Chevrolet and Honda are conducting their final on-track testing of 2011 at Sebring this week, ahead of the first batch of Dallara's DW12 chassis being delivered to teams on Thursday. Off-track engine developments will continue through the winter.
“They'll go right through the first race event of next year,” IndyCar vp of technology Will Phillips told IndyCar.com. “Obviously, Lotus has a lot of work to do to catch up with the two other manufacturers.”
IndyCar says that 14 teams are scheduled to take delivery of a corresponding number of Dallara DW12 chassis on Thursday, Dec. 15. The second batch of the next-generation car for entrants, totaling 16, will be ready by Jan. 16, IndyCar says. Team testing commences in mid-January, with official series open tests to be announced shortly. The 2012 season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is March 25, although the rest of the schedule has yet to be finalized.
The DW12 chassis – named in honor of Dan Wheldon who was its original test driver before losing his life in the season finale at Las Vegas – sells for $385,800, although SPEED.com's Robin Miller reports that each Indy-based team is receiving a $150,000 discount on its first car, courtesy of the Indiana state government. The safety cell/tub is made at Dallara's factory in Parma, Italy while the rest of the car is being assembled at Dallara's temporary U.S. base in Speedway, Ind.
With an early January delivery date to all teams for their own testing programs, going back to the drawing board isn't an option. All three engine makers will supply 2.2-liter, turbocharged V6 engines fueled by E85 gasoline as manufacturer competition returns to the series after a six-year absence.
“It focuses your attention,” Honda Performance Development technical director Roger Griffiths said of the impending deadline. “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.'
“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.”