IRL: Texas Final Curtain for 4-Liter Formula

OLDSMOBILE AIMS FOR THIRD PERFECT SEASON IN INDY RACING LEAGUE FINALE The End of an Era: IRL Aurora V8 Can Score 29th Consecutive Victory in Last Hurrah for 4.0-liter Engine Formula FORT WORTH - The season-ending 500 at Texas Motor...


The End of an Era: IRL Aurora V8 Can Score 29th Consecutive Victory in Last Hurrah for 4.0-liter Engine Formula

FORT WORTH - The season-ending 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on October 17 will not only decide the 1999 driver, team, and rookie championships in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League, but also bring down the curtain on the series' 4.0-liter engine formula. Next year a new generation of 3.5-liter powerplants will replace the 4.0-liter motors that have powered the IRL series since January 1997.

Oldsmobile's IRL Aurora V8 has compiled a perfect record of 28 straight poles, 28 consecutive victories, and 28 fastest laps since the series introduced its naturally aspirated, production-based powerplants three years ago. Now GM engineers are aiming to end the "Four-Liter Era" with a final victory on the high-banked Texas track.

The odds will favor Oldsmobile when the IRL returns to Texas for the final round of the ten-race open-wheel racing series. With 27 of the 28 entries using IRL Aurora V8 racing engines, Oldsmobile has the strength in numbers to extend the longest active winning streak in a major American motorsports series.

GM engineers had only 12 months to design, develop, and manufacture components for the IRL Aurora V8 before the engine's debut at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla., on January 25, 1997. Sixteen of the 19 starters took the green flag with Oldsmobile engines that day; when a downpour ended the race after 149 laps, Oldsmobile had scored its first victory in Indy car racing. An Infiniti Indy engine powered the runner-up - a result that would prove to be Nissan's best finish to date. Oldsmobile gained momentum with an engine that was lighter, smaller, and more powerful than its rival. The IRL Aurora V8 quickly became the dominant powerplant in the IRL, and has remained the overwhelming choice of IRL teams.

Oldsmobile swept the driver, team, and rookie championships in 1997 and 1998, and is leading all of the categories this year by wide margins. In May, Oldsmobile won the Indianapolis 500 for the third straight year. Two months later, Oldsmobile clinched its third consecutive Engine Manufacturer Championship.

Last Hurrah for 4.0-Liter Formula

Fans at Texas Motor Speedway have witnessed the fastest lap speeds ever recorded by 4.0-liter IRL race cars. Billy Boat set the absolute qualifying record for new-formula IRL cars at 225.979 mph at TMS in September 1998. Tony Stewart turned the series' fastest race lap at 228.012 mph at the 1.5-mile superspeedway on June 6, 1998.

Concerns about rising speeds eventually prompted IRL officials to reduce the maximum engine speed from 10,500 to 10,000 rpm and announce plans to introduce smaller, less powerful 3.5-liter engines next season.

"The lower rpm limit reduced peak output by approximately 20 horsepower," said Joe Negri, GM Raceshop IRL/Road Racing Group manager. "The reduction in engine speed was a good interim step before the introduction of 3.5-liter engines in 2000."

Continuous Improvement

Oldsmobile's success in Indy car competition is the result of a focused and efficient racing program. "Our objective is to continually improve the IRL Aurora V8," Negri noted. "From the first day of the project, our focus has been on performance, reliability, durability, and customer service. "We know that the competition isn't standing still," Negri added. "The IRL Aurora V8 has established the performance standard for the series, so we need to be prepared to maintain Oldsmobile's competitive edge."

Track-Tested Technology

Since Oldsmobile's historic first Indy car victory at the Magic Kingdom, 68 drivers have competed in IRL races with Oldsmobile engines. Fourteen racers have taken the IRL Aurora V8 to the winner's circle, and eight have won poles. Oldsmobile drivers have led 5,614 laps and completed 142,252 racing miles - a distance of nearly six laps around the Earth's equator.

"The IRL Aurora V8 reached another milestone at the preceding race in Las Vegas when it completed its 100,000th racing lap in IRL competition," Negri reported. "It is a remarkable accomplishment for Oldsmobile teams and engine builders to have achieved this record in such a relatively short time.

"While we are proud of the IRL Aurora V8's past accomplishments, we are now totally focused on developing a new 3.5-liter version for the 2000 racing season," Negri continued. "Several teams have already conducted track tests with prototype engines, and GM engineers are evaluating several engine configurations on the dyno. We are very close to releasing our initial recommendations on 3.5-liter engine specifications so teams can begin to order parts for next season."

Supply and Demand

Oldsmobile has produced more than 600 IRL Aurora V8 engine blocks and 1,000 cylinder heads to date. These major components will be carried over to the new 3.5-liter engines. The demand for IRL engines remains strong, and GM has bolstered its production and distribution system to ensure that engine builders have the parts they need to service IRL teams.

Last November, Oldsmobile Marketing General Manager Karen Francis announced that Oldsmobile had extended its agreement to provide engines for the Pep Boys Indy Racing League through at least 2001.

"The IRL's philosophy of using affordable yet technologically advanced racing engines is in harmony with GM's vision," said Francis added. "Oldsmobile believes that it is important for engineers to have an opportunity to work on advanced racing engines that are similar in concept to production engines for both marketing opportunities and engineering feedback."

Oldsmobile took a significant risk when it entered the demanding arena of Indy car racing with only one year to develop, test, and manufacture a racing version of the Aurora V8 production engine. Now on the eve of the final race with 4.0-liter engines, GM engineers can look back at an unmatched record of success in the Indy Racing League.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Billy Boat