IRL: Oldsmobile accelerates IRL engine development

DETROIT - A victory by Nissan driver Eddie Cheever Jr. at Pikes Peak International Raceway on June 18 marked the end of Oldsmobile's 34-race, 42-month winning streak in Indy Racing League competition. It also heralded the next step in the...

DETROIT - A victory by Nissan driver Eddie Cheever Jr. at Pikes Peak International Raceway on June 18 marked the end of Oldsmobile's 34-race, 42-month winning streak in Indy Racing League competition. It also heralded the next step in the escalating competition between engine manufacturers in the open-wheel series. Now GM Racing is raising the ante with the impending release of enhanced hardware and software for Oldsmobile's IRL Aurora V8 racing engine.

Cheever, a three-time winner with Oldsmobile's IRL Aurora V8 engine, ended the longest active winning streak in a major American motorsports series when he took the checkered flag under caution at the Radisson Indy 200, scoring the first IRL victory for Nissan's Infiniti Indy engine.

Scott Sharp's victory in the preceding round in Fort Worth, Texas, clinched Oldsmobile's fourth consecutive IRL Engine Manufacturers Championship. As the competition between engine suppliers intensifies in the IRL series, GM Racing engineers are continuing to develop new components and technical enhancements for the IRL Aurora V8.

"We congratulate Nissan on its first IRL victory," said Joe Negri, GM Racing IRL/Road Racing Group manager. "Frank Honsowetz and his associates have worked diligently to achieve success in open-wheel racing, and their effort was rewarded. Team Cheever's record shows the depth of talent in that organization, and we knew that it was only a matter of time until Nissan would win a race.

"Cheever's victory was the end of Oldsmobile's winning streak, but not the end of the world," Negri noted. "Oldsmobile engines remain the overwhelming choice of IRL teams, and Oldsmobile has already clinched its fourth consecutive IRL Engine Manufacturers Championship.

"GM Racing has developed improvements for the IRL Aurora V8 engine and literally put that technology on the shelf until it was needed," Negri revealed, "In the face of increasing competition, now it is needed.

"GM Racing is committed to continuously improving the IRL Aurora V8 package. Working with our affiliated engine builders and suppliers, we have developed significant enhancements for the 3.5-liter engine package that was introduced in January.

"Recognizing that Oldsmobile enjoyed a competitive advantage in the series and that IRL teams had substantial investments in existing inventories of Oldsmobile engines and parts, GM Racing believed it was in the best interest of the series to delay the release of updated components and technology. Now as the level of competition has escalated and IRL teams are looking ahead to next season, the time is right to release these advancements.

"As in the past, GM Racing has thoroughly tested and validated the new hardware and software to ensure that they meet our durability standards," Negri noted. "Looking ahead, we recognize that within the limits of the IRL rules, engines from various manufacturers will eventually achieve similar performance levels on the track. GM Racing believes that providing exceptional service and technical support to teams and engine builders will continue to be the keystone of our success.

"The focus of Oldsmobile's IRL program is on the Indianapolis 500, an event that emphasizes high-rpm power and reliability," Negri explained. "The engine specification developed by GM Racing for the unique demands of a 2.5-mile speedway has also performed well on the 1.5-mile ovals that host the majority of IRL events. The new components and calibrations we are releasing are designed to improve performance on short 1-mile tracks while maintaining the IRL Aurora V8's superiority on superspeedways."

Oldsmobile engines have dominated IRL competition since the series introduced its naturally aspirated engine formula in January 1997. Oldsmobile engines have started on the pole in 35 straight IRL events and have won every driver, team, and rookie championship in the last three years. GM Racing has produced more than 700 IRL Aurora V8 engine kits, and Oldsmobile motors have been used by 94 percent of the starters in 2000.

"When Oldsmobile came into the IRL series as an engine supplier, GM Racing anticipated that we would supply approximately half the field," Negri noted. "We expected to win our fair share of races based on how well we implemented and executed our program, just as we do in the other racing series around the world in which GM vehicles and engines compete. To win 34 consecutive IRL events, including four straight Indianapolis 500 races, truly exceeded our expectations.

"Certainly more intense competition between manufacturers will increase interest in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series, just as fans follow the rivalries among drivers and teams," Negri concluded. "We know that you can't win 'em all - but that won't stop us from trying!"

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Scott Sharp