Indy Racing League competition president Brian Barnhart has played down suggestions that the next generation of IndyCar could be ready for competition in two seasons' time, claiming that the proposals on the table are 'significantly different' to the current concept.
While accepting that both the ageing Dallara-Honda package and the lack of action in recent races made the introduction of new machinery appealing, Barnhart explained that there were several reasons why it was unlikely that the new chassis-engine combination would be brought forward from its established 2012 introduction target.
"We are not ruling out 2011, but one of the biggest challenges we face [is that] we are down to two designs [that] seem to be the direction we are leaning towards, and I say they are significantly different - significantly different from each other and are also significantly different from what we currently have," Barnhart revealed.
"And, because of that, I think the challenge with making it by 2011 is a little bit of the fear of the unknown, but also doing your due diligence with it, because it is so radically different from what has been in open-wheel racing over the evolution for the last 30 years. You have to build a prototype, you have to be able to run them. You're going to have to learn how to race those cars, and equally, if not more important, we are going to have to learn how to crash those cars.
"It's hard for me to say, without getting into too much detail about it, but just the database that's been created from a safety aspect over the evolution of the current type of car, a significant portion of that doesn't apply, because the potential new cars are so radically different.
"You know, with the importance in priority on safety, I'm just not sure time will allow for the prototype to be built, tested, and then all of the work done for it to be in place. I mean, we are 17 or 18 months from January 2011, so I'm not sure that's a comfortable time frame to be able to do what we feel needs to be done with it.
"If it can, we are not ruling out 2011, [but] our focus is on 2012 and, if we can do it quicker, then we will get it in place for 2011. And, if not, it will be 2012."
Barnhart also confirmed that, as well as the multiple engine opportunities currently being afforded by the round table discussions involving five major manufacturers, there had also been no hard and fast decision taken on the identity of the chassis builder for the new car.
"I didn't say it was only Dallara," Barnhart noted, in response to the assumption that the present incumbent would be retained, "Yes, it would involve a vastly different engine, as well, because concepts are so radically different, and that's again part of the package.