LEBANON, TN, July 19, 2003 - The Indy Racing League's senior vice president of racing operations, Brian Barnhart took time prior to this evening's Firestone Indy 200 race at Nashville Superspeedway to address changes to GM Racing's Chevy Indy V8...
LEBANON, TN, July 19, 2003 - The Indy Racing League's senior vice president of racing operations, Brian Barnhart took time prior to this evening's Firestone Indy 200 race at Nashville Superspeedway to address changes to GM Racing's Chevy Indy V8 engine that have been proposed and approved by the League over the last week.
Due to the increased level of competition from Honda and Toyota, who have come to the IndyCar Series just this season, GM Racing has found itself unable to mount a serious threat to the newcomers.
Something had to be done. "This is an unprecedented move by the Indy Racing League," Barnhart admitted. "Toyota and Honda have raised the bar and GM Racing has a significant performance deficiency" at this time. "Positive changes needed to be made and we've spent a lot of time talking with Chevrolet teams. They're all very positive about our plans and they're all very happy" that the League has decided to approve the Gen IV Chevy Indy V8.
The first time the new engine design will be tested in competition is next weekend's Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway. The League has "approved the use of the newly designed engine for two consecutive races, in order to test the engine under race conditions pursuant to the Indy Racing League Engine Manufacturer Agreement," a press release stated.
The IRL and GM Racing agreed that Panther Racing, as the leading Chevrolet entrant at this time will have the ability to test the engine in the Michigan race, with Sam Hornish at the wheel of the #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara.
To spread the opportunity, the next highest placed Chevy team - other than Panther Racing - will be selected to test the engine two weeks later, on August 10th at the Emerson Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway just outside St. Louis, the League decided. At this time, that opportunity would fall to Red Bull Cheever Racing, which has 138 entrant points for the #52 Dallara driven by Buddy Rice.
However, Dreyer & Reinbold's #24 Dallara, driven by Robbie Buhl is just 31 entrant points back of Cheever's car as the teams prepare to contest tonight's Firestone Indy 200, and Team Menard's #2 Dallara, driven initially by Jaques Lazier and, currently by Vitor Meira is just five points behind the #24 car. So anything can change between now and the close of business at Michigan next Sunday.
GM Racing will make the engine, including spares and spare parts, available to all full-time IRL entrants at the Belterra Casino Indy 300, scheduled for August 17th at Kentucky Speedway, the League determined.
"We have a lot of faith in this revised engine after three tests already held at Chicagoland, Kansas and Michigan that the changes would help," Barnhart emphasized. "After more than one thousand miles of testing, the engine has run very well and has shown a significant performance and drivability increase. We're very pleased," Barnhart admitted. "This has been a very impressive testing debut.
"In making our decision, the IRL had to consider the overall effect on competition anticipated by the introduction of the new engine, including availability of the engine to all entrants, as well as ensuring that the cost of the design change is not passed on to the teams," Barnhart stressed.
"With that in mind, we have found the newly designed engine and castings to be in conformance with the rules." Overall specifications of the Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 "are not altered and the rules are not broached," he said. Barnhart has requested that GM Racing provide "sufficient personnel to IRL entrants if needed to install the engines on a timely basis."
The Indy Racing League Engine Manufacturer Agreement allows an engine maker to provide updates. This agreement calls for the manufacturer to obtain League approval prior to any use and further states that the updated part or parts be made available to all teams after a specified number of uses.
General Motors has been an engine supplier to the IndyCar Series since the naturally aspirated formula first appeared in 1997. Chevrolet joined the series last year. The decision to adopt these changes was "based on performance deficiency demonstrated during the current season and reliability problems created by efforts to address the performance deficiency," Barnhart said.
"While continuity and consistency are an important consideration for the IRL, it is equally important that the league's hallmark of competitive side- by-side racing to available for our fans and competitors." He further noted that Toyota and Honda want the stronger competition from Chevrolet and welcome the GM Racing Gen IV Chevy Indy V8.