During Tuesday's "State of IndyCar" media presentation at Indianapolis on Tuesday, 2012 IndyCar project manager Tony Cotman offered an update on the state of progress on the new car, which will be built by Dallara at a new factory in Indianapolis and equipped with aero kits built by various manufacturers.
"Obviously there's many things going on in 2012, many things to talk about, a lot of excitement being generated," Cotman said. "Today, IndyCar announced the engine capacity will be reduced from 2.4-liter to 2.2-liter maximum. It was evident further improvements and efficiency were possible and by the IndyCar Engine Committee led us in this direction.
"As you can imagine, achieving 750 horsepower while maintaining minimum mileage limits is a big challenge which we're all looking forward to. Thanks to everybody in the IEC for their participation. We've had a great start.
"Engine regulations have been published for some time, but to the manufacturers only. These are not available to the public. We may tailor down a version later to be more simplified, but it's obviously very comprehensive. We've discussed before there will be three baseline power levels between speedways, short ovals and road and streets. We're going to stick to that. All types of circuits require certain levels. We can tune as we need. This will primarily be achieved through different boost levels.
"Along with that is the fuel cell. It requires about five to six gallons less fuel because of the reduction in horsepower to operate at a speedway versus a road and street. It's a little wrinkle we have to think about – how we going to achieve that, how we going to still provide good racing?"
Cotman said that the aero kit rule parameters are now going out to interested suppliers.
"Aero kits are available. Information, regulations are available to companies interested in participating," he said. "These will be tailored into a more simplified format and published to the general public and media closer to May, once the details have been more clearly defined.
"Remember, when we're designing these aero kits or building them up; we're defining the parameters in conjunction with designing the vehicle. So it's a difficult situation. It's not that we can sit there and come out with a set of aero regulations when we don't know anything about the vehicle yet. As the vehicle evolves, the regulations will evolve along with it."
Cotman remains confident that the aero kit solution arrived at by the technical committee last year will provide reasonable diversity among suppliers.
"I would expect to see at least four different aero kit manufacturers in 2012," he said. "That was one of our goals – multiple engine manufacturers, aero manufacturers. That's obviously a good beginning.
"The process for aero kits is pretty simple. There will be a discussion with interested suppliers or manufacturers. The suppliers or manufacturers will be approved. In May of each year, you'll be able to announce your intent to want to be an aero kit manufacturer to the series. More participants will be announced to the general public in October. So basically there's a window from May to October to decide if you want to be in for the following season. Once you're in, you stay in for a couple years minimum."
Cotman acknowledged that the changes will provide technical issues for the teams, but is confident that the results will be worth it to all.
"Obviously, there will be a lot of challenges for teams, choosing the correct package prior to the season, understanding the package, making the correct decision," he said. "I've said many times before that the style of racing we know today will change. Teams will be challenged with decisions as engine manufacturers, along with having to determine which aero kits they're going to use. I think this is all good, exciting for IndyCar. I like to see teams challenged.
"We're trying to get through to the younger audience, get new kids involved, new excitement in IndyCar. Some of the things we're looking at are proximity sensors on the vehicles, projecting images inside the cockpit to give a better in-car fan experience, having access to what the driver is seeing. Use of cell phone technology today is incredible. At the end of the day, I think there's three or four good things that we have in the works, not all necessarily going to be unveiled in 2012 but, with some good support, we can project two or three years in advance where we're going to be. Wouldn't it be cool if you could sit there in the stands looking at your cell phone picking up telemetry of your favorite driver, in-car views, facial expressions? All that technology is out there.
"While we do that, we're still trying to maintain the most versatile racing series in the world. Competition will still be driven at the highest possible level. Fans can look for a new vehicle with a sleek, sexier appearance. The sound of the turbo is coming back."
Cotman said fans shouldn't have too long to wait for a look at actual hardware:
"We expect to have two show cars for display at the Speedway during the month of May," he said. "We can provide a peek into technology and the styling. Remember, the goal is to provide a platform for free-thinking, open-minded participants, while exploring creativity, challenging teams and manufacturers. We want the boundaries to be pushed by all and excitement to a high level in our series."