IRL: Chevy IndyCar 2004 season preview

DETROIT, Feb. 23, 2004 - Chevrolet finished the 2003 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series with a flourish, winning three of the final five races, capturing a pair of poles and setting the record for the fastest race in motorsports history. The ...

DETROIT, Feb. 23, 2004 - Chevrolet finished the 2003 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series with a flourish, winning three of the final five races, capturing a pair of poles and setting the record for the fastest race in motorsports history. The challenge for GM Racing in 2004 is to maintain that momentum while simultaneously developing the current 3.5-liter Chevy Indy V-8 and preparing for the introduction of a new 3.0-liter version at the Indianapolis 500 in May.

The Chevy Indy V-8 is the heir to Chevrolet's rich open-wheel racing heritage that began with company co-founder and namesake Louis Chevrolet, a gifted engineer and talented race car driver who competed in the Indianapolis 500 four times. Chevy Indy V-8 engines have won 103 CART and IRL races, including seven Indianapolis 500 victories.

In the following Q&A, GM Racing IRL program manager Joe Negri discusses the state of Chevy's IndyCar Series program and previews the 2004 IRL season that will begin on February 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla.

Q: What is the status of the Chevy Indy V-8 program as you prepare to begin the 2004 season?

Joe Negri: We have made some significant improvements in both performance and durability since last year. With the midseason introduction of a new engine in 2003, our focus was on producing enough engines to supply all of the Chevrolet teams. We gained valuable knowledge by testing those engines under actual racing conditions, and applied that knowledge to the development program during the off-season. Our goals were to improve reliability, increase horsepower and enhance fuel economy. I believe we have made progress in all of those areas.

Q: How many cars will Chevrolet supply with engines?

Negri: We have the capacity to supply Chevy Indy V-8 engines for six cars in the first three events of the season. We are currently supporting two cars from Panther Racing, two cars from Red Bull Cheever Racing, and one car from Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. We have had discussions with other parties and hope to have a sixth car with Chevrolet power for the race in Phoenix on March 21.

GM Racing plans to have enough 3.0-liter Chevy Indy V-8 engines to support 10 cars at the Indianapolis 500. We anticipate that some of our affiliated teams will run additional cars in the Indy 500, and there may be some Indy-only entries. We could then add a seventh full-time Chevy entry for the remainder of the season.

Q: How is the 3.0-liter Chevy Indy V-8 engine program proceeding for the Indy 500?

Negri: The 3.0-liter engine program is on schedule. All of the necessary components have been designed and are now being manufactured. We will have prototype 3.0-liter Chevy Indy V-8 engines running on the dyno in the near future. The IRL has given the manufacturers an additional day of private track testing with the 3.0-liter engines, and we are aiming to have a good supply of engines for the open test in Indianapolis in late April. Until then, we are using computer simulation to optimize engine tuning and to accelerate the development program.

Q: In the first three races of the season with 3.5-liter engines, the IRL requires that the air boxes be vented to reduce horsepower. What is the effect of this non-pressurized air box?

Negri: The initial track tests indicate that the vented air box has achieved the IRL's goal of reducing speeds with the 3.5-liter engines. The change from last season's pressurized air boxes required testing so we could understand the impact on fuel distribution. The position of the lower air box was also changed, which required a redesign of related components.

Q: Will the change to 3.0-liter engines achieve the objective of reducing speeds?

Negri: I believe that it will, in conjunction with the mandated changes in the aerodynamic package. If speeds are faster than expected, the series has the option to require a vented air box like we are using with 3.5-liter engines in the first three races. That will also reduce speeds significantly.

Q: The IndyCar Series regulations now require that an IRL team use only one engine during two-day events and two engines for three-day events. Cars must race with the same engines used in qualifying. What is the impact of these rule revisions on Chevrolet's engine program?

Negri: GM Racing and Chevrolet supported these changes, as did other IRL engine suppliers. Our engineering efforts are now focused on components that have the strength and stamina to endure an entire race. Eliminating the need for a parallel development program devoted to a short-lived qualifying combination has allowed us to concentrate on building dependable, long-lasting Chevrolet engines for the race.

Q: What is the role of Chevrolet and GM Racing in the IndyCar Series?

Negri: GM participates in the IRL to achieve both marketing and engineering objectives. On the technical side, GM is an active, engaged partner with our teams. GM has significantly increased the technology and human resources for Chevrolet's IRL program.

For example, GM Powertrain is conducting high-level analysis and development programs that have contributed to the performance improvements made since last year. GM Racing has also stepped up its IRL chassis and aerodynamic development programs. GM engineers are working on full-size and scale model wind tunnel tests, computational fluid dynamics, seven-post testing, and similar programs. We view the engine as one part of a complex package that has to be optimized as a whole.

Q: How is this information shared among Chevy teams?

Negri: We have adopted a "one team" approach that has proven successful in other racing series in which GM competes. A steering committee composed of the key engineers from all of the Chevy IRL teams meets regularly to discuss common projects. They help us to prioritize the programs that GM Racing manages.

Q: What is your outlook for 2004?

Negri: This is going to be a season with intense technical development. The first manufacturer to deliver an optimized 3.0-liter engine is going to have an advantage. Analysis will be crucial because there is going to be very little time to go through a traditional dynamometer and track testing development program. The Indianapolis 500 is the most important race of the season, so we are working very hard with Chevrolet teams and our technology partners to reach our performance goals for that event.

About GM: General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world's largest vehicle manufacturer, employs about 325,000 people globally. Founded in 1908, GM has been the global automotive sales leader since 1931. GM today has manufacturing operations in 32 countries and its vehicles are sold in 192 countries. In 2003, GM sold nearly 8.6 million cars and trucks, about 15 percent of the global vehicle market. GM's global headquarters is at the GM Renaissance Center in Detroit . More information on GM and its products can be found on the company's consumer website at www.gm.com.

-gm racing-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Teams Panther Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing