Indy Racing League officials have confirmed that as many as five major manufacturers continue to participate in the IndyCar Series round table discussions designed to hammer out details of future engine specifications for the premier open-wheel category..-

Honda - via Honda Performance Development - Audi, Fiat - via Fiat Powertrain Technologies - Porsche and Volkswagen remain in talks in the planning process, which was introduced in May 2008 to bring about expanded engine manufacturer participation in the IndyCar Series when a new rulebook is introduced, possibly as early as the 2011 season.

Plans to introduce new engine specifications, while maintaining the series' position as a leader in the use of ethanol bio-fuel, remain an ongoing process, but continue to benefit from unprecedented OEM and race engine designer input. Through the collective process, the IndyCar Series will continue to work with the five brands and with six world-renowned specialty race engine design companies that are providing ongoing discussion and counsel as it seeks to refine its engine specifications, which are expected to be finalised in the next few months.

"Honda charged our partner, IndyCar, to define a relevant global and sustainable platform that would be attractive to multiple automotive brands," said HPD's Erik Berkman, "We applaud the series' responsiveness to our request, and look forward to actively participating in the round table process moving forward."

On the table already are proposals for four-stroke engines with reciprocating pistons, an engine capacity not to exceed two litres, dual-overhead cam shaft with four valves per cylinder, permission for both single turbocharger and direct injection systems, continuation of the league's position on the use of alternative fuels, rebuild schedules of 3750 miles, a five-year sealed engine homologation process that will define areas with possible annual updates, and a cost containment engine lease ceiling applicable to all participants.

The new engine architecture will align the IndyCar Series with the general direction being taken by major manufacturers the world over, with the efficiency and environmental responsibility of smaller displacement engines to the fore. It is also hoped that the direction of the specifications will allow teams to participate in the series in a cost-effective manner while allowing the manufacturers the flexibility to retune their basic engine for use in other forms of motorsport.

"The IndyCar Series has a history of pioneering new automotive technical innovations that are proved and refined under the scrutiny of millions of IndyCar fans in exciting on-track action by the world's best teams and drivers," president of competition and racing operations Brian Barnhart said, "The input we have received through the collective manufacturer round table process is very important and will be seriously considered by the IndyCar Series in determining its future engine platform."

The IndyCar Series has now conducted three high-level manufacturer round table meetings during the past six months, each attended by senior executives from leading automotive brands. The format was deemed ground-breaking in that it was specifically designed to solicit open discussion among the attendees as to what their goals and desires were should they become, or remain, involved in motorsports, while the IndyCar Series' objective was to determine a common theme from the participants bridging motorsports with the mainstream automotive industry.

"IndyCar's process of soliciting direct and unfiltered input from the automotive manufacturers has been a unique and refreshing approach," said Audi's Ulrich Baretzky, "This is a responsible and realistic approach to all of motorsports and presents an opportunity to integrate it directly with consumer relevance."

Baretzky's praise was echoed by the remaining manufacturers, with former Ferrari F1 engine guru Paolo Martinelli admitting that the meetings could have wider-reaching benefits.

"IndyCar has done an extremely thorough job at examining all the future technical considerations that automotive brands are faced with," the Fiat Powertrain Technologies VP commented, "Working in concert with my peers to help define the next generation of IndyCars has been an enlightening and productive process that will likely have positive connections to other global motorsports."

The ongoing process initially attracted nine manufacturers and six renowned race engine builders for a closed-door, day-and-a-half meeting at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in June, with tyre supplier Firestone and chassis builder Dallara also in attendance, allowing each input in the engine spec process.

The initial meeting led to one-on-one meetings and then a second two-day round table in September, which was attended by Honda Performance Development, Audi, Fiat Powertrain Technologies, Porsche and Volkswagen. That meeting further refined a relevant technical foundation for the future of the IndyCar Series and led to a subsequent third meeting, which was held in Germany, just before Christmas.

"This process was designed to showcase the League's position as an innovator and bring relevance to the forefront for the manufacturers," explained commercial president Terry Angstadt, "What we have found in the ensuing months, during the economic downturn, is that the IndyCar Series has really hit on the relevance point with the manufacturers, and quite possibly helped the motorsports industry usher in a new era of responsible cost containment, performance standard and engine development."

In addition to the engine specifications the IndyCar Series has also been investigating innovative ways to partner its teams with the manufacturers and anticipates confirming those plans in the near future.

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