General Motors has confirmed that Chevrolet will indeed return to Indycar racing in 2012. As suggested last week, Chevrolet has revived its partnership with Ilmor Engineering to build and maintain a fleet of direct injection 2.4-litre twin turbo V6s. Chevy’s engines will be available to at least half the field. Of course, Honda has been IndyCar’s exclusive engine supplier since 2005, so Chevrolet’s announcement should provide a big boost for American open-wheel racing.
Chevrolet and Ilmor teamed up to produce the Chevy Indy V8 from 1986-93, which won seven Indy 500s, six driver championships and 104 races. Chevy celebrates its centennial next year and the company’s roots at Indianapolis go back to the beginning. Louis Chevrolet raced at the track in 1909, and competed in four Indy 500s. His brother Gaston posthumously won the 1920 AAA championship.
Tom Stephens (below), GM’s vice-president of global product operations, made Friday’s announcement at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “We’re proud to once again partner Ilmor Engineering, for over two decades one of the world’s best racing engine developers,” he said. “Our partnership will help us push the state of the art with these technologies and we’ll apply the knowledge we gain to our production engines. It will also help us accelerate our advanced propulsion strategy.”
Roger Penske then added his thoughts on the deal: “To have a global leader like Tom come here today shows the impact this decision has on Chevrolet, ” he said. “The goal of the [Indy Racing] League is to have engines from the two manufacturers distributed throughout the field. In the past when we’ve had multiple engine manufacturers each team has had the opportunity to pick one. Like in the past when we provided engines they will be available to anybody.”
Penske confirmed that Chevrolet and his team would collaborate to produce ‘aero kits’. “The same thing will be the case with the aero kit,” he said. “This will give Chevrolet and General Motors the benefit of [supplying] not just one team but multiple teams through the field, which I think is what the League wants.”
Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s US vice-president of performance products and motorsports, confirmed: “We’re working with the League to finalise the rules. We have a lot of capability and technology in our shop and we expect to be working with Roger Penske and others on an aero package.”
Penske hopes Chevrolet’s return to Indy racing will attract Ford or some other global manufacturers. “Hopefully, this will bring in other Big Three manufacturers,” said Roger. “But we also need this to become a series with competition from around the world, and this is the first step. When someone makes that step people are going to open their eyes and say, this is a real opportunity.”