TEAM PENSKE: BETTER BY DESIGN
Everyone raves about the Penske PC23B,
which dominated 1994’s Indianapolis 500
with its Ilmor-Mercedes 209cu.in. pushrod
V8 engine, and rightly so. However, that
tends to unfairly overshadow the fact that
the “regular” PC23-Ilmor allowed Team
Penske to dominate the ’ 94 Indy car
season to an extent no team has matched
since. Penske drivers Al Unser Jr., Emerson
Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy finished 1-2-3
in the final championship standings.
The PC22 of 1993, designed by Nigel
Bennett, had scored eight wins in the
hands of Tracy and Fittipaldi, but his new
one was something else again. Even now,
the stats for this car are breathtaking. In
the 16-race CART championship, Penske
scored 12 wins – eight for Unser Jr., three
for Tracy and one for Fittipaldi. Five of
those wins were podium lockouts for the
guys in red ’n’ white, and a PC23 started
from pole 10 times. Heck, the car was so
fast that Junior – never a driver who
bothered much about qualifying – started
P1 four times. Little Al only took pole on
three occasions across the other 19
years of his Indy car career!
So what made the PC23 so special?
Well, Bennett had done his homework in
making percentage improvements on the
PC22’s aero package; the Ilmor/D was a
significant step ahead of the Chevrolet-
badged unit from the year before; and
between them, the three drivers put in
4,500 miles of testing prior to the season
opener. Even the gearbox, initially a weak
point, was a tougher cookie by mid-season.
The open-book policy that prevails at
Penske worked wonders, too, and the
three drivers and their race engineers,
Terry Satchell (Unser), Nigel Beresford
(Tracy) and Tom Brown (Fittipaldi), took a
methodical approach to group debriefs,
overseen by head of engineering Grant
Newbury and contributed to by the
recently retired Rick Mears.
In short, all the stars aligned in 1994,
and Team Penske took full advantage.
THE A-GRADE B-MODEL
The secretly developed, secretly tested
PC23B delivered the Indy 500 triumph.
Reynard was the
nearest thing to
Penske, taking two
even close, is it?
from 16 starts
Team Penske has won many races and championships with customer cars
– March, Reynard, G-Force, Dallara – by being a superior team operationally.
But in Indy car racing’s “kit car” era, Roger Penske’s empire produced its
own racers from a base in Poole, Dorset, in the UK. While there were a few
duds among the studs, usually Penske creations were gems, so picking the
very best of the best is difficult. Oh, and they’re not all Indy cars, either…