PHOENIX, Dec. 1, 2001 -- The red Bowtie was back on an Indy car for the first time since 1993 as the all-new Chevy Indy V8 racing engine successfully completed its first track test at Phoenix International Raceway. Reigning Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish Jr. ran a total of 456 trouble-free laps with Pennzoil Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara in a three-day test of the new GM-designed 3.5-liter engine on the one-mile PIR oval.
"I'm really happy with how everything went," said Hornish, who opened his championship season with a victory in Phoenix last March. "We put nearly 500 miles on the new engine, and from the driver's seat, it was great. I couldn't ask for anything more.
"The Oldsmobile engine was good, but this Chevrolet is going to be better," Hornish predicted. "It looks like it already has 25 or 30 more horsepower than we had last year."
After establishing a performance baseline with the IRL Aurora V8 that powered Hornish to three victories and the series title in 2001, the Panther team rolled out a second Dallara chassis equipped with the new Chevy powerplant. The Chevy Indy V8 is smaller, lighter, and has a lower center of gravity than its Oldsmobile predecessor -- an engine that dominated the IRL series for five consecutive seasons.
"The test went extremely well," commented Andy Brown, chief engineer for Panther Racing. "For the new engine to be quicker than the previous engine straight out of the box, and then to run flawlessly for 450 miles, is very, very impressive.
"I'm very excited to be working with GM and Chevrolet next season," Brown continued. "They bring much more to the team that just an engine -- they have a huge technical department with resources such as proving grounds, wind tunnels and shaker rigs. We're looking forward to a very close working relationship."
The first track test of the new Chevy Indy V8 came on the heels of two successful 500-mile dynamometer durability tests. The computer-controlled dyno simulates a 220mph race pace for 500 miles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"The new Chevrolet engine has now demonstrated excellent reliability based on our dynamometer and track tests," said GM Racing engineer Dick Amacher. "We completed three days of testing with no major issues, and we saw the performance that we anticipated. We had high expectations going into the test, and our expectations were met.
"GM Racing will continue to improve the engine's power and durability," Amacher added. "There is never a point at which you've got the final answer."
The Chevy Indy V8 will make its competition debut in the season-opening IRL race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla., on March 2, 2002. Chevrolet will return to open-wheel racing after dominating the sport from 1988 to 1993.
"I think the Chevy engine has a different sound, it seems to pull harder, and we can definitely see an increase in power," observed Panther Racing co-owner John Barnes. "This engine is just in its infancy, and I think we will see an event better product by the time we get to Indianapolis."
"I'm excited about Chevrolet's first year with the Indy Racing League," Hornish said. "I'd love to be the guy who brings Chevrolet back to Victory Lane at the Indy 500."