Jim Campbell, GM's VP of performance vehicles and motorsports, says that while he’s proud of Chevrolet’s win ratio in IndyCar’s manufacturer aerokit era, he expects the marque to continue excelling when all teams run the same aero package.
This weekend’s IndyCar finale at Sonoma Raceway, Calif., will be the last race for the manufacturer-designed aerokits, which were introduced at the start of 2015. Although Chevrolet is perceived to have been dominant over the past three seasons, with its road/street/short-oval aerokit regarded as superior to that of rival Honda, in fact Chevy’s stats in the pre-aerokit era were scarcely less dominant.
“Watkins Glen was our 100th race since coming back for this engine era,” Campbell told Motorsport.com. “We have won 66 of those races, which is a strong win ratio.
“If you look, in the aerokit era [2015-’17] we have won 33 of the 48 races so far. We’re very proud of the effort our team made, along with our race teams, in designing and engineering and testing our aerokit to really deliver the best combination of downforce and drag, along with engine performance.
“It was a thoroughly integrated package – it’s not been all aerokit, or all engine; it’s the combination, along with implementation by great teams, great engineers and great drivers, who all helped to put those numbers on the board. It’s one of those instances where the results really speak for themselves.
“But if you look at the three years before the aerokits, our first three years back in the sport, we won 33 out of 52 races. So I’d say our track record with and without aerokits has been strong.”
Chevrolet goes into the championship showdown with four drivers in the title hunt, against one Honda-powered car, the Ganassi car of Scott Dixon. Should one of the Penske-Chevy drivers prevail, that would mean the Bowtie engine has powered five of the last six IndyCar drivers’ champions. Chevrolet, since being enticed back to the sport by the new-for-2012 engine regulations – 2.2-liter, V6, twin-turbo, direct-injection units – has also won all six manufacturers’ titles.
Dixon was the one Honda-powered champion in the “twin-turbo” era , and after three seasons with Chevy, this year the Chip Ganassi Racing switched back to the HPD units. Campbell admitted that had been a loss, but said he’s happy that the Penske-Chevrolet combo has outscored Ganassi-Honda 9-1 in terms of victories in 2017.
Said Campbell: “We race with Chip Ganassi on the NASCAR side and we have raced with him here on the IndyCar side and won the championship with him and Scott Dixon in 2015. I admit, it’s more fun racing with him than against him! We have a lot of respect for Chip’s organization and for Scott as well.
“But in the end, these team transitions happen, and we’ve still had 9 wins and 10 poles from 16 races this season, and we have several drivers in the mix for the championship.”
Honda’s engines have had markedly improved torque this year, and once the company overcame the manufacturing flaw that caused regular failures in the first quarter of the season, HPD cars have appeared able to neutralize their aerodynamic deficit, everywhere except the short ovals.
Asked if he was worried that once everyone was running the same aerokit next year that Honda's engine might prove to be a step ahead, Campbell replied: “We raced in the series before the manufacturer aerokits and were strong because we go to work with our technical partners and our engineering team to provide our race teams with the best we can. That doesn’t change year to year.
“So while we were proud of our performance in the manufacturer aerokit era, we’re also looking forward to what’s ahead.
"And that's true of other aspects of the sport. IndyCar has done a really good job of working with its partners including the manufacturers and discussing what’s next, and taking what momentum the series has and continuing to grow it.
“So we have not only aligned ourselves behind the change in aero package in 2018, we also approve of other things being done in terms of competition and market activation. We want to see the series continue to have great momentum and growth, attending the races and watching online and on TV. We’re very pleased with the direction IndyCar is going.”