Today the Indy Racing League issued a press release announcing their specifications for the 2012 engine formula for the IZOD IndyCar Series. The good news is that its pretty much wide open! There will be no spec engines in the next generation IndyCar. Once again, we will see competition between not only drivers and teams, but between manufacturers and engineers as well! Being a bit of an engineering geek, this has me very excited. Once again, we’ll hear multiple engine notes at Indianapolis creating beautiful chords of engineering music. Here’s the official statement from the league.
The series announced today that its new generation of engines will be more powerful and efficient than the current formula. The new engine strategy is based on a recommendation from the ICONIC (Innovative, Open-Wheel, New, Industry-Relevant, Cost-Effective) Advisory Committee.
The exciting new platform, which debuts in 2012, will allow manufacturers to produce engines with a maximum of six cylinders as well as maximum displacement of 2.4 cubic liters. The ethanol-fueled engines will produce between 550 and 700 horsepower to suit the diverse set of tracks on which the IZOD IndyCar Series competes and will be turbocharged to allow for flexibility in power.
Now as I read this, what I see is a very minimal set of specs for what manufacturers can bring to the races. These are the only restrictions that I see:
- Max of six cylinders.
- Max displacement of 2.4L.
- Max power must be adjustable between 550 and 700 hp.
- Must be turbocharged.
- Must use ethanol.
That’s it. There’s no mandate that it must be either a Honda or a Fiat, and no restriction on what type of engine architecture you have to use. Honda will likely provide a V6 and have even started the design work. Fiat and Volkswagen have both stated that they’d prefer an I4, but keep in mind that this wide-open format would also allow for a V6 boxer engine or a I5. We’ll not see any diesel engines, which is unfortunate but understandable, but we could see a wide variety of engine designs come back to the series, especially in the Month of May.
The biggest concern many have put forward when open standards like these were suggested has been cost escalation. The price of engines from Honda right now benefit from an economy-of-scale since Honda is certain to sell at least 20 engine leases for the season and near 40 for the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. By allowing multiple engine manufacturers, its been said that the costs would rise so that the manufacturers could make enough on each lease to be profitable. Consider, though, that this spec doesn’t demand that manufacturers build an engine specifically for Indianapolis. There are MANY race engines that fit the above parameters. These open regulations allow manufacturers to take a base engine that they’re using in other series be it in rally, sports cars, or another open-wheel series, and use it for IndyCar racing. This broadens their consumer base, reestablishing the economy-of-scale needed to provide engines at a reasonable cost while maintaining profitability. The other thing this allows is the return of the stock-block engine! This could go a long way toward bringing IndyCar racing back to having relevance to the cutting edge of production car technology.
I think the team owner representative on the ICONIC Advisory Committee, Gil De Ferran sums things up best.
“Speaking on behalf of the ICONIC Advisory Committee members, it has been an honor to contribute to the development of the new generation of Indy car,” said Gil de Ferran, team owner representative to the ICONIC Advisory Committee. “We feel this new engine strategy is open, inclusive, powerful and high performance, in keeping with the historical values associated with Indy car racing. Additionally it poses relevant challenges to which the automotive industry faces today”.
Read more quotes and thoughts on the new engine regulations at IndyCar.com.