TWR joins Infiniti campaign for Indy success.
Infiniti, the luxury division of Nissan North America, has signed an agreement with TWR Group to complete the development of the new 3.5litre V8 Infiniti racing engine and to provide technical support for its Indy Racing programme, it was announced today [Thursday].
Infiniti hopes that the partnership will lead to the company becoming the first Japanese engine manufacturer to win the Indianapolis 500 and the Indy Racing Northern Light Series Championship.
"Infiniti is delighted to have TWR join our design team," said Steve Kight, director of marketing and motorsports for Infiniti Division, "We are sure their expertise in Indy Racing, as well as their experience in so many other international motorsports programmes over the years, will bring further success and a new focus to our expanding programme."
TWR's Race Engine Division played a key role in the final preparations of the all-new Infiniti Indy 35A, which successfully debuted at the Indy Racing Northern Light Series season opener at Phoenix on 18 March. The design work and bench testing necessary to prepare the engine for oval-track racing was completed at the TWR engine facility in Kidlington, England.
"We are excited about the opportunity, with Infiniti, to win the Indy 500 and the [IRNLS] championship," said Tom Walkinshaw, chairman of TWR Group, "We look forward to delivering the success that Infiniti is so committed to achieving. Under the tutelage of Tony George, for whom I have the greatest respect, the Indy Racing Series has grown into an internationally recognised championship. Its stature is reflected in the strong interest by an increasing number of manufacturers and leading teams."
The purpose-built 35A racing engine represents the worldwide resources available to Infiniti. The engine was first designed as a 5.0litre version by engineers at the Nissan Motor Company in Japan for use in the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans. The design was then modified for the 3.5litre formula outlined by the Indy Racing League, and for the specific characteristics of oval-track racing.
With European-based TWR handling the current development, and the continued involvement of the Japanese engineering
staff, the Infiniti Motorsports design team is truly a global effort.
From the design table to the dynamometer, the 35A engine was thoroughly tested before being sent to the United States for on-track testing. Infiniti customers Cheever Indy Racing and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing found the new engine to be more powerful, smaller, and lighter during their initial testing. Eddie Cheever Jr was one of the first to test the engine, and finished ninth with the new powerplant at the Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami.
"Testing started later than we expected with the new engine, but we were pleased to find it was strong right out of the box," the former F1 and CART racer said, "The lower centre of gravity allows us more leeway in fine-tuning the set-up, but we needed miles to gather the necessary data to work with these new handling characteristics. We have made some serious gains in the last two weeks and look forward to getting the Infiniti engine on the podium at Atlanta."
The Infiniti line-up at the Atlanta Motor Speedway night race on 28 April not only included 1998 Indianapolis 500 champion Cheever, but also Robbie Buhl in the #24 Team Purex/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Infiniti. While Infiniti has campaigned solely with these two drivers since June 2000, the engine manufacturer looks forward to adding more drivers and teams to its stable for 2001.
Indy Racing veteran Scott Goodyear is already slated to drive an Infiniti at the Indianapolis 500 for Cheever Indy Racing, and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing filed for a second entry at Indy as well - bringing Infiniti's count at the Brickyard to four. Technical support and engine rebuilds for Infiniti's existing teams, and any future teams that choose to use Infiniti engines, will be handled at TWR's existing facility in Valparaiso, Indiana.