IRL: Panther Racing/Chevrolet press conference, Part I

Indianapolis 500 Pennzoil Panther Racing/Chevrolet April 11, 2002 Panther Racing, Indianapolis Part 1 of 3 Mike Griffin: Good morning. Welcome to Panther Racing. We're glad you could all join us this morning. We got kind of a lot of ground to...

Indianapolis 500
Pennzoil Panther Racing/Chevrolet
April 11, 2002
Panther Racing, Indianapolis

Part 1 of 3

Mike Griffin: Good morning. Welcome to Panther Racing. We're glad you could all join us this morning. We got kind of a lot of ground to cover. My name is Mike Griffin. I am one of the partners in Panther. John Barnes, my partner, is over here on the side. Doug Boles is around the area as well and he will be joining us throughout the morning. Our thanks to Josh and everybody from IMS and Rick from Chevrolet for being with us. Most of all, thanks to you. We have a gentleman who is going to help us out this morning, Mr. Mike King, the voice of the radio network. And Mike is going to act as our host this morning and kind of do the introduction and walk us through the thing. Welcome, please, Mike King.

King: We want to say thank you, obviously, to John, to Griff, to the entire ownership group of Panther Racing for hosting this here this morning, the great food. And this is my first time here at the new shop, and it's absolutely gorgeous. And it's interesting, because we were talking a couple minutes ago and Griff made a comment that I think pretty much sums up this place, and he said, "We're into attitude here." Certainly, you walk in and you feel the pride in this operation when you walk in the door. So let me just say that to John and all the members of Panther Racing, what a beautiful facility this is, and certainly it's an impressive, impressive sight to see those banners and see how the work is done here on one of the top, if not the top, oval racing Indy teams in the world. And we talked a little bit yesterday at the WorldComplex about the accomplishments of this team. You are in the midst of a team that has completed 22 consecutive events without a mechanical failure. Has completed over the course of the last two-plus seasons 99.7 percent of all the laps contested in the Indy Racing League, and it is quite an accomplishment. In the last -- let's see, in the last, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 -- 16 races, I guess it is, this team has won six times, I guess it is, dating back to the season finale of the 2000 season. So this is truly an impressive team that Chevy assembled here at Panther. Part of the success of this team, no doubt, has been the power that pushes these great race cars around the track. Here to talk about both GM and Chevrolet for GM Racing Communications this morning is Rick Voegelin.

Rick Voegelin: Good morning. My name is Rick Voegelin. And some of you may remember me from my days with Oldsmobile Motor Sports. We're not going to do cereal boxes or tuna fish cans today. We're going to play this one a little bit straighter for those of you that have been on previous 500 media tours. When it was announced last June that Chevrolet would replace Oldsmobile as GM standard bearer in the Indy Racing League, some people suggested the only thing that that would change was the name on the cam covers. Well, I am here to tell you that's wrong. The only thing that was rebadged is the PR guy. I got a cool new wardrobe of shirts and hats, but the people who really benefited are the GM teams because they're going to get an all new Chevy Indy V8 engine for this year's Indy 500. Today, we're going to give you a look at the Chevy's IRL program. Some car companies keep their racing engine programs shrouding in secrecy, but by that's not the way General Motors works. We're going to show you exactly what's different between the Oldsmobile and Chevy engines. But before I get into those details, I would like to talk to you a little bit about Chevy's plans for the Indy 500. Chevrolet has made a major commitment to the Indy Racing League as both an engine supplier and as a marketing partner.

Chevrolet is the official car of the IRL and we've supplied a fleet of Chevy trucks to the Chevrolet Safety Team that provide the track safety services. Chevy's heritage at Indy 500 in open-wheel racing goes back to Louis Chevrolet, who was the co-founder of the company in 1911. He competed in the Indy 500 four times, with the best finish of 7th in 1919, and he prepared the cars that his brother Gaston drove to victory in 1920, and Tommy Milton drove to victory in 1921. In the modern era Chevrolet won the Indy 500 six straight years, in 1988 through 1993. Chevrolet cars paced the Indy 500 12 times. That's more times than any other manufacturer. The Indianapolis 500 has always been a special place for people who a introduced the legendary small block V8 in 1955, we showcased it in the Bel-Air convertible pace car in Indianapolis. In 1967, when Chevy introduced the Camaro, it was selected as the Indy 500 pace car. When new generations of Camaro were introduced in 1982 and 1983, they also made pace car appearances at Indianapolis. We celebrated the Corvette's 25th anniversary at the Brickyard in 1978. And Corvette has paced the Indy 500 a total of four times. All of the Corvette replica pace cars have now become highly-prized and very valuable collector's items. As those of you who attended the announcement yesterday know, this is going to continue in 2003, when Corvette paces the Indianapolis 500 on May 26th. This is going to be the 13th time that Chevy paces this great race, and 5th time for Corvette, the most appearances by a single brand. This pace car program is the kickoff for a year-long celebration that leads up to Corvette's 50th anniversary in 2003. I'll tell you, for those of you who took rides yesterday with Sam and Buddy Lazier, you know this Corvette is very well equipped to pace an Indy car race with standard 350 horsepower engine that will pace the race in pure production trim. But we're not here to talk about production engines, we're here to talk about racing engines. I'm going to be taking you through the details in a moment, but let me just begin by saying that the Chevy Indy V8 is not simply a rebadged Aurora. It's an all-new engine that incorporates the knowledge that's been gained from five years of competition in open-wheel series.

It's a major upgrade over the previous engine. We've already found a significant improvement in performance. The Chevy Indy V8 is the newest member of a family of GM engines called the Premium V Platform. Engines based on this platform compete around the world. If you've ever watched the German Touring car series races at 2 in the morning on ESPN2, they use a 4-litre engine that's derived from the Indy Racing League engine. When the Cadillac North Star LMP uses a twin turbo charged version of this same engine. This is an example of how GM leverages it's global resources to adapt a common engine to three very different racing series. And in today's economic climate, it's very important for a manufacturer to get the maximum bang for every buck that they spend in motor sports. Now, my history professor always used to say that you have to know where you've been before you know where you're going. I'd like to just briefly recap how we got to this point. Start with the history of the Oldsmobile Aurora V8 engine. This was introduced at the first IRL race that used natural aspirated engines in Orlando, Florida in January 1987. From that date through last October at Texas Motor Speedway, Oldsmobile engines won 49 of the 51 races that were contested. That includes five straight wins at the Indy 500. Oldsmobile engines started on the pole at every race and swept the manufacturer, the driver, the team and the rookie championships for five straight years. The way the system at General Motors works is that GM Racing supplies the major components of the IRL engines. This includes the block, the sump, the cylinder heads, the front covers, the cam covers. A worldwide network of specialist suppliers produce the internal components connecting rods, pistons, to GM Racing specifications. The engines are actually assembled and dyno tested, serviced by independent engine builders, and so far nine different builders have supplied race-winning GM Engines to IRL teams. Both the teams and the engine builders are free to experiment with the components to modify, to rebuild those within the limits of the IRL rules. And all of the components are available to all of the teams. Now, the Oldsmobile IRL Aurora V8 was a pretty tough act to follow, but Chevy's return to Indy car competition presented us an opportunity to do a new engine for 2002. Now, this engine only has a one-year life span. Because, as you may know, there's a new engine rule coming into effect in 2003. A little l reasons behind this decision to use a one-year engine. There's no doubt that Infiniti raised its game in 2001, but so has General Motors. Going into the Indy 500, 75 of 89 entries are using Chevy engines. That's a pretty good vote of confidence in our product. In fact, we're producing 250 engine kits for this year for GM teams.

The IRL rules are very restrictive in terms of what an engine designer can do to improve performance. As this chart shows, the RPM limits the cylinder bore size, minimum deck height. All of these were unchanged from 2001. And, in fact, are unchanged from 2002 over the last major rules revision. But in spite of these restrictions, the 2002 Chevy Indy V8 makes approximately 25 more peak horsepower than the engine that we raced last year, and 11 pounds lighter in addition. When I say this is a new engine, here's what I mean: There are 18 major components of the motors, and among these only two of them are carryovers, the water pumps and the oil pumps. The block, cylinder heads, crankshaft, pistons, front cover, cam covers are either brand new or substantially redesigned from last year. So why do you go through all this trouble for an engine that's only going to be good for one year? Well, the fact is that the 2002 Chevy Indy V8 is a transitional engine that takes us to 2003 when Toyota arrives. The original Oldsmobile engine was designed in 1996, it was designed as a 4-litre engine, so that when the rules were revised in 2000 to 3.5 maximum displacement, the parts really weren't optimized for that smaller size. In addition, that motor was done the old-fashioned way, by draftsmen using paper. But there are tools and techniques that are available now that simply didn't exist in 1996 when that motor was developed. Things like computational fuel dynamic, computer simulation, finite element and really high-tech stuff. In order to gain some practical experience with the new techniques and new technology, GM Racing designed the 2002 engine. That engine then serves as the benchmark five goals for 2002 with the Chevy engine. The first, obviously, increase the horsepower. Second, reduce the engine weight and lower the center of gravity of the engine for better handling. We wanted to further improve reliability and we wanted to make the engine integrate with the new chassis better. I apologize if you can't see the dyno chart of the comparison between the 2001 and 2002 engines, but that may not be purely accidental. We never know who is out there in the audience. But I will tell you the peak horsepower is about 25 horsepower at 10,700 RPM. The engines at Indy operate over a very narrow 500 rpm band running from 10,200 to 10,700 rpm unless you get bogged down and blocked in traffic. So the rule of thumb that we use is if you increase horsepower nine horsepower that equates to about a one mile per hour increase in lap speed. So based the on horsepower increase alone, I wouldn't be surprised to see two miles per hour increase in qualifying times speeds from the horsepower alone. All else isn't equal though. I'm sure Firestone tires are better and Dallara and G Force improved their chassis. If we have conditions good for qualifying, you can see speeds go up dramatically for this year. So where do you find 25 horsepower in an engine that's already been on the -- been under five years of development? Well, the first place you look for it is what we call free horsepower. That's horsepower that you get by reducing the internal friction in the engine. The GM engineers reduced the size of the bearings and lightened many of the components so less power is absorbed internally, which means there is more power at the rear wheels to drive the car. The next thing you do to improve performance is improve the engine's ability to breathe. Like an athlete, when you train, you increase your lung capacity and your ability to assimilate and process oxygen. Well, it's the oxygen in the air that reacts with the fuel that releases the energy that makes the car go. So in racing engines, what we do is from the cylinder walls that opens them up and lets them flow more air. The other thing we did was enlarge the ports which is what feeds the air and fuel mixture into the cylinders. Another thing that GM engineers did was develop new cam shafts to take advantage of this improved breathing and we lightened the valves and components so that they're more stable running at that 10,700 rpm limit.

Now, making an engine lighter doesn't increase its horsepower, but it does give you some very substantial benefits. The Chevy Indy V8 is 11 pounds lighter than the Oldsmobile engine. This means that Panther Racing engineer, Andy Brown, crew chief, Kevin Blanch have 11 pounds of ballast that we can now work with to redistribute the weight in the chassis to suit Sam's preferences for handling. Where that weight is located is very important to an engineer. You want the weight to be as low as possible in the chassis. That's like -- imagine the difference between driving a moving van and sports car on a winding country road. The sports car, with its weight down low, handles better than the van with its weight up high. Obviously, the difference is not as dramatic when you're talking about 11 pounds in an Indy car, but what we worked on was getting the weight lower on the engine components that are above the center line of the engine cylinder heads, intake manifold. We worked very hard in reducing the weight of those and got seven pounds out of those components that are high. That means the weight is lower and that means that the car potentially handles better. And, finally, you have to finish before you can win. So the top priority was to make an engine that has more reliability. Nobody's done a better job of finishing races than Panther. We wanted to give them and all of the other GM teams an engine that would make it to the finish line. Some of the changes that were done to improve reliability are we opened up the water passages, so faster and more coolant flow keeps the engine cool and reduces the tendency to cr the valve retainer from titanium to steel. Normally titanium is a high-tech material. Why do you get rid of that? Very prone to wear. By going to steel, we improved the durability and using the computer dyno, there was no penalty in weight, so you end up with a part that's as light, but also more reliable. Another thing that's changed since 1996 with the first Oldsmobile engine is the chassis. Originally we had radiators on both sides of the car, but when Dallara and G Force designed new cars, they put the water radiators on the left side for better handling. So when we redesigned the Chevy Indy V8, we changed the water outlet so the water comes out the left side of the engine, simplifies the pumping, making it easier for the teams to change the engine, and fewer connections for potential leaks. Another place where you get power in a naturally aspirated engine that we run in the Indy Racing League is air scoops. Those boxes that come up behind the driver's head actually take advantage of the ram air effect. If you ever held your hand out of the car, you feel how much wind resistance there is. That air ramming into that scoop actually supercharges the engine to an extent. In fact, you can get up to about 30 horsepower at 200 miles an hour by using that pressure. So we worked on revising the airbox to improve the sealing and to balance the pressure to all eight cylinders.

This shows how the scoop feeds the cylinders. As I said before, you can get up to about 30 horsepower, but there's really no free lunch. Having that airbox up in the air stream also increases aerodynamic drag. So, in fact, the power you gain is just about equalized by the power it costs you to drag that scoop through the air, but great place for sponsor decals like that Chevy bowtie. Talking a little about the time line for the introduction of the Chevy engine, the first components were released for production on October 1st, and by October 16th, we completed the first 500 mile durability test on an engine dyno. Now this is a com cell and this engine is running 500 miles at the Indianapolis 500. You hear the engine rising and falling as it simulates going around the corner with wind resistance and cornering -- the grip of the tires. About every 30 laps the engine stops for a simulated pit stop, change the drum of oil, check the filter, goes off and runs again. This is a very demanding schedule, in fact, even probably harder than the real race done at the 220 mph race pace and the engine is flat out for four laps and lifts every four laps to let the engine breathe, and that simulates coming up on traffic. Yesterday when I was taking my pace car ride with Sam, I asked him about that. Sam said he doesn't lift at the Indy 500, ever, so we've got to do a new program for Sam Hornish where it runs flat out for 500 miles. Hornish and the Panther Racing Team completed the first track tests of the Indy V8 on December 5th and 6th out in Phoenix and the engine debuted on March 1st and 2nd at the Miami race. So what's their story so far? In three races, Sam Hornish and Panther have won two of them with Chevy Indy V8 engines. I would say that's a pretty good report card going into the Indy 500. Before we wrap this up, I would just like to sum up why we're here. First of all, Chevy is synonymous with success in motor sports. No company has more wins in stock car racing, road racing, off-road racing and drag racing than Chevrolet. The red bowtie stands for success. Second, Chevy is a part of General Motors worldwide racing. We compete wherever people race. Europe, North America, Australia and Asia. And finally, I would like you to think of GM Racing Communications as a resource for information to help you do your jobs. Nobody can match the technical resources of General Motors. So if you're working on a story about aerodynamics and would like to visit the GM wind tunnel; working on a story about safety and would like to talk to our safety experts, I urge you, don't hesitate to call on us. And finally, I would like to thank everyone here are a great bunch of people to work with and it's a pleasure to be with them. If you have any questions, I'd be glad to answer or get with you all later for one-or-ones. Thanks very much.

King: Okay. Rick, thanks very much. I think we would also like to say thanks to Rick, for those of you who covered the Indy Racing League on a race by race basis, we want to thank Rick for providing us with a lot of good information at all the tracks and keeping us up to date as good as anybody. You do a great job, Rick, and we appreciate it. We're going to continue this morning. As Rick said, he will be available for one-or-ones following the conclusion of the program. But we do obviously want to introduce and have here for questions three of the team principals here at Panther Racing. This is a unique story and one that deserves to be told and looking forward to hearing some of John's comments as well. Let's bring up the man that assembled this team from scratch, starting, I guess - what was it, John, after the '97 season - when you started working on putting the Panther Racing team together. He heads up the ownership group and this was his vision and he has seen a dream realized here. John Barnes who will be joining us up front. The guy that makes the calls in the pits and oversees the operation here with the crew, he is well deserving of the nickname "Rocket" because trying to catch him is kind of like trying to lasso a rocket sometimes. Kevin Blanch, who is not only a great crew chief, but probably the best fisherman in the Indy Racing League, as well and, of course, the driver for this team, Sam Hornish Jr., who has won five events, two of the first three this season, the defending League champion. By the way, I misspoke. Panther won 6 of the last 17 Indy Racing League races dating back to the season finale Scott Goodyear won in 2000. Guys -- oh, Andy Brown, team engineer, is also going to be with us. Andy, who has been credited in every victory lane. Andy has been credited with a large portion of the success of this team. He will be with us in just a couple minutes. John, let's start with you real quick first off, Panther Racing, why did you choose a Panther to, I guess, to be the symbol.

-ims/irl-

Part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Buddy Lazier , Scott Goodyear , John Barnes , Sam Hornish Jr. , Sam Hornis
Teams Panther Racing