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Racing Boys Christmas Shopping 2014aVerizon IndyCar Series hopeful Alexander Rossi, veteran Indy car team owner Dale Coyne, and Honda Performance Development vice president Steve Eriksen met at Coyne's shop in Illinois, and based on the picture shared by Coyne Friday evening, the meeting went rather well.

Titled "Last Minute Christmas Shopping," Coyne's photo of Rossi sitting in the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda with Coyne (RIGHT) and Eriksen (LEFT) was sent with a caption of:

Which of these three are doing some last minute Christmas shopping?

A. Steve Eriksen
B. Alexander Rossi
C. Dale Coyne
D. All the Above

Coyne ran Justin Wilson as his lead driver in 2009, and again from 2012-2014, winning two races and placing an impressive sixth overall in the 2013 standings. Coyne was one of three Honda-powered IndyCar teams to win in 2014 with rookie driver Carlos Huertas taking the checkered flag at Houston in the No. 18 entry.

With Wilson and Coyne going in different directions for 2015, and a significant investment in personnel and engineering resources for the new season, Rossi appears to have risen to the top of Coyne's shopping list.

"It was fantastic to meet Dale Coyne Racing as well as Steve [Eriksen] and Allen [Miller] from HPD today," Rossi told RACER. "I admire the effort that they're putting in this winter ahead of 2015."

Provided Wilson lands with the Chevy-powered KVSH Racing, Honda will have a limited number of winning drivers left on its roster, and it's looking less likely Huertas will be in the frame at DCR next season.

With Rossi, the 23-year-old Californian is one of many European-trained drivers looking to forge a new career in IndyCar. Based on his experience in GP2 and as a test and reserve driver for two Formula 1 teams, Rossi could bolster Honda's depleted lineup and give Coyne a young driver to build his program around for years to come.

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F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone revealed yesterday that he was renewing his push for a return to normally-aspirated engines for 2016 in place of the current turbo units on cost grounds, but admitted late Friday that his proposal did not go down well with the teams. However, he insists that he will force changes on the sport's teams if they can not agree to effective cost-cutting moves soon.

"The engine situation is unchanged. It's not exactly great progress," Ecclestone told Britain's The Independent. The next step is that we will have another meeting in January and the teams will have to come back with something positive. If they don't, we will say, 'This is how it has got to be.'"

The current V6 turbo regulations are currently set to remain in place through 2020 and unanimous agreement for the teams is required to alter them for next year – something obviously not forthcoming given Mercedes' adamant committment to the current rules. However, Ecclestone said changes could be forced through without unanimous approval of the teams for 2016.

"For 2016 we would get away without it being unanimous. That's for the January meeting," he told The Independent. "These people don't seem to be making any big effort to save on costs."

 

champions issue

What a sense of relief. The Formula 1 World Championship was not decided by the double points available in the finale.

Another sense of relief. This gimmick has now been dismissed to F1's Room of Lame Ideas, where it can fester along with mooted medal systems, the "only a driver's X best finishes count" rule, and allowing Chanoch Nissany to drive an F1 car in an official practice session.

A great idea, by contrast, was Mercedes-Benz allowing its drivers to race each other all year. This season could have been a demonstration run. Instead, the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg was always intriguing and often exciting.

For this Champions Issue of RACER, we also interviewed two of the drivers who most impressed in F1's "Division 2," racers who we believe have the potential to become World Champion in the future.

Converting potential into reality isn't easy though, as anyone at Team Penske can tell you. The fact that Roger's squad earned its first IndyCar title in eight years was somewhat offset by the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series outcome. Despite 11 wins between just two cars, neither Brad Keselowski nor Joey Logano had luck go their way at the end of the season. Still, looking at Penske's results this year, you'd struggle to find any deficiencies, and the Captain's ship appears back on course.

Toyota's potential was there from the get-go in the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship and the TS040 HYBRID delivered convincingly, although Porsche came on increasingly strongly.

Long periods of domination in racing, such as enjoyed by Ferrari sports cars in the late 1950s and '60s (also featured in this issue), are rare these days. A team's or driver's ability to make potency pay off is often only fleeting, and that's why we pounce on the opportunity to celebrate the champions each season.

David Malsher
editor@racer.com

Take a video tour of The Champions Issue:

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 L0U2049Former Toro Rosso Formula 1 driver Jean-Eric Vergne was announced as Ferrari's new F1 simulator driver on Friday, but tells RACER it will not stand in the way of any Verizon IndyCar Series opportunities that may arise.

"I'm still working on some things right now, but they aren't done," he said. "I'm doing the simulator work, but I will have some opportunities to race. There's nothing more I can say. Things are looking good."

vergneJEV made a big impression on the Andretti Autosport Formula E team during his debut in Uruguay last weekend after earning pole position and coming close to winning the race, and says their relationship could expand beyond the one-off street race in Punta del Este.

"It was good that Michael Andretti and the team could see what I could do in a short time in a new car. It was quite important," he noted. "The car was a bit strange; it's not a Formula 1 car, but it's quite fun to drive and the quality of drivers is very good."

The 24-year-old Frenchman stood in for countryman Franck Montagny in Uruguay, and based on the wrecking ball approach "Franck the Tank" used during the two opening rounds of the Formula E championship, JEV's speed and calamity-free approach could have him back in the car for future rounds.

"Probably – we're working on it," he added. "It's good and the series is very interesting."​

660x440 2014 Indy 500 Race Winner Ryan Hunter-Reay 42012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay has been one of the most active open-wheel drivers to make the crossover into the world of GT and prototype racing for almost a decade.

The American's passion for sports car racing has been one of the more compelling aspects of his career, and coming off a successful season as a member of the championship-winning Dodge Viper GT Le Mans factory program, the 34-year-old tells RACER he'd like to continue his role during the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events in 2015.

"I've been working finding a competitive ride for Daytona, Sebring, Petit, and maybe some other races if there's an interest, and really enjoyed being part of the Viper factory team, but with that going away just a couple months before the new season, a lot of the other opportunities had gone elsewhere," he said.

"So I've been talking with a number of teams and manufacturers to see what's available, and to let them know I'm ready to go if it's a competitive situation. It's something I've done every year since 2006. I've taken a class win at Sebring, and been on the podium three times at Daytona, and I feel like I have some unfinished business there. I want to win a Rolex (watch) pretty bad..."

Pruett RHR WTR DP 2013 DaytonaWith experience in the American Le Mans Series, Grand-Am Rolex Series (LEFT, with Wayne Taylor Racing at Daytona in 2013), and now the TUDOR Championship, RHR expects IMSA's second go-round to be a smoother experience for everyone involved.

"Like you'd have with any new series, there's some tweaking and adjustments that need to happen; balancing the DPs and P2s was a monumental task on its own, and I'm confident they'll improve there," he said. "And there were some procedural things that needed to be addressed, and I felt by the end of the season they had things pretty buttoned up.

"On my side with the Dodge team (BELOW), racing in GTLM was pretty amazing; the competition was unbelievable and I had a great time doing it. Either way, I think the prototypes and the GTLM classes with be as strong – and maybe stronger – than anything we saw last season. I've raced P2s, DPs, GTs, and know I want to be part of the big races."

RHR recently returned from Barbados where he starred in the Race of Champions, and with just a few weeks until the Jan. 9-11 Roar Before the 24 test at Daytona, he says he'll spend the time concentrating on TUDOR Championship solutions.

2014PLMMPruettSat1004 186

"It's really fun – the way the whole season builds at Daytona, and I'm the kind of guy who always wants to be racing, so this is the time of year for me where a lot of IndyCar drivers are bored and waiting until March for the season to begin, but for me, it always starts with sports cars in January," he explained.

"I can't imagine starting off a season without going to the Roar, shaking off some rust, getting into a rhythm, then racing at Daytona, racing at Sebring; it's become my warm-up to the IndyCar season, and I hope something develops for me to keep it going."whole season builds at Daytona, and I'm the kind of guy who always wants to be racing, so this is the time of year for me where a lot of IndyCar drivers are bored and waiting until March for the season to begin, but for me, it always starts with sports cars in January," he explained.

2014PLMMPruettThu1002 2672SIMS 2014Sebring12hrMarshallPruettWed312 073Houston-based Risi Competizione endured a rollercoaster of outcomes and emotions during the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season, and after initially considering a shortened campaign in 2015, team manager Dave Sims (LEFT) tells RACER the team will return for a full season with its Ferrari F458 in the GT Le Mans category.

"We're working now on our plans for the Roar test next month; I put in our entry with IMSA for the year, and Giuseppe Risi's off to Italy shortly to confirm all the aspects of the program," he said. "We'll do the full season, and we're just confirming drivers at the moment."

Risi campaigned the No. 62 Ferrari last season with ex-Formula 1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella for the full championship and Pierre Kaffer at various events. It appears the Italian-German combination will return with another driver to be nominated.

"Giancarlo and Pierre worked quite well together, so it looks like we'll have them back and Mr. Risi's working on the identity of the third driver," Sims noted. "That driver's TBA until he returns from Italy."

Sims previously mentioned Risi's desire to return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and says it remains high on the team's list of priorities as the new season approaches.

"We had an e-mail from IMSA saying they were going to give three invitations to their teams and that we were one of them, which obviously didn't happen; they only gave two," Sims explained. "We were disappointed, but Giuseppe still wants to do it, so we'll just have to put a normal entry in and see how that goes with our friends from the ACO."

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Ford Motor Company still has yet to confirm the rampant speculation about a prospective return to Le Mans, but the story took another step forward on Thursday. A report by Autoweek claims that a race-going version of a Ford GT-successor expected to be revealed at January's North American International Auto Show in Detroit will be fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans.

mustanggte crop web1As RACER chronicled back in July, a GTE-spec Mustang project was being considered before it was nixed, (as envisaged at left by designer Andy Blackmore in a project for Road & Track) and a return to Le Mans with P2 engines was also on the table.

RACER then reported in October that Ford's factory GT program was accelerating toward a debut in 2016 – the 50th anniversary of the brand's win at Le Mans with the Ford GT40 Mk II (pictured, TOP). In that October report, we noted that Canada's Multimatic was in line to produce the GTE cars, and Autoweek claimed in its report today that Multimatic will build the racecars for Ganassi.

We also noted then that the strong ties between Ford and Chip Ganassi Racing – which were extended further this week with the news that Ford will serve as the primary sponsor of Ganassi's Ford EcoBoost-powered Daytona Prototypes this season – provided the Blue Oval with excellent in-house options to spearhead the project. ​

IndyCar2018b copyDiego Rodriguez (BELOW) is a partner at IDEO – a global design company – as well as a founding professor at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University and an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Harvard Business School. And yes, he has a deep love of IndyCar.


To create a vibrant future for IndyCar in 2018 and beyond, our conversation needs to focus on much more than just the car. IndyCar is a very complex sport, with a range of important competing factors.

Wouldn’t it be great to have some simple guidelines to help cut through all the strategic tire smoke? Here are three design principles to serve that purpose. Let’s use these to forge a bright future for IndyCar:

1. The Business Model How might we ensure that IndyCar is a profitable (and therefore sustainable) venture for all involved?

2. The Technology Platform How might we structure the rulebook to create awesome races where the best Rodriguez-portraitdriver and team wins?

3. The Human Experience How might we create an authentic, meaningful, world-class experience for fans, drivers, team members, technology suppliers, and commercial sponsors?

It’s about achieving a balance across these design principles: if IndyCar is to be remarkable and sustainable, all three need to be wound together and solved simultaneously.

The following provocations are informed by my abiding passion for the sport, and as such, I humbly hope they capture the spirit of what IndyCar can become.

The Business Model

Starting with a clean sheet of paper, IndyCar must design a new business model with profitability as a built-in, shock-proof feature. This business model should harmonize with the human experience and the technology platform to create something that can thrive for decades. Each of these elements can be optimized alone, but when balanced together they will make IndyCar soar.

Money isn’t the reason IndyCar is in business, but it’s a force that can’t be ignored. By acknowledging its power as a constraint, you can follow the money to build a better business. Embracing constraints leads to creative breakthroughs. Think Colin Chapman and his pursuit of lightness. In that spirit, here are some proposed business model constraints:

  1. A well-managed team should hit a 10 percent net marginVerizon-tech-pit
  2. Drivers should be paid, not paying
  3. Technology providers must see a clear upside to their participation
  4. Commercial sponsors see it as a crucial element of their marketing mix

It’s critical to use these constraints to guide the design of the human experience and technology platform for 2018. For example, an enlightened rulebook can keep technology costs down, as well as attract technology providers who want to showcase capabilities and train high potential future leaders. A compelling narrative structure will make it much easier for sponsors to justify their spending. And the dedication of team employees who see a healthy long-term career in IndyCar will make the series more remarkable over time.

IndyCar must think creatively about the capabilities, processes, and talent it needs to win. Might IndyCar create more value by vertically integrating into chassis production (by purchasing Dallara, for example)? In a post-TV world, should it produce its own media coverage? To stand on top of the podium in the marketplace in 2018, IndyCar’s organization needs to be tuned to match its intended strategy.


Ongais-DriftThe Technology Platform

I’m using the phrase “Technology Platform” instead of “Car”, because it’s not just about the car. The 2018 car should be designed in combination with system factors such as the physics of track safety, a green supply chain, and even new approaches to intellectual property.

From that vantage point, here are six ways to shape the technology platform for 2018:

First, write a rulebook which values freedom and innovation. Embrace performance over “balance of performance” by establishing rules which demarcate the playing field, and then let the best team and driver win, even if they crush everything in their path. Balance this with my sixth point below.

Second, be the safest racing series in the world. With EarthPrix, Robert Clarke forwarded the idea of a standardized “safety capsule”, replete with a canopy, airbags, and crash-tested safety systems. This chassis module could be supplied to teams by IndyCar, ensuring that safety standards are always met and the business value created is captured by the series rather than an outside entity.

Third, surround that safety capsule with a car which looks, sounds, and drives like no other. Today only RACER subscribers can distinguish a Dallara DW12 from a McLaren MP4-29. Starting in 2018, a casual observer should be able to tell them apart in milliseconds. Achieve this via terroir – the French idea that grapes taste like the local soil, water, and air they grow in. IndyCar’s terroir is Indy, Long Beach, and Road America, so distill the essence of those hallowed tracks to create a car that feels uniquely American. Go with a distinctive visual paradigm (e.g., DeltaWing), but make it a massively overpowered, snorting, wicked, bull of a machine which only the AJ Foyt’s of the world can handle. Be bold. [ABOVE: Danny Ongais in the Parnelli at Brands Hatch, 1978.]

Fourth, become a carbon-neutral series, but not via expensive in-car technologies. Must the 2018 car represent the ne plus ultra of energy efficiency?TyrrellP34 No: F1’s foray into extreme energy scavenging has resulted in a field of hyper-complex yet ultimately underwhelming cars. On the other hand, the ALMS Michelin Green X Challenge demonstrated that by focusing on the environmental parameters of its entire supply chain, a series can strive for carbon neutrality yet still feature extroverted, exciting cars.

Fifth, limit aerodynamic complexity so that wind tunnels aren’t required to design a car—a lone team engineer should be able to use cheap CFD software to identify a prime performance window. Calibrate downforce to the bare minimum needed to keep cars on the ground at Indy. As fans, we want to see cars that squirm, with buckets of Gilles Villeneuve-style pedaling. Above all, invoke what I refer to as the David Hobbs Postulate: the magnitude of one’s attachments, not an arcane aero package, shall dictate one’s lap time.

Finally, supply a standard rolling chassis, but encourage radical hacking [LEFT, Jody Scheckter, Tyrrell P34, Nurburgring 1976]. Think F1 in the 1970s. Six wheels? Gnarly. Four wheel steering? Go for it! But at the end of the season, each team must publish its CAD database to the entire world under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license. Everyone can then employ those ideas for the next season. With this intellectual property mechanism, no team will possess an all-conquering advantage forever. Short-term competitive imbalances make for epic seasons; it’s the perpetual ones that kill a series.


RoadAmericaThe Human Experience

First things first: IndyCar’s real competition is the universe of experiences we access via the smartphone in our pocket. A TV broadcast of an oval race was once interesting, but today it can’t compare with the splendors of the internet. To compete, IndyCar needs to become world-class at storytelling. Not just compared to other racing series, but against all sports.

People benchmark their experiences across categories, not within them. When it comes to how stories of a race and season are told, IndyCar should endeavor to learn from best-in-class experiences beyond F1 and NASCAR. PhoneLook at everything from World Cup Soccer to an American Girl doll store to Disneyland. And examine non-traditional motorsports, too: the Race of Champions is far and away the most exciting and memorable motorsports event I’ve been a part of – with its fast pacing and constant action, there’s never a dull moment.

Who needs TV? Drop those suboptimal TV contracts in favor of reaching a worldwide audience via the web. The world shifted two years ago when Red Bull’s Felix Baumgartner did his 24-mile vertical commute before a live YouTube audience of eight million. Similarly, HBO will soon bypass your friendly local cable purveyor to bring you Daenerys Targaryen direct over the interwebs. Have you tried the WEC iPad app? It rocks. Plenty of people want to watch races, just on their terms, and certainly not on an obscure cable channel.

But what IndyCar really needs is a coherent storytelling narrative. The Indy 500 is incredibly valuable – arguably the Boardwalk of racing – but its position in the early part of the season makes little sense. Instead, in 2018 Indy should be positioned at the climax of a storytelling arc. Yes, I’m suggesting ending the season (and hopefully deciding the championship!) at Indy. Forget about the NFL, and bypass your perennial identity conflict with F1 by starting your season in the early Fall, going through the Winter (warm-weather races in Brazil and Dubai and Australia [BELOW, Surfers Paradise] and Texas and Florida and LA!), and finishing with a mega finale at Indianapolis. With this approach, you’ll have little overlap with F1, and you can crown your hero(ine) in high drama at your one race recognized by a worldwide audience.

Be Different

What this all boils down to is the courage to be different in ways that are meaningful to fans, drivers, and all the stakeholders in IndyCar. A fast, safe, and distinctive car, an exciting season narrative, and a web-centric media strategy together will do wonders to reignite interest. Underpinned with a profitable business model, IndyCar can be not only sustainable, but remarkable.

Use these three design principles to create an IndyCar that’s bold, brave, and awesome. Everyone loves a winning racer. Go win!

RACER would like you to send your thoughts and ideas to Indycar2018@racer.com and we will compile them and send them on to IndyCar.

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