When the IZOD IndyCar Series decided it would change the engine formula for its racers for the 2012 season, it was the perfect time for Chevrolet to return to U.S. open wheel racing for the first time since 2005.
“We’re excited about the future of Indy car racing” with the addition of Chevrolet, said Randy Bernard, CEO of IndyCar. The series has “the fastest, most versatile cars and drivers in the world, and now we have engine competition to provide even more excitement for our fans.”
Chevrolet was attracted by the brand-new engine formula -- rather than use normally aspirated V8 engines, the new IndyCar engine would be a smaller 2.2-liter V6, though the power output would be comparable to the bigger V8.
This formula allows Chevrolet to demonstrate some of the key technologies already in play with Chevrolet’s passenger vehicles, such as the IndyCar engine’s twin turbochargers. On street vehicle , turbocharging allows for smaller engines to offer power comparable to larger ones, yet maintain an enhanced degree of fuel economy, since on passenger vehicles, the turbos don’t engage unless the driver needs additional acceleration.
The IndyCar engine also uses direct injection technology, which delivers fuel more precisely to increase the efficiency of combustion, enabling more power while maintaining fuel economy and lowering emissions – including a 25-percent drop in cold-start hydrocarbon emissions.
And the Chevrolet IndyCar engine operates on E85 fuel, which is 85 percent renewable – a fuel source that multiple Chevrolet passenger vehicles can utilize†.
To assist in the development of the Chevrolet IndyCar engine, the company enlisted Ilmor Engineering, a company founded nearly 30 years ago, in part by IndyCar team owner Roger Penske, to build engines for open-wheel race cars. Not surprisingly, Penske’s IndyCar team was the first to announce that it would be running Chevrolets for 2012, followed soon by others, including Andretti Autosport and Panther Racing. Al Unser was the first to race an Ilmor Chevrolet engine in IndyCar in 1986, and the first Ilmor engine to win the Indianapolis 500 was in 1986 with Rick Mears driving a Penske car.
Chevrolet competed previously in IndyCar racing as an engine manufacturer in 1986-93 and 2002-05 with V-8 engines, winning 104 races, six driver championships and seven Indy 500 victories. Team Penske previously won 31 IndyCar races with Chevrolet power, including four of Chevrolet’s seven Indianapolis 500 wins.
Chevy-powered cars qualified on the pole for the first four races of the season at St. Petersburg, Barber Motorsports Park, Long Beach and Brazil, and Chevy-powered Penske cars won all four, too.
“I’m very excited to have Chevrolet power in 2012, but I'm also excited for the series,” said Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves, winner of the season opener in St. Petersburg, and the fastest qualifier at the next race at Barber Motorsports Park. “There’s so much good news happening in this series.”