IndyCar’s president of competition and operations Jay Frye says a new engine formula with a significant increase in power output could be introduced as soon as 2020, ahead of the next-generation car.
The current 2.2-liter direct-injection turbocharged engine formula has been in place since the start of the 2012 season, when IndyCar also switched up the spec chassis from the IR05 to the all-new DW12. After three years using spec DW12 bodywork, manufacturer aerokits from Chevrolet and Honda were introduced for 2015, but this season sees the return of a spec aero package, which cuts downforce, transfers the majority of it to the underside, and adds new safety measures.
However, while Dallara’s 2018 universal aerokit kit will not be changed for at least three years – and may have its life extended to include the 2021 season – there could be a significant upgrade to the engines as soon as 2020.
Frye told Motorsport.com: “Making more power is our next step and just as we reverse-engineered the car, starting with its aesthetics first, then it’s the same for the engine. We’ve got great OEM partners in Honda and Chevrolet and we’ve asked them, ‘What have we got to do to get 100 to 150 more horsepower?’ Then they come back with their list, we see what’s common to both and then figure out if that gets us where we need to be. We’ve undertaken that process already because we always work at least three years out.
“So if we extend this car for one more year to run in 2021, we could still introduce an engine upgrade in 2020. I’m not saying it’s decided, but these are the things that are being discussed – what can happen when.”
Prospective third OEMs would be part of next-gen car talks
Frye said that even if it’s decided that the new IndyCar won’t be introduced until 2022, the series will “probably” start work on it this year, by which time he will have a clearer picture regarding other manufacturers possibly joining Chevrolet and Honda as engine partners in the series.
“By the end of this summer we will have a better idea about prospective OEMs,” said Frye, “and we’ll know whether they’re coming for year X or year Y. But whichever it is, that will make them part of the discussion about the next car and the next engine configuration.
“As we discussed last month, we’ve had a lot of meetings with OEMs about the future and where we’re going, and they all seem to agree that the direction we’re thinking of for the next-gen engine is a relevant one. So even if we set in place our next engine formula before a third manufacturer is signed up, we’re confident that any prospective third OEM would be attracted to the direction we choose to take. There is definitely enthusiasm for what we’re doing.
“We could get a call tomorrow – ‘Hey, let’s talk and take this to the next level.’ It’s something we work on every day. Is anything imminent? No. Are we confident that it will happen sooner rather than later? Yes.”
Regarding the time lapse between an engine manufacturer deciding to enter the series, and its product making its race debut, Frye said: “Well, if we were lucky enough to get that call tomorrow and someone said that they were ready to commit, they could be in by 2020. If the call came later this summer, then it would probably be for entry in 2021.”
OEMs “surprised” by IndyCar economics
Frye said that IndyCar’s presentation to OEMs about joining the series have been welcomed, with manufacturers “pleasantly surprised” by the costs.
“When we meet with them our presentation is all-encompassing,” he said. “We show them the five-year plan, and we show them the budget and that’s based off research we have done with three or four manufacturers. Because there are different approaches, right? A manufacturer can build their own units, like HPD, or follow the Chevrolet model which is utilizing Ilmor.
“So we can show them numbers about how it would work in different scenarios, and I can tell you that each of them has been pleasantly surprised that IndyCar is a lot more economical than they expected. Some of them were almost shocked, and they ask, ‘Come on what are the hidden costs?’ And we’re saying, ‘No, there aren’t any, this is it… and here are some numbers of people you can call to verify it.’
“There is no stone unturned – but obviously it has to be well thought out if you’re going to appeal to OEMs. IndyCar, we feel, offers a great package and it’s good value, but it’s still a huge commitment. So this presentation is a five-year plan and it’s a map or template of how you get from committing to the project to getting the product on the track, the number of test days, and so on.
“You don’t want to overwhelm them with too much, but we present the facts and let them know we’ll be involved and even Honda and Chevrolet have said they’ll help.”