After the wild Delta Wing concept for the 2012 IndyCar chassis, the sweeping engine changes announced this week may seem a bit plain, but the impact they may have on the series could be huge. Limited to six cylinders, 2.4-liters and packing mandatory turbochargers, the new engine formula shakes things up from the status quo.
Currently Honda makes all of the engines in the series, no matter the team or the chassis. The new rules open the series up to new manufacturers, as the only core requirements are a maximum of six cylinders and 2.4 liters--fewer cylinders are legal, as is their layout. Whether anyone will choose to run four cylinders or an inline five, for example, remains an open question, but the possibility will exist.
"We feel this open and all-inclusive platform will make our sport an attractive option to engine manufacturers, while allowing development of a relevant and innovative platform to the current and future automotive industry by highlighting efficiency, performance, durability, quality, environmental responsibility and safety," said Randy Bernard, the recently-hired CEO of the Indy Racing League.
The changes have been brewing for some time now. Like the current engines, the new ones will burn ethanol exclusively, and are intended to vary between 550 and 700 horsepower, depending on the circuit. The power adjustability will be provided by the turbocharging system, presumably by limiting the amount of boost.
Also included in the engine announcement is a final date for decision on which chassis will carry the new engines, due to be settled on by June 30.
Whichever chassis is chosen, the more open 2012 engine regulations stand to bring new blood and new interest back into the series, as well as further pushing on-track competition down the path of on-road innovation, in a practical sense. As the governments of the world cinch down on emissions and fuel consumption, high-output, alt-fueled, forced-induction four- and six-cylinder engines are not only relevant, but necessary. And if necessity is the mother of invention, racing is the slightly reckless stepfather.
[Indy Racing League]