League not ruling out new car for 2011, but 'unlikely'
8 July 2009
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.
"We have got great partners with Honda right now, and certainly we have a meeting scheduled at Toronto next week to keep them included in the loop and talk about what our options are and our timeline around these, but it would be a whole new package, chassis and engine, at the same time."
With no sign of radical change for three years, Barnhart admitted that the League had been forced to rethink the direction the current package was heading in, given the criticism over a lack of on-track action in certain events this season.
"It's been frustrating to see a couple of the races, the way they have panned out," he conceded, "They certainly were not up to our expectations, and [how] we have raced at those same venues with the same car historically.
"It was a little bit of a hedge as to why, and it's taken a lot of conversations with everybody [to address the problem]. Certainly, we want to improve the entertainment aspect and the on-track competition from what we have seen. You don't stick your head in the stand and hide from those events.
"They were [historically] real exciting events for us, and it was equally frustrating from our standpoint because you didn't anticipate it or really have an explanation as to why. We are certainly trying to address it - our next oval event is Kentucky at the end of this month and, based on the feedback and input we have from the teams, these are steps in the right direction."
Barnhart also claimed that, should the first wave of revisions not have the desired effect, others could be introduced.
"It's phase one and, if it's not enough, we have to plan for additional stuff to be implemented after Kentucky if this doesn't achieve the desired result," he concluded, "But we think it's certainly moving in the right direction."