '96 when that all happened, we were running the CART car, which had a lot of downforce, and the Cosworth engine, which was turbocharged, which made a lot of horsepower. And naturally in '97 we come back to a 4-liter engine, which was about 625 or 30 horsepower when they started. So that reduced the speeds here our first year at the Speedway. Hopefully that's what we're looking at now by reducing the engine size, we'll reduce another 10 miles an hour.

KING: Our thanks to Brian, to Phil and to Milt, and the three of them will be available for about eight or 10 minutes for one-on-ones. Next up is Red Bull Cheever Racing at the Media Center. We'll start at 9:15.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Brian Barnhart
Teams HART