With the recent addition of Lotus, along with Chevrolet joining Honda, the future of the IZOD IndyCar Series is bound to be full of excitement. All 2012 IndyCar chassis will be powered by turbocharged V6's.
Next on the agenda is engine distribution. Everyone wants to know how the distribution will play out but I believe teams should decide which manufacturer they will work with.
While we don't want to force teams somewhere they don't want to go, it's imperative that three manufacturers in a 24-car field get as close as possible to eight cars each. We can't afford to have everyone run with two manufacturers and leave the third one hung out to dry. We've talked a lot about learning from mistakes of the past and that is definitely a mistake that's been made before. All that does is leave manufacturers in an uncompromising position and they are forced out. So getting the balance right will be tricky.
We don't yet have a definitive distribution system in place but we have some options under discussion. I like that teams are put in positions of having to make these decisions, it brings an air of freshness to the sport. But while teams need to be responsible for their decisions, they also need to understand the entire business model and what's best for IndyCar long term.
Following Chevrolet's announcement there seemed to be a lot of questions regarding whether all teams with the same manufacturer will have equivalent specs. And the answer to those questions is a definitive “Yes.” There will not be a so-called development team running components that are not available to others. As I've said before, the same specification engine must be available to all other teams at all times.
We also welcome the fact that Lotus and Chevrolet have expressed interest in building an aero package. In early December, I expect to say, “Here's the framework of how the aero regulations are going to apply.” That's a reasonably lofty goal but, the sooner the rules are out, the more time people will have to make a decision on whether or not they want to participate.
We need a set of regulations that we can give to prospective aero kit manufacturers. There has been a lot of interest in aero kits from companies outside of the engine manufacturers. Interested parties will receive a set of guidelines that define the intent of the aero kits – how they're going to work, what they get in return, how it relates to teams and how many times they're allowed to change in a season. Some of the box dimensions will come at a later date because at the moment we're trying to write rules for something that doesn't exist yet. Once things have evolved a little further with the vehicle and we've at least got some idea of what the Dallara bodywork is going to be, then I think we can further define the box areas.
Chassis-wise, we're spending a lot of time on driver fit, driver comfort and, particularly, aero stability. We've delayed the chassis process by a of couple weeks because of the need to make adjustments and look at some alternative development areas, with thoughts more toward long term. The partnership with Dallara is going exceptionally well and they're starting to make significant progress. Communication is very strong and that's the way it needs to remain, not just throughout this project but for as long as they're involved in the series. Dallara broke ground at their new facility in Indianapolis last week and that really backs up their commitment to the IZOD IndyCar Series.
A majority of the prototype 2012 car will be generated in Italy. Compared to the current car, the technology has improved extensively, not just in the car itself, but in the design and build processes being used. Dr. Terry Trammell and IndyCar's Jeff Horton have compiled a huge amount of data related to driver seats, seating positions and what happens in an impact, among other things, and they've been waiting to use this information in a new vehicle. Indy cars are fast and we see some big shunts, particularly on ovals, so we're working hard on safety. Being able to extract drivers from the car more easily after an accident is also a priority.
The only chassis components that will carry over from the current Dallara are the wheels and dampers so when we talk about a new car, it really will be new. I can confirm that Xtrac, which has a long tradition of excellence with IndyCar, will continue to supply gearbox components. Containing costs while allowing a reasonable business model for all is a tricky balancing act because there is a different business proposition for each entity. But it's our duty to do what we think is right for the IndyCar Series without running anyone out of business and Xtrac will continue to be a great partner.
The teams have already provided me with a good amount of information on vendors, parts supply, current prices, quality of components and technical support which means I have a lot of data in hand before making any decisions. Communication between IndyCar and the teams seems to be getting ever better. The owners have a monthly meeting and often extend an invitation for a project update. From my perspective, the team communication part – not just from the owners themselves but particularly the team managers – has been really good. If we stand together, the re-entry of Chevrolet and addition of Lotus along with the continued commitment from Honda can only improve the situation within the IZOD IndyCar Series. I don't think anyone can deny that.
Can we expect racing in general to change? Absolutely. Anytime multiple manufacturers are participating in any area not everything will be equal. I doubt all aero kits will be equal or all engines will achieve the same fuel mileage but that's what competition is all about, right? The problem is, it's been so long we've all forgotten.