Indy 500: Chevy switch puts Dragon on track
17 May 2012
After having been sidelined since the start of track activity at Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the weekend, Dragon Racing driver Sebastien Bourdais finally got to turn some laps on Thursday in a specially-arranged early morning session.
For the first time this season Bourdais was making use of a Chevrolet engine, after the IZOD IndyCar Series organisers announced that they had formally approved Dragon's switch of engine manufacturers with immediate effect.
Dragon had been unable to take to the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since the start of track activity on Opening Day last Saturday, while negotiations between Dragon, Lotus, Chevrolet and IndyCar dragged on in an attempt to find a resolution that would allow Bourdais and his team mate Katherine Legge to make it into the race.
Dragon has been in a bitter dispute with its former engine suppliers Lotus, and even filed a $4.6m lawsuit against the company for breach of contract two weeks ago. But today, Chevrolet announced that they had signed a deal to supply engines to both of the Dragon cars for the 2012 Indianapolis 500.
"The addition of Dragon Racing's two cars to the Chevrolet roster for the Indianapolis 500 is a strategic enhancement to our already strong stable of teams and drivers," said Chris Berube, Chevrolet's IndyCar Program Manager. "The efforts put forth by our combined Chevrolet IndyCar V6 teams will seamlessly continue for the biggest race of the year."
The deal means that Chevrolet will power 16 of the 33 cars at Indianapolis, the others being cars from Penske, Andretti Autosport, KV Racing Technology, Ed Carpenter Racing and Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold.
No details of the financial terms were given, and the announcement did not state whether the deal would continue after the 96th running of the Indy 500 on May 27.
The IZOD IndyCar Series also issued its formal sign-off on the engine change, as required by the IndyCar rule book.
"The sanctioning body for the IZOD IndyCar Series confirmed today that it has approved an engine partner change for Dragon Racing," read the statement. "The team will transfer from Lotus to Chevrolet power for the entries driven by Sebastien Bourdais and Katherine Legge. The change is effective immediately.
"Lotus and Dragon Racing have worked together to find a solution they are both happy with," the statement continued, while giving no further details on any agreement reached.
"We are pleased to see this issue resolved as we head into the final practice days in advance of qualifying," said the CEO of IndyCar, Randy Bernard. "I have to thank all parties for working together to help preserve the traditions of the Indianapolis 500."
Four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais immediately took to the track in a specially arranged 90 minute session this morning between 8am and 9.30am. He had been asked to take a 'refresher course' since it's been seven years since his last run in competition on the speedway oval, and he duly completed two of the three phases of the Rookie Orientation Program during the session as he can consistent laps in the 205-210mph range.
"I'm happy to be out there, but the problem is we have two days to get it figured out," said Bourdais, admitting that he "wasn't feeling so good this morning" in his first time out with a Chevy engine that had been fitted into the Dragon chassis in just the last 24 hours. "It's the loosest I've been, ever. But, what do we expect? It's a new car and the first time we're on an oval."
Even more pressing that Bourdais' refresher program is Katherine Legge's mandatory Rookie Orientation Program, which is required before she can formally enter qualifying on Saturday. The plan had been for Legge to start ROP this morning, but the team instead opted to keep Bourdais out on track and use his greater experience to try and give the car a better set-up and make it more stable before sending Legge out for her own laps.
Finding time to get Legge out on track to complete the program will be a challenge, but today's late engine deal shows that all parties are clearly determined to make it happen and ensure that the 2012 indianapolis 500 starts with a full 33-car grid if at all possible.