The venerable Firestone Indy Lights engine will undergo a modification for 2009 in an effort to make them sound more like racing engines as well as increase performance.
The principal change will see the 90-degree crankshaft used in the engines since the series' inception in 2002 changed to a 180-degree unit, a modification which executive director Roger Bailey claims drivers will notice.
"We primarily made the change to make the car sound more like they have single-seater racing engines," he admitted, "but the change will help the car's performance as well. It doesn't really change the horsepower, but the drivers will see an improvement in the power band in the mid-range. And that will help our cars get off the corner better."
"From the outward appearance, there won't be any changes to the motor," said Speedway Engine Development's Jeff Gordon, "The noticeable difference is the sound the engine makes is more similar to the IndyCar Series engine. Our goal is to make the engines the same so they are not a factor in any way. Our goal is be reliable and consistent and make the teams forget about the engines."
So far, the modified engine has been both reliable and consistent, having been tested by Sam Schmidt Motorsport, which ran the crankshaft during test sessions throughout the 2008 season, and Panther Racing, which took delivery of engines utilising the new crankshaft in time for Martin Plowman and Pippa Mann to run with them. The remainder of Firestone Indy Lights teams will have access to the revised units when the holiday testing break ends in January.
"It pulls more off the corners," revealed 2008 season runner-up Richard Antinucci, who also tested with the new-spec engine with Panther, "It's also a lot quieter in the cockpit - and I was pleasantly surprised by that."
While the Schmidt and Panther teams were running the new engine, and other teams preparing for the 2009 season, the Genoa squad is planning to host an 'open house' session at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The team has yet to test its cars this winter, but is moving forward with plans to return to the series with two cars in 2009. Genoa, which has won Lights events with drivers Ryan Hampton and Thiago Medeiros in 2002 and 2003 respectively, will stage its special session while its rivals test at Homestead today [19 November].
"By the very nature of this developmental series, the current crop of drivers may be unaware of our championship legacy," said GM and chief engineer Thomas Knapp, who helped Greg Ray win the IndyCar Series title in 1999, "It is very important to re-introduce ourselves to the current and future participants. With cars that have been on pole at Indy and ran up front throughout 2007, and with Genoa's 30 years of championship-winning performance, we're obviously proud of where we're at, and we couldn't pass on the opportunity to show it off a bit.”
Firestone Indy Lights veteran CR Crews has taken a driver development position with the team and is working with Knapp and team president Mark Olson as Genoa attempts to secure its driver line-up.
“Facing a long winter off-season, most of the other teams have packed it in for the year," he said, "The top drivers are all in Florida this weekend to determine who has the resources to put them on the top of the box. We certainly have the equipment, personnel, and commitment to compete with the premier teams in the league, and we're excited to demonstrate it at Homestead.”