Hey! I spy a cam cover! This is as much as we’re likely to see of the Chevy, a far cry from the days of easy access to spec units (BELOW).
Policing the engine war –
the preventive measures
three different motivations, add sizable
marketing budgets and, in theory,
IndyCar will have the means and
methods to appeal to a wider audience.
Outside of the fierce competition that’s
expected on the racetrack, HPD’s Eriksen
believes fans will have plenty of engine-related storylines to follow in 2012.
“We’ve now been given some scope to
choose in the turbo systems, and there’s
freedom in certain areas with the design
of the engine that provides room to apply
different philosophies,” he says. “We’re
using E85 for the first time, which is
relevant to the consumer, and using direct-
injection in a small, 12,000rpm, E85-fueled
engine is something special and a huge
technical challenge. Plus, Honda has
chosen to use one turbo while Chevrolet
and Lotus have chosen two. Who made
the right or wrong choice? You’ll have to
watch and see for yourself.”
Gearheads now have the goods to hold
IndyCar engine debates, but what kind of
dramas, rivalries and arguments will the
racing produce? Look for more cursing than
in an episode of Mob Wives. Failure is now
an option and poor reliability could start shaping the championship from Round 1. With a preseason littered with oil slicks and ventilated engine blocks, untimely detonations figure to continue throughout the 16-race calendar.Drivers have only had each other to bitch about for the last five years, but just wait until Chevrolet’s Will Power or Honda’s Dario Franchitti has a noticeable horsepower deficiency or loses a race due to a blown engine…. According to Eriksen, taking away the safety net that spec engines afforded is also part of the thrill for the manufacturers. “You look at the technical challenges of CART for us,” he says. “We assumed that coming in back in 1994 with our super Formula 1 technology would be the hot ticket and we ended up having miserable problems that year, including missing Indy. Imagine how embarrassing that was. I don’t think we’ll have that problem this year, but with all of the cars and engines now, some will be going home unhappy. That fear sits in the pit of your stomach. Whatever happens, it’ll be an exciting year for fans who really want to get into the manufacturer battles.” If it can be found, the passion that has been lacking on the technical side could lead to IndyCar’s salvation, and for GM’s Kent, the best-case scenario would be for IndyCar’s engine wars to spark some of the brand loyalties that fuel stock car fans. “We’d like to see Chevrolet flags waving in the grandstands at every race,” he said. “If you ask the average person who Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. is, 90 percent of them will know. And if you ask them what car he drives, most of them will say it’s a Chevrolet. We’re hoping our passionate fans will now make that same connection with our drivers in the IndyCar Series as well.”
Lotus is more than happy in the role of the underdog.
For all of the positives that
abandoning its spec engine
policy will bring, IndyCar
risked opening the door to a massive,
year-long migraine for those in charge
of policing its new rules. But thanks
to two smart decisions – to mandate
the use of a common ECU provided
by McLaren and to implement a
robust engine sealing program – the
series should be able to thwart those
who are tempted to cheat.
And before manufacturers try to
hire Julian Assange’s team to hack
the McLaren ECU, IndyCar’s Trevor
Knowles believes the heavily encrypted
units will act as a deterrent.
“We will program the ECUs with
the relevant software, and there’s a
locking script that we put in,” he says.
“It will still allow the manufacturers
to put in their calibrations, but the
controlled portions of the ECU are
completely inaccessible by anyone
other than us.”
The series has also enabled the
ECUs to act as an electronic watchdog,
applying on-the-fly penalties which
will temporarily reduce power for those
who stray beyond the 12,000rpm rev
limit, or use more turbo boost than is
permitted. But IndyCar is taking a
refreshing approach to engine parity.
While “balance of performance” has
become a plague in other race series,
IndyCar technical chief Will Phillips
(BELOW) has no intentions of letting
that mentality enter his rulebook.
He declares: “We will not penalize
manufacturers for doing well. If a
manufacturer falls behind, we will
look to help them, within reason,
but there must be a proven need for
that assistance. Otherwise, we have
no intention of interfering with or
manipulating how they perform.
I do not believe that you can ask
manufacturers to do their best and
then change the rules to take away
the gains they’ve made.”