Chevy returning to IndyCar Series
The chassis race was settled earlier this year. The first jab in the engine competition came Friday, when Chevrolet announced it is rejoining IndyCar after five years away from the circuit.
In conjunction with Ilmor Engineering, General Motors will produce a twin-turbocharged V-6 racing engine for Team Penske to use in the 2012 season.
The move gives the series two engine manufacturers, after Honda, the sole engine provider since 2006, announced earlier this year it would produce a 2.4-liter twin-turbo V6 for 2012.
“The one thing we’ve heard, from fans and everyone involved with the Izod IndyCar Series, is we want competition,” IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard said from Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Today is a new day. IndyCar is excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.”
Honda had been the sole provider of engines and Dallara the chassis, but IndyCar’s new ICONIC committee voted earlier this year to open both platforms up to competition.
The new engine platform, announced in June, called for the ethanol-fueled engines to be up to six cylinders, allow for turbocharging and produce between 550 and 700 horsepower, depending on the type of course the series is racing. The current engines are eight cylinders and produce about 650 horsepower.
In July, IndyCar announced Dallara will produce the new chassis for 2012 after accepting designs from five manufacturers. It also allowed for multiple manufacturers to develop aero kits for the new chassis.
The changes were designed to cut costs while creating competition among the teams and, hopefully, more interest from the fans.
“It’s going to be special for the fans,” said three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, one of several current and former drivers on hand for the announcement. “They’re going to see competition and they’re going to cheer for whatever manufacturer you’re looking for, and the teams are going to gain with that. It’s a win-win situation that we are facing today.”
Chevy previously provided V-8 engines for the IndyCar circuit in 1986-93 and 2002-05, winning six driver championships and seven Indianapolis 500 titles.
The American auto company bowed out of the series in 2006, saying it couldn’t match the spending of foreign auto makers.
Now, Chevy is back, thanks to IndyCar’s new era of competition and its own financial rebound from a near calamity; the company reported earnings of $2 billion in the third quarter and is expected to turn a profit next year for the first time since 2004.
Chevy also is looking into creating an aero package for the new IndyCar chassis.
“There is one reason that drives us more than any others, our competitors. We are returning to IndyCar to win,” said Chris Perry, vice president of marketing for Chevrolet. “This is a natural fit for Chevrolet; this is where it all began for our company and we are all proud to be back.”
Chevy’s return to IndyCar was helped along by Roger Penske, owner of Team Penske and a partner with Ilmor.
Penske won 31 open-wheel races and four Indianapolis 500s in Chevy cars and hopes the addition of one major American automaker will spark interest from the other two.
“Chevrolet looked at this and their strategy with their brand going forward and felt that it would be time to go so hopefully this will bring other Big Three manufacturers in,” Penske said. “Also, to me, we need to see that this be a worldwide series with competition from the rest of the world so this is the first step.”