Monday, February 26, 2024

Thoughts upon IndyCar’s current Engine dilemma

As I Hate to say this, but what’s Indy Cars NXT move?


In a forever languishing story I’ve intended to scribble here upon No fenders for years regarding the long forgotten Luddi’ lumps’. For which Engine Developments Limited, a racing engine manufacturer founded by John Judd and Jack Brabham during the early 1970’s built those unsuccessful Lotus IndyCar engines campaigned briefly during the 2012 IndyCar season.


As I still recall No Fenders Offical Photographer Carpets’ asking the late Dr. Who, aka Tim Wardrop tongue-in-cheek if He wanted Him to throw something on-track? In order to bring out a caution so “Mean Jean” (Alesi) could catch-up to the pack?


As that was when sitting in the IMS Flagroom having a few Adult beverages and just Joshin’ around following Carb Day practice, where bothLotus powered entries had been dead last!


Making it hard to believe that it will have been twelve years ago come this May! Since I also fondly recall Dr. Who asking me incredulously, What’s a Last Row Party? But I digress…


As I’ve previously scribbled a brief version of Honda’s IndyCar history in my three part tome about Honda celebrating it’s 75th Anniversary, so no need to reinvent the wheel here.


As I first became aware of Judd engines Wayback’ in 1988. When Team Willy’, ergo Williams F1 had lost it’s supply of then Honda’s All Conquering 1.5-litre twin turbo V-6 lump’ to Arch rivals McLaren. Primarily due to Il Lione’, Red 5’, Bloody Nige’ or simply Nigel Mansell wringing the stuffing out of His underpowered Judd CV V-8!


Since for some vague reason, I rememberd that Bloody Nige’ had stood on the podium at Silverstone that year. Actually finishing runner-up to McLaren’s Ayrton Senna. With Alessandro Nannini third in the Benetton Ford, while Mansell also set Fastest lap during the race.


Judd then built the narrow angled EV V-8 lump’ before constructing the GV V-10 engine, for which I’d forgotten JJ Letho finished third for BMS Scuderia Italia in the ’91 San Marino Grand Prix no less.


Since I tend to recall that the naturally aspirated Judd V-10’s had far more success in Sports Car racing. With Kevin Doran inserting one into a Ferrari 333 SP! Along with winning the 2002 Rolex 24 in a Doran Lista Racing Dallara SP1 chassis.


Yet as mentioned, Judd provided Formula 1 customer engines during the 3.5-litre normally aspirated era of the 1990’s, mandated for the start of the 1989 F1 season. Not to mention building Honda’s first IndyCar engine Wayback’ in 1986, when it made it’s CART debut with Geoff Brabham driving for Galles Racing.


Thus Judd had extensive experience building racing engines for the top two Open Wheel Racing series, and you’d like to believe that this would have transferred successfully to it’s abortive 2012 IndyCar campaign, where it’s 2.2-litre turbocharged V-6 motor sadly became the laughing stock of Indy Cars, myself included!


As all I can figure is that obviously the Judd Lotus IndyCar engines were underdeveloped and once again lacked sufficient horsepower to challenge Chevy and Honda, both having more current IndyCar engine production and competition experience vs. Judd…


Having read Racer’s December 20, 2023 Mailbag, I came away with some new thoughts towards the conundrum of IndyCar’s current engine dilemma, due to Honda’s Mega’ Shot across the Bow warning over potentially leaving at the end of it’s current supply contract in 2026.


First, I now feel sort of glad that IndyCar hasn’t been able to lure a third engine manufacturer into the fray. Since if Toyota had joined, then Arse-sumedly with the exception of going Hybrid, we’d still be stuck in the same racing rut.


Having been fortunate to “Grow-up” during the CART Glory Days, including Groan, Nigel mania. Unlike what Marshall Pruett claims about today’s 20-something’s, I did care about the actual, individual engine manufacturer battle!


And being a died in the wool FoMoCo’ devotee. Naturally I was thrilled when Ford released it’s new Cosworth XB lump’ which was Uber competitive, followed by the XD Me Thinks…


Thus I have to admit I’m not at all interested in a single-spec engine formula as Honda’s Chuck Schifsky has proposed. Yet obviously I also do not wish to lose Honda from the series. Since a small part of my appeal to today’s IndyCar series is there being two engine manufacturers giving us amazing competition!


Initially I thought of why couldn’t IndyCar propose an engine development freeze period like Formula 1 is currently in? Although I don’t know if Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Honda/RBPT are still spending vast amounts of income for engine “reliability” updates?


Thus I liked one Mailbag reader’s question of why not implement a single source V-6 Short Block and allow engine manufacturers to develop their own cylinder head or some other portion of the engine?


Or am I just remaining a Dinosaur by not admitting the future of Automobiles and racing purely electrical?


As I still do not understand why none of the amazing F1 Hybrid technology has made it’s way into mainstream Automotive application today, some ten-plus years later?


Whilst as much as I detest IndyCar’s No. 1 Puffed Shirt Mark Miles. I do agree that IndyCar really cannot go forward until the current Hybrid Energy Recovery System (ERS) is properly sorted and working seamlessly in competition!


Especially since it’s such a complicated piece of Kit! Needing to be implemented into an existing design with exceedingly tight packaging constraints!


So perhaps the way forward in the future after all is to simplify the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) portion. And perhaps have either somebody like Engine Developments Limited or Cosworth or others win a tender to provide spec long block engines?


As I do realize whilst typing this that the lower tier LMP2 and LMP3 Sports Car categories for both European, Asian and North American series have currently been utilizing sole sourced spec engines…


Yet I just feel that this totally Dumbs down the DNA of top-flight motor racing series. Since would Formula 1 still be considered the Pinnicle of Motorsports running a single-spec Power Unit? (PU)


Or would there be such a proclaimedBuzz over IMSA GTP if the same sole specification Hybrid engine was required? Nor should IndyCar, the top Open Wheel Racing single seater category in North America be forced to do so…


Since after all, what’s that U.S. Open Wheel Racing series that currently utilizes single-spec chassis, engine and tyres? Oh yeah, Can Y’all say Indy NXT?