Q&A with IndyCar Committee on new engine strategy
THE MODERATOR: The ICONIC Advisory Committee will discuss the dramatic and new direction with the engine strategy. Please note this will be the only time the series and the advisory committee will address the engine until the new car process is complete. Additionally, the group up here will not comment on the chassis at this time as the process is still going on.
I'd like to turn things over to our chief executive officer, Randy Bernard.
RANDY BERNARD: Thank you, Amy. Good afternoon. The past two months have been pretty exciting and pretty telling. About two and a half months ago we decided one of the biggest decisions that IndyCar would make in this decade would be their next car. One of the first things we felt would be very important would bring some of the top minds in our industry together to allow them to help in this process.
I can tell you we looked at over a hundred people for this committee and I'm very proud of the folks that we picked for it. I can tell you they've worked very hard. Their opinions have not always been the same but they've come to some great conclusions so far we believe.
I'd like to first start out by introducing our folks here.
Gil de Ferran is the representative that the team owners have chosen. We felt it very important to let the team owners have some say in this matter, so they selected Gil.
Brian Barnhart is the president of operations and competition for IndyCar, as well as Tony Cotman, who wrote the rules for Champ Car.
Eddie Gossage is known as the best promoter in IndyCar.
Also we brought in General Bill Looney, I felt it was very important to this process as a moderator. I think that one thing that we wanted to make sure is we were -- I wanted somebody with high integrity, someone that had tremendous credibility. As a four-star general in the United States Air Force, one of his last jobs was to modernize the United States Air Force aircraft and he had to deal with a lot of the same issues we had to deal with: speed, technology, innovation. I felt that General Looney would be a great person to have moderate this.
I also want to say that this process has been a very diligent one. Our time process has been very short because there isn't a lot of time. There's been debate, but there's been decisions.
We feel it's very important to maintain our position as the fastest and most versatile racing car in the world. We want to pose relevant challenges to which the automotive industry faces today.
We will leave here this evening after the race and fly to Indianapolis where the next three days we will sit down with all the chassis manufacturers and listen to their presentations and deliberate through the first part of this week.
At this time I'd like to turn it over to Gil de Ferran.
GIL de FERRAN: Thank you, Randy.
Well, first of all, it's very nice to be here in Texas. This was the scene of my last IndyCar race. Brian probably remembers. So it's great to be back here in Texas.
I'd also say for me it's certainly been a great honor to serve our sport in the capacity I've been asked to do by my fellow team owners. Certainly very interesting and enriching process for me, no question, throughout.
I think throughout this whole thing, there were certainly some key themes that we tried to keep as main values for this engine strategy. As Randy already said, you know, the matter of speed was certainly a very important one, and to have a powerful engine platform I think in keeping with the tradition of IndyCar values was very important.
Bringing innovation and diversity back into IndyCars we also felt was very important, as well as also being cost-effective. So I think with this new strategy, we were able to accomplish all of these goals.
On that, I'll pass it on to Brian.
BRIAN BARNHART: Good afternoon, everybody.
The basic idea was to announce the principles and strategy for the future engine specifications and declare IndyCar's commitment to diversification. Several details remain to be determined. We didn't want to establish criteria that prematurely eliminated any manufacturers who we felt the IndyCar Series would be a great platform to showcase their automotive technology.
We feel developing the rules in conjunction with the automotive manufacturers is a more rational approach. We feel it's more inclusive and welcoming rather than creating a rules package that is an obstacle to participation.
We listen to fans, we listen to the participants, and particularly to the owners and the drivers and the manufacturers. While there was no clear consensus on the direction to reinvent the IndyCar Series itself, there was one overriding clear mandate, and that's to make the series attractive for manufacturers to enter and bring back the variety to the engine and the chassis for manufacturers participating in the series.
As we announced this earlier this week, the engine rules will accommodate engines with a maximum of six cylinders, with an engine capacity of maximum at 2.4 liter displacement. The engines will range in power from 550 horsepower to 700 horsepower to suit the diverse set of tracks that the IZOD IndyCar Series races on. And the engines will be turbocharged to allow for the flexibility in this power range.
In keeping in the IZOD IndyCar Series brand value of green, they will continue to run on ethanol. That's the direction we announced on it.
I'll turn it over to Tony Cotman.
TONY COTMAN: Just have a couple of key points that I want to add to what Gil and Brian have already said.
We feel the engine strategy we've chosen is open, inclusive, powerful, high performance in keeping with all of the historical values of IndyCar racing, allow for development of relative, innovative platform for the future.
Looking at efficiency, performance, durability, quality, environmental friendliness, those are all key things we really need to consider and wanted to consider in the future.
Obviously one of the most difficult things is trying to determine the right formula for the wide variety of tracks that the IndyCar Series runs on.
EDDIE GOSSAGE: My role in this committee, as you look, you see these gentlemen are all very technical in nature. My expertise is in the marketing, promotion, whatnot of the sport. I think that's put me in touch with the fans. That's what Randy and I have talked about from the beginning. Last week at Indianapolis and just an hour or so ago here in Texas we held fan forums and gave the fans a chance to tell us what they wanted to see here from an IndyCar.
A transcript of last week's fan forum was sent to all the committee members. A transcript of today's forum will be sent to each of the committee members so they can see what the fans have said.
The thing we hear from them is the tracks, they want great performance, they expect high-quality performance out of the Indy Racing League, and certainly our experience here at the Texas Motor Speedway, the Indy Racing League has set the bar very high.
In looking at the engine combination, formula, we realized we wanted to maintain the speeds on the ovals and increase the speeds on the road courses. That's how we wound up in part and how we wound up with the formula that we've got. We're looking forward to going to Indianapolis tonight
I'd like to thank Randy for making this the fastest Victory Lane we are ever going to have at Texas Motor Speedway so I can get to the airplane to go to Indianapolis and have these meetings starting tomorrow.
But I think this group has done a great job discussing and debating and finding common areas to get along on this engine formula. That's where we're at.
I'll turn it over to the general.
GENERAL LOONEY: Good afternoon. I have to tell you it's great to be up here in Dallas. I live in San Antonio. It's good to be up here in Fort Worth, sorry. I live down in San Antonio. It's good to come north and cool off. I'm looking forward to the day here.
But as Randy mentioned, he really didn't mention it, but I will, of this group, I'm the odd man out because I'm not really a subject matter expert in the auto racing sport. However, I do have experience in acquisition, and I do have experience in the area of speed and danger since having been part of the Air Force flying community for 36 years.
Randy asked me if I'd help facilitate this group. It has been a real pleasure. I will tell you the conversations have been interesting, they've been free-wheeling. The opinions have been diverse. From what I saw, every avenue and issue was explored fully, and every idea, starting with concerns for the fans, to the speed on the track, to the safety for the drivers, et cetera. From my perspective, it's created quite a reasonable approach to an engine strategy that the manufacturers can work with, and now it's on to the chassis that we'll work with next week. Look forward to that.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and open it up for questions.
Q. Gil, maybe Randy, how did this go over with some of the other team owners? Some of them wanted a completely different type of engine regulation.
GIL de FERRAN: Well, I will tell you across the board on the team owners, I made a point of speaking to a lot of them personally and trying to understand their opinions. The team owner group is a very diverse one itself.
It's interesting that one of the two, I would say two key things that came across, that were common across the board, were that they all I think desired to some extent a level of participation for different engine manufacturers. I think that was a key point. And the other key point was the issue of being more cost-effective.
So those were the two thoughts that I certainly carried with me into the committee.
RANDY BERNARD: Well, I think when Gil was placed as the representative from the team owners, one of the first things he did, which I was very impressed with, was his extensive questionnaire that he gave to all the team owners. Some of them answered it impeccably well, and there were probably 10 or 15 pages worth of answers to those questions.
But I think that Gil has reached out to the team owners. I think the team owners will be very happy when they see the end result.
Q. Brian and Tony, how closely are you planning to monitor the engines? Provided we have multiple manufacturers, how close do you expect them to say before you start instituting rules? Is 10 horsepower close enough or do you expect the engines to be exactly equal to keep somebody from getting ahead?
BRIAN BARNHART: I think some of that depends on the racetrack you're on, too. We run places like here at Texas that are more a drag-limited type of racetrack and the horsepower differential is very important around here. It's less so at some of the road and street courses that we run at.
I don't know that we have a specific number in mind or a target other than we feel an obligation and a priority to make sure that we maintain a level playing field and the performance parameters are met and maintained.
Q. Brian, you said there were some things about the rules you've not decided yet. What about like cost, lease to own? Where are you with a couple of those things? Independent builders?
BRIAN BARNHART: We're going to probably stay in the same area that we are now and the engines will continue to be leased. The biggest reason for that, certainly anticipating manufacturer competition, is the protection of intellectual property.
The priority has been mentioned sitting up here, there is a focus from the owners to reduce the cost of participation. I think it's going to be a mandate by us when manufacturers sign on that there will be a significant reduction in those costs to participate.
The leasing will continue on it.
Q. The other part I wanted to say, Erik Berkman didn't think any other manufacturer could be onboard before '12. Is that what you say?
BRIAN BARNHART: The principles and strategies are written that someone could be. They've got three or four remaining months they could still notify for participation by 2012. It's our intention certainly, now that the strategies and principles have been announced, to continue. The burden is on us to attract manufacturers to the series. Now that we've got the general principles and strategies out there, we're going to continue to make contact with multiple manufacturers out there. We've had some ongoing dialogue. Certainly there's been some interest generated by what has been put out publicly right now. It will be a matter of hammering out those details and attracting somebody. Whether or not that can be done by '12 or not, I don't know.
Q. Eddie, as a promoter, the engine package, if there are two other manufacturers that come in and the new chassis, should they decide to allow more than one chassis, is that something as a promoter you can harp on, We have competition between whoever the manufacturers are? Is that good for what you do?
EDDIE GOSSAGE: What we're hearing from the fans is they like the engine package that opens the door for others to participate. At the same time, you know, they're very cognizant that Honda has made a commitment to the Indy Racing League and that they appreciate that and they're going to continue to support Honda for supporting their favorite sport.
But what we know is that if there are more manufacturers, there are more people marketing, advertising their involvement in the sport, that kind of thing. That just pays off dividends across the board.
I'm sure the Honda guys, they love winning the races, but they want to beat other people and stand on top of the hill and say, We're king of the hill. That gives them something to even do a better job with their marketing support. That, of course, brings more people to television sets, more people through the ticket gates, and makes IndyCar racing all the more stronger.
Q. Brian, if there isn't another competitor ready for 2012, how will you make it open so somebody can come in for 2013?
BRIAN BARNHART: It's open for the duration of these rules. The rules are set out. We're applying these rules from 2012 to 2015. There will be notification dates, which are basically the last race of two preceding off-seasons before that for the year of competition. So up until Homestead of this year, any manufacturer would have the ability to notify to participate in 2012, up and through the last race of next year would be their deadline for participation in 2013. It carries on that way throughout the duration of the term.
Q. (No microphone.)
BRIAN BARNHART: Yeah, if that's what we end up with. Obviously, that's not our stated goal. As we're all talking here, the clear idea is to attract additional manufacturers to what we're doing. The openness, all inclusiveness of what we're doing here hopefully will lead us down that path.
Q. Eddie, I was going to ask you a question. This past year there seems to be a lot of change in the IndyCar Series, kind of stepping it up with the advisory committee. Talk a little bit about how you feel -- the sense of direction the series is going in now.
EDDIE GOSSAGE: I think Gil was talking about this a little earlier. The word I would use is 'inclusiveness' to have a voice. At the end of the day, the Indy Racing League can choose to listen or not listen to this committee's recommendation. That's certainly their role and function, is to administer this sport fairly and evenly for everybody. But it's great as a stakeholder to have an opportunity to be able to say your piece and be heard.
I appreciate that, you know. I can tell you, I mean, to cut through what you said, Randy is the new guy here. I'm looking forward to more and more things that Randy is going to bring to IndyCar racing because, you know, he's slowly - I don't mean that in a bad way, Randy - he's slowly getting his feet wetter every day and able to bring more to the table. I like what I've seen from Randy so far.
I look forward to working with him for a long time.
Q. Brian, if other engine manufacturers come in, I know I've talked to a couple of the car guys that are proposing cars, they say, If we supply all the cars, the cost is one price. If there's more than one, it's going to cost a little more for each car. How will that work if you get two or three other engine manufacturers in instead of supplying as they do now Honda supplying everybody? Will that raise the cost?
BRIAN BARNHART: The price structure is yet to be determined on it. With or without competition, our goal is to significantly reduce the cost of participation to our owners right now. I think we'll be able to achieve that whether it's a sole supplier or competitive environment. There will be a significant reduction.
Q. Brian, you've got basically a bulletproof package right now with Honda. Have they committed to this new formula or is this just a clean sheet right down the way?
BRIAN BARNHART: We've certainly had ongoing dialogue with Honda. They've been an absolutely tremendous partner for us. We just concluded the fifth consecutive Indianapolis 500 without an engine failure. That's unprecedented in any form of motorsports at any level.
There's a lot to be said for what they bring to the table in terms of performance, durability, reliability, what they bring right now in the support of the series, marketing and activation. They've made it clear to us over the years they welcome and encourage manufacturer participation and we're going to try and provide that for them.
This has had a lot of conversation with them, leaning in this direction. I think they're onboard with the general principles and strategy, that this is an open and inclusive environment that will hopefully attract the manufacturer as the stated goal.
Q. Brian and Gil, after you hear these presentations this week, what is your time frame? Don't these chassis all have to be tested on the track by somebody? Gil, are you going to get in one of these and drive one yourself? Isn't there a lot of actual physical testing that will have to be done no matter what you choose? How long is this process?
BRIAN BARNHART: Well, maybe some testing more than others depending on which direction you go, which chassis are chosen. That's why I think Randy from day one has stated we'll have a decision by June 30th on the chassis, and for a 2012 implementation that gives him 18 months.
Q. When and if new manufacturers come into the league, is there a concern maybe the discrepancy between the haves and have not's, the more established teams, maybe are greater? If so, how does that get mitigated to promote competition?
GIL de FERRAN: Well, I think the league, the IndyCar Series, has done a great job over the years of providing a level playing field for all the competitors. I certainly don't feel disadvantaged, even though we are a very young team relative to all the other teams that have been more dominant during the past several years.
Personally, I feel right now my job is to do a better job as a team and to try to get my team up front. But I know that the equipment that is available to me is the same as everyone else's equipment. I'm okay with that scenario.
I think the vision that we have discussed is to continue with this scenario where any team has the availability to the have the good equipment, but obviously for you to become successful you still have to do a good job as a team and you have to have a driver that does a good job as well.
Q. Randy, what impact, if any, did bringing in a title sponsor for the series impact this whole committee process? Having the title sponsor, does that make you want to do something to increase viewership, attendance, et cetera? Does that make that a greater need than before?
RANDY BERNARD: I think first and foremost, when IZOD became involved in the sport, it was prior to me. One of my first meetings was with IZOD. I was blown away with their passion and drive, which I've said many times, to see where they want to take the sport.
I think that momentum we've been able to create. I think every one of these people up here have a huge weight on their back because they have a huge responsibility. They have to determine what the next car is going to be, if it's going to be a success or a failure, bottom line. That's a huge, huge task that these folks are working with right now.
I'm very proud to have picked these guys because it's been an unbelievable process. I know we're a better IndyCar property today with this team than we were four months ago, still just trying to figure out what our plans were. Three months ago, sorry.
Q. I have a couple technical questions I assume that might be for Brian. Do you expect this would be a stressed or non-stressed member?
BRIAN BARNHART: At this point it hasn't been determined.
Q. From a regulating standpoint, do you think it would be a sonic orifice fuel or boost related?
BRIAN BARNHART: Again, it could be any combination of them. I think we're looking seriously at monitoring the fuel flow rate in the total fuel allocation as our priorities to start with along perhaps with a maximum boost level as well.
Q. Does the stress, non-stress member, the reason I ask is that when you talk to other manufacturers, those details for them, if they wanted to make a decision, they have to have those details, is that wrapped into the chassis discussion?
BRIAN BARNHART: Absolutely. That's something that's yet to be determined with the meetings that are ongoing in the coming week.
Q. Brian, you're headed towards multiple engines. Do I understand there will be only one chassis? Why not open it up to several manufacturers when you're opening up the whole program?
BRIAN BARNHART: I think we're in a position we can't talk about the chassis at this point with the ongoing process with the iconic committee coming in the next week.
Q. General, coming into leading this group or keeping it organized, how different is what the discussions are in and the variations they're trying to put together from what you were involved with in the Air Force? Is this a similar situation? At the Air Force, when anybody said something you didn't like, you could tell them you had four stars, whereas here you might need boxing gloves here.
GENERAL LOONEY: To tell you the truth, in the Air Force, you'd be surprised how well four stars don't work sometimes. Quite candidly, I was more of a facilitator than leading this group. This group is well-versed in all the things they needed to consider and discussed.
There were a lot of similarities. When you do acquisitions for a sophisticated fighters, airlift aircraft, you're looking at speed, durability, reliability, safety aspects, cost-effectiveness. So all of that played into it. Instead of being at 30,000 feet and determining how we were going to operate this machine, I was down here at ground level. Instead of going Mach II, I'm going about 220 miles an hour.
But I understand that's a helluva lot scarier than being up at Mach II at 30,000 feet, isn't that right, Randy? I think Randy just got a ride today, but he only got 170 miles.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and wrap things up. We thank everyone on the group.
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