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Engine penalties 'will stay' says IndyCar

14 April 2012

There will be no change to the current IndyCar rules surrounding penalties for unscheduled engine changes, the series' vice president of technology Will Phillips warned on Friday.

That's despite a decision by one manufacturer, Chevrolet, to order a full change of units for all the teams that it services after an issue was found with the current engine configuration following testing at Infineon Raceway on Monday. The engine manufacturer said that the stresses of actual race use had differed from those expected from simulations and testing, and that the decision had been taken in order to ensure that there was no mass-retirement of up to half a dozen cars during the race.

Together with unrelated miscellaneous changes for three Lotus cars, Chevy's move means that 14 cars in total out of the 26-car field will have ten-spot grid penalties come the start of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday afternoon.

"We've set the precedent, and we need to stick with it," insisted Phillips. "We can't be 'let this go, let that go' to start with, because then you can't tighten it up. It's far better to set the ground rules, have consistent penalties, let you know where you stand."

Phillips said that this weekend's situation with over half the field affected by penalties was "was something different" and wouldn't be repeated. "We've had two good races, a 7 percent failure rate," before this weekend, he pointed out.

"It might seem very harsh now, but looking four, five years down the road for setting the regulations, the basis would be same," he explained. "If a manufacturer comes in with short-life motors, it will cost an awful lot of money to do that, and it's about cost containment."

Teams pay a flat license fee of $690,000 per season to their engine provider which gives them five engines over the course of the 16-race season to allow for extra engines for the Indianapolis 500 and testing as well as race weekend activity.

Phillips also refuted the argument that it wasn't fair for teams to have to pay penalties for their engine provider's problems. "The teams and manufacturers came together as a team," he insisted. "If there are no teams, the manufacturer can't run their product. And if there are no manufacturers, the teams have nothing to run."

While this weekend's engine penalties threatens to effectively hand over control of the starting grid to the Honda-powered teams, Honda isn't having things all its own way either.

The manufacturer had hoped to update the turbo units used by its ten cars in the run-up to Long Beach and replace the current single turbo unit criticised by teams for its poor throttle response in favour of the twin-turbo systems used by Chevrolet and Lotus.

Honda said that it had been given permission by series officials to make the change, only for the decision to be reversed after complaints from at least one of the rival engine manufacturers about the interpretation of benchmarking data being used to support Honda's case for the update.

"It's a matter of written word versus verbal word," said Phillips. "We're just pulling facts together now and will get with the manufacturers to sort it out." The change could still be allowed in time for the street race in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Changes to the turbo units do not incur the same ten-grid penalties as engine substitutions.


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