After years of atrophy and neglect, breathing life into the Firestone Indy Lights Series has taken Dan Andersen and his Andersen Promotions team a remarkable short amount of time. Modest updates to the current Dallara Lights chassis are moving forward for 2014, with new dampers and a paddle-shifting system being readied to use.
Those items will then transfer over to the brand-new chassis and engine package that's coming for 2015, and as Andersen revealed to RACER, his project team, headed Tony Cotman, has sifted through the proposals to narrow the manufacturer list to three candidates.
“We've been collecting proposals on chassis and engines and Tony Cotman and I have spent more time on it than I anticipated,” he said. “We're getting close on the chassis side, and that decision will be made between three companies: Mygale, Dallara and Multimatic, which is the group that bought Lola that Larry Holt has put together. They've all put in final bids and we're quite happy with what those three are offering our series and our owners.”
With the American economy stuck in a painfully slow recovery, Andersen says a significant portion of his new-chassis decision will be based on the purchase price and terms involved with the 2015 car.
“It will be one of those three – their bids are very interesting, and I have to select one that's fast, that's sexy, that will go 200 miles per hour, but more than that. I also need to select a car that has the right terms for Indy Lights team owners,” he added. “It's going to be hard to plunk down the money for a new car – I know this, so we're talking with all three to come up with the most favorable terms for our current owners and the new owners we hope to attract. It has to make good business sense first and foremost.”
Andersen has also learned from the near revolt that struck the IndyCar Series paddock in 2012 when spare parts prices were revealed to be more than had been agreed upon.
“We're also working on getting the spares costs down,” he confirmed. “We aren't going to work on a good deal on the car and have our owners get hosed on spare parts prices. It isn't good for my long-term business prospects, either, so that's something we're being very deliberate about right up front. No surprises for our owners and nothing ridiculous on the back end. Tony Cotman's a good man to shepherd this process, to see who's offering what, and I'll probably make a final decision next week.”
As RACER reported in August, multiple engine manufacturers submitted bids to power the 2015 Lights chassis, but that decision-making process could take longer than the chassis.
“For the engines, we've had five or six proposals, and frankly, none have really jumped out and caught my attention,” said Andersen. “I'm down to two proposals that I like the most, and I wish I could say I'm going to announce an engine at the same time as the chassis, but I'm going to need more commitment from an engine manufacturer before I feel ready to pull the trigger.”
With low car counts and a precariously small number of team owners, Andersen says taking more time to negotiate an improved engine manufacturer agreement could benefit the series as it looks to restore its paddock.
'“My model is to provide a good training ground and one where team owners can make a living,” he noted. “It's a very intricate business model that puts the budget to run on the drivers, and owners then go out and chase the kids with the best combination of talent and money. It's a hard one to get right and I have all the sympathy for the owners; I've run cars in all the series we currently promote, so I know exactly what it's like to be in their shoes.
“The more support you can get from a manufacturer, if it's money for advancement or a TV package or whatever else we can add to the pot, maybe all of those things, the better it is for the teams and the drivers. That's the area I'm continuing to work on to make as good as possible for everyone.”