DETROIT, March 12, 2001 - It's been five months since the cars of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series last raced in anger, but it's been business as usual for Oldsmobile's IRL engine program since last year's season finale in Texas. GM Racing ...
DETROIT, March 12, 2001 - It's been five months since the cars of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series last raced in anger, but it's been business as usual for Oldsmobile's IRL engine program since last year's season finale in Texas. GM Racing engineers have continued to refine and improve the IRL Aurora V8 engine that won eight of nine races in 2000 and swept the IRL championships for the fourth straight year.
The season-opening Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 18 will be the first test for GM Racing's new engine package on a one-mile oval. The key component of the revised engine kit is a new cylinder head design with intake ports that are optimized for the 3.5-liter displacement limit. The high-velocity intake ports, in concert with a tuned induction system and revised engine control software, boost mid-range torque and improve throttle response. Quick acceleration out of the corners could give Oldsmobile drivers a decisive advantage on the tight Phoenix track where race traffic is frequently a factor.
GM Racing, the technical arm of GM's worldwide motorsports program, released the new engine specification last August with the approval of IRL officials. Although the package was primarily intended to enhance the IRL Aurora V8's performance on one-mile tracks, it proved equally potent on 1.5-mile superspeedways. Updated Oldsmobile engines powered Buddy Lazier and Scott Goodyear to victories at Kentucky Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway respectively, and propelled Lazier to the IRL championship.
"Going into the 2001 racing season, we believe that GM is well positioned to deal with the increased competitiveness of Nissan's IRL engine," said Joe Negri, GM Racing IRL/Road Racing Group manager. "GM Racing is continuing its IRL Aurora V8 engine development program and we expect to continuously update parts and specifications to keep GM teams on top."
Along with new drivers and new teams coming into the IRL series, the roster of Oldsmobile engine builders is also growing. Eleven independent builders will supply Oldsmobile engines to IRL teams in 2001. Ilmor Engineering will prepare IRL Aurora V8s for Kelley Racing and Penske Racing, and Franz Weis' VDS Racing will supply Oldsmobile engines for the expanded three-car Galles Racing team. Both builders were previously involved with GM's successful Chevy Indy V8 engine program.
The long-awaited introduction of Nissan's new engine promises to raise the level of competition in the open-wheel series. "We recognize that the competition is moving forward," said Debra Kelly-Ennis, Oldsmobile general manager. "We welcome the competition and believe it will be great for the series.
"The 2001 season promises to be another great year for Oldsmobile and the IRL series," Kelly-Ennis continued. "With more races on the schedule and higher visibility in key new markets, we believe the Indy Racing Northern Light Series will continue to prove the durability and performance of Oldsmobile's powertrain technology."
With three new short tracks - Richmond, Nashville, and St. Louis - joining the Phoenix and Pikes Peak one-mile ovals on the 2001 IRL schedule, the lightning-fast small ovals will play a pivotal role in deciding the IRL titles. A victory at Phoenix International Raceway will yield the same championship points as a win at the immense 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Armed with a potent new short-track engine package, Oldsmobile racers will be well prepared to extend the IRL Aurora V8's perfect 4-0 record at Phoenix International Raceway.