Chevrolet is set to join Honda for the first time on the testing trail with its own version of the 2012 Dallara IndyCar chassis next week at Mid-Ohio, kicking off a 10-week manufacturer development program that will soon also feature the new Lotus engine, IndyCar says.
The program commences Oct. 3-4 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for Chevrolet (Will Power driving) and Honda (Scott Dixon).
“Even though the engine configuration – V6, same capacity, same engine speeds – (is the same), the three engines are quite different designs,” said Trevor Knowles, director of engine development for IndyCar, told IndyCar.com. “I'm not sure how much of that sound difference is single turbo and the other a double turbo or how much is just inherent to the engine design and the variations of the exhaust systems.”
IndyCar and Dallara, in conjunction with Bryan Herta Autosport and driver Dan Wheldon, completed seven weeks of on-track validation of the prototype chassis Sept. 29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It also tested at the .875-mile Iowa Speedway, Barber Motorsports Park, Sebring and Mid-Ohio, although speed records weren't the goal, Knowles said.
“The purpose of this test is to prove the chassis performs as it was predicted by the simulations, and Dallara carried out in design and constructing it, and for that reason we don't need to be going 230mph,” Knowles explained.
Honda, the sole engine supplier to the IZOD IndyCar Series since 2006, provided an early development 2.2-liter, turbocharged V6 for use in the chassis validation program.
“On the dyno back at HPD we've made significant progress with the engine compared to where we are here,” Honda Performance Development technical director Roger Griffiths said. “What we've fundamentally concentrated on here is providing IndyCar and Dallara with a reliable and stable package. We've not been doing any engine development work at the track. We're not running the ECU that is the series spec. That will come when we do our own testing. That's when the development program will accelerate rapidly.”
That testing period covers a variety of speedways and road courses. GM Racing director Mark Kent said he's eager to hear the engine on the racetrack.
"After months of testing the Chevy V6 IndyCar engine on the engine dynamometer, it is very exciting to move on to the in-vehicle testing phase of the program,” he said. “The Chevrolet test team, consisting of representatives from all of our Chevrolet IndyCar teams, Ilmor Engineering and Chevrolet, has worked tirelessly during the past few weeks installing the Chevy V6 IndyCar engine in the new chassis and preparing the car for the Mid-Ohio test. We're looking forward to the first official vehicle test.”
IndyCar has established parameters of 550 horsepower for ovals and 700hp for road/street courses. The speedway number is derived from less drag on the 2012 car compared to current Dallara chassis that's been in use since 2003, while the road/street circuit high end is for acceleration out of corners.
“We know how fast we're able to go and so with that and the drag we know what power we need to get there,” said Knowles, who will work with the manufacturers during the development period through mid-December.
From design to dyno is one phase, with the “real work” done at the track, according the Griffiths. With an early January delivery date to teams for their own testing programs, going back to the drawing board isn't an option.
“It focuses your attention,” Griffiths said. “We have a mindset of the production element of this engine because we can't wait until the week prior to the first race and say, ‘OK, now we have our spec, let's go make stuff.' We have a plan. We have to get our development done early enough that we can press the buttons and make the orders and supply engines for the teams.
“The engines that the teams will be getting in January will be late-stage development engines, but they still won't be the final spec. We have to homologate the engine 30 days before the first race so we'll need to meet that time frame, and that's when we're committing to our Race 1 spec.
“During the course of the season there are a number of open development items on the engine that will allow us to continually evolve the engine through the course of the season. It's not that we're going to put our feet up and stop working 30 days prior to the first race.”
Honda, which committed to the 2012 car project early on, has advocated manufacturer competition since it joined the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2003. The 2012 engine specs were announced in June 2010.
“We're all engineers and get excited by this kind of stuff,” Griffiths said. “We didn't come to work for HPD to build spec engines; we came to go racing. We all want to go race in competition and see what we can do. We love the challenges; we love the fun and fight. There will be high periods and low periods, and it's the combination of both that keeps driving you on.”