Chevrolet Returns To IZOD IndyCar Series Press Conference
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Good morning and welcome to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. Great to see each one of you here today on what promises to be a very special day. It's already been a very exciting day here in Indianapolis. We'd like to thank you all for coming out.
Let's begin by giving you a rundown of what's going to happen. We'll start off by introducing some special guests, get to the formal announcement, then a Q&A for members of the media who are here.
We'd like to begin by recognizing a number of very special guests with us in the audience today. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Board of Directors is represented here today as well as the Hulman-George family. Mari Hulman-George down in the front row, along with Nancy, Josie and Tony is here somewhere. Also members of the ICONIC Advisory Committee, Gil de Ferran, also Eddie Gossage is here, and Neil Ressler is with us this morning, as well. Thank you for being here.
I'd like to introduce to you Jim Campbell, vice president of performance vehicles in motorsports for Chevrolet. Tony Cotman, project manager of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series car. Tony, thank you for being here. And the CEO of Indianapolis Motor Speedway Mr. Jeff Belskus. Also we'd like to introduce Mr. Bud Denker of Penske Corporation.
A number of drivers have been kind enough to join us today for our announcement. A couple of current drivers are here with us, Will Power is here. Also as Simona De Silvestro. Several former drivers, Scott Goodyear is here. Derek Daly is here, as well. A couple former winners of this Indianapolis 500, Al Unser Jr. is here, and Arie Luyendyk is over there as well.
We'd also like to welcome Martin Plowman, Firestone Indy Lights Series driver.
We'd like to introduce the people behind me on the dais who will be speaking in just a couple of minutes. Randy Bernard, the CEO of the IZOD IndyCar Series. Also on the dais with us this morning, Chris Perry, U.S. vice president of Chevrolet marketing. Next to Chris is Tom Stephens, GM vice chairman of global product development. The two other gentlemen you know well, Roger Penske, owner of Penske Racing, a 15-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, and Helio Castroneves to my far right, a three-time winner of this race.
As you all know, Chevrolet has a very, very rich history at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Right now we'd like to pause and have you watch a short video.
THE MODERATOR: Now for our formal announcement, please help me in welcoming Randy Bernard, CEO of the IZOD IndyCar Series.
RANDY BERNARD: Good morning. On behalf of the Hulman-George family, I'd like to thank you all for attending. Today is a great day for race fans, team owners, drivers and the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Nine months ago when I started, I've learned a significant amount since then. I've learned how important tradition, heritage and passion is to this sport, from the history to the future.
It's been amazing to me to see the fans come up to me and share their stories, how long they've been coming, 30, 40, 50 straight years to the Indy 500, and who their favorite drivers and engines and the cars were. It's also been very important to me to see the passion of individuals. From the Hulman-George family in 1945 that have fostered the prestigious proving ground of the innovative property and Speedway here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Or Roger Penske, who has been racing and winning since 1958. Mr. Penske has 15 Indianapolis 500 wins. I have to be honest with you, I wouldn't be standing up here today with this announcement if it hadn't been for Mr. Penske's help with this whole process.
It's not only about passionate individuals, but passionate auto manufacturers. Auto manufacturers have always used the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a proving ground for relevance, innovation and technology. They've always showcased what is going to be in the showroom. That's a must. This must continue to happen for IndyCar to be successful.
I want to thank the ICONIC Advisory Committee and the project manager Tony Cotman. Their collectiveness on setting the technical direction of the future of our sport has been very important and also opening the door to competition.
The one thing that we have heard time and time again from fans and everyone involved in the IZOD IndyCar Series is, "We want competition." Today is a new day. The IndyCar is excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. It's an honor to stand here today and know that we're moving forward, joining forces with an American manufacturer whose heritage runs deep since 1909 when Louis Chevrolet raced here. Amazing heritage.
At this time I'd like to bring up Chris Perry to share the exciting news.
CHRIS PERRY: Thank you, Randy. Good morning, everybody. Thanks for joining us.
We have some exciting news to share with you today. An announcement that reinforces our legacy as an authentic American brand and our reputation for winning on the racetrack.
As many of you know, we reach our centennial in 2011. Over our first 100 years, Chevrolet has formed an emotional connection with this country. We celebrate that connection through our most recent advertising campaign. We're demonstrating how Chevy runs deep within the fabric of the American culture.
That's also true in the racing world. In fact, we are proud to say Chevrolet is the winningest name in racing. No brand has visited the winner's circle more often than Chevrolet.
Our commitment to racing began with our founder, Louis Chevrolet, who used to visit the Speedway on weekends with his brothers. He would race in the Indianapolis 500 four times.
Today our performance success has spread throughout several motorsports series, including NASCAR with the Impala and the Silverado, the American Le Mans Series with the iconic Corvette, the Grand-Am Series with the Camaro, and NHRA drag racing.
As you remember, we're also a force to be reckoned with in open-wheel racing, including right here at the Indianapolis 500. Chevrolet competed previously as an engine manufacturer between 1986 and 1993, and again between 2002 and 2005 with V8 engines. We won 104 races, powering six driver champions and scoring seven Indianapolis 500 victories.
I'm honored today to announce that Chevrolet will return to IndyCar racing in the 2012 calendar year powering the next generation of racecars. We are proud and excited to build on our legacy of racing success with this new era of the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Why return to IndyCar? There are several reasons. First this series opens up a new, distinct fan base for Chevrolet in the motorsports community. These fans are passionate about IndyCar and the technology that drives the sport and these teams. A return provides an important opportunity to expose our product and our technology to this well-educated, highly desirable audience.
Second, the series is growing in interest and popularity. In the past year, male viewership in the 18 to 34 age demographic has raised 40 percent. At the same time, the growth of sponsorship investments has more than doubled in one year's time. The advantage of motorsports for the auto industry is obvious. It provides some of the highest return on investment on any promotion that we conduct.
The third reason, we know that the technology learnings we acquire by participating on the track with IndyCar will translate to the vehicles we produce today, and vice versa, creating a strong production technology relevance.
Those are all sound and important business reasons to get back into the series. But there's one reason that drives us more than any other: we are competitors and we are returning to IndyCar to win.
Our goal, no matter which series we enter, no matter which track we compete on, is to power Chevrolet drivers to Victory Lane. That's our goal here, as well. It will be great to compete on the track in IndyCar once again.
This is a natural fit for Chevrolet. This is where it all began for our company. We are all proud to be back. I believe Louis Chevrolet would be proud of our return here as well. He loved this place. This announcement today reflects his philosophy that's etched into the bust just outside this museum: Never give up.
Now, let's look at the facts behind our new Chevrolet technology for the track. To do that, here is our vice chairman for global product operations, Tom Stephens.
TOM STEPHENS: Thank you, Chris.
It's really great to be here to cheer on Chevrolet's return to IndyCar, one of the world's most competitive and high-tech race series. At GM our vision is to design, build and sell the world's best vehicles. Racing is one of the best ways to learn, as well as to showcase what we can do.
Reentering Indy-style racing lets us take our advanced engine technology to the upper bounds of what's possible. It will provide a dynamic training ground for our engineers who will transfer the technologies we develop for racing to the products we sell to our customers.
Racing will also help us with some of the major challenges facing the industry. Among the most critical are new fuel economy standards, CO2 regulations and petroleum supply and demand volatility.
Developing a portfolio of solutions that allows customers to choose the vehicles that best meet their needs while addressing fuel economy, CO2 and energy concern is the focus of GM's advanced propulsion engine technology strategy. We're working on alternative fuels like ethanol and electricity, and we're also improving the efficiency of our power trains, using new technologies like direction injection, small displacement engines with turbo charging, reduced friction and many others.
Our partnership with Ilmor will help us quickly push the state-of-the-art with these technologies and will apply the knowledge we gain to our production engines. For example, Chevrolet is already a recognized leader in implementing direct injected four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines. We've launched a number of segment-leading VI powerplants. Now we're looking to expand this technology to even more production applications.
Turbo charging and smaller displacement engines are other areas where we can apply improvements from racing to our high-volume passenger cars. One great example is the 1.4 turbocharged engine in the Chevrolet Cruze, which offers best-in-segment highway fuel economy. This engine can drive small when you want the best efficiency, but it can also drive large when you need the best performance. It's like having two engines in one.
Now, building on this foundation, our partnership with Ilmor will help us accelerate our advanced propulsion strategy. We'll develop the most advanced engine technologies. We'll work on further increasing performance while using the least amount of fuel. We'll learn how to get the most out of E85 ethanol. We'll put all this knowledge into our new IndyCar engine for 2012. It will be an efficient, high-performance twin-turbo V6 with direct injection and have a displacement of 2.4 liters or less.
Beyond engine improvements, we'll also compete at the cutting edge of aerodynamics, safety, electronics, and materials innovation to make our IndyCars and then our production vehicles even more efficient, safer, more innovative and especially more fun to drive.
Chevrolet is already one of the most successful competitors in motorsports worldwide. And with IndyCar racing, we'll put our focus on delivering the world's best vehicles into overdrive.
Our goal is to win on the track, in advanced technology, and in the marketplace. That's why we're proud to once again partner with Ilmor Engineering, for over two decades one of the world's best racing engine developer.
It's a great pleasure for me to introduce Roger Penske, who is here today to share Ilmor's perspective on our exciting new partnership.
Thank you. I'll turn it over to Roger.
ROGER PENSKE: Thank you, Tom. Welcome, everybody, this morning.
First, Mari, I want to thank you and the family for providing us the greatest racetrack in the world to compete on. I know there's many people here today that know that. It's why I'm here. Certainly when I see IZOD represented here with Starke, to me to see the sponsorship in the series going forward has made a huge difference for us in 2010. We look for to this as we go forward.
Certainly the ICONIC committee, I know many of the members here. It's terrific to see the cross-pollenization of engineering and certainly driver and track ownership that have come together to make this change.
Tony, you helped bring this league together, which was so important with Kevin last year. We've seen the benefits of this with more people racing, more teams. We've seen new rookies that have come in. We have four ladies running in our series, which is just terrific. I think the demographics are different.
At the time I had the opportunity to talk to Mark Reuss about the opportunity to maybe come into IndyCar racing, he wanted to know what is the momentum, people thing, team thing, can Chevrolet come back and be a winner. Obviously, there were a lot of discussions about that in the ensuing months.
I want to thank Tom. To have a global leader like himself come here today shows you the impact that this decision has on Chevrolet. They've reduced models in General Motors. They're focusing more on their key brands.
Chris, from a marketing perspective, you know what we need to have in this series. Jim Campbell, Mark, I can't thank you enough for bringing this together.
As Ilmor, we're in the racing business. Ilmor has partnered with Honda to build the current engines we've been running. Not one failure in the 500 over the last five years. What a track record. I think a level playing field. Many of us are competing head-to-head with the other teams. I would say that Ilmor and Honda provided that level playing field and we expect with Chevrolet, and obviously with a competitor on the racetrack, we're going to see the game move up, but we're also going to see more competition.
What does that mean? More customers, more dealers, more employees, more fans are going to be involved in supporting this sport. That's what we need. We need to fill this grandstands every May and fill the tracks around the country.
Someone asked me about Detroit. Obviously, we love to run in Detroit. I know Randy has done a terrific job taking the series to the next step. The different venues are key to us. As we go forward, we have to do that.
Tony, your involvement on the rules, very, very important to us that we have a level playing field. We need to keep our costs down, we need to get our racing up. We need to showcase brands around the world.
To me, this couldn't be a better day. This is a team: it's a manufacturer, it's a track, it's a league, it's sponsors and competitors. For me, I can't say enough to thank the people up here obviously for their commitment.
Look, we're all here. Look at the cars out there. Gives me goosebumps. When I came here in 1951 with my dad to see the first race, to look at the success our team has had, my name might be on the door, but it's the people behind the door that made the difference. There's stories every single time we race at Indianapolis.
Great opportunity for us. I want to thank everybody, Mari, you and your family, Tony, Jeff, just done a terrific, terrific job.
Helio won the last race here with a Chevy, his second in a row, so I'll turn it over to you. Thank you for the support today.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank you, Roger.
This is incredible news, yes. My last win, the win with the Chevrolet engine, was in 2002. We still had the fuel, believe it or not. We could make it. It turned out to be a great victory.
I can only say as a driver this is incredible news because turbo charge is back, baby. It's all about fun. For sure, it's going to be enjoyable again. It's going to be a lot of fun.
Not only that, as a fan, as Roger was talking about, especially for the fans, they're going to see competition. You're going to cheer for whatever manufacturer you're looking for. The teams I believe are going to gain with that. It's a win-win situation that we actually are facing here today.
Obviously IZOD IndyCar Series, it's coming back. I remember very well when we had the grandstands full. I guarantee with those news, you're going to create excitement again, you're going to make people want to come back and see the drivers, the fastest drivers on the track. I can only thank everyone actually because being here today, part of this news is just to make you go back out there on the racetrack and try everything you can to go fast.
Great news. Excited to be part of it. Hopefully we're going to continue having a lot more fun. So thank you, everyone.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen. We'll start our media Q&A session.
Starke Taylor of IZOD, we'd like to thank you for being here. Also, J.R. Hildebrand slipped in back in the back by the trophy case. J.R., thanks for being here this morning.
We'll start off with a brief Q&A period here.
Q. The gentlemen from Chevrolet, you showed up on the screen aerodynamics. With your performance in building engines, will you also build an aero kit for the cars?
CHRIS PERRY: We're working right now with the league to finalize the rules package. We do expect to work on an aero package. We have a lot of capability in our shop, in the tunnel. Also be working with Roger Penske and his team getting the best aero package we can within the rules. Once we get set by IndyCar, we'll be off and running.
Q. Roger, do you expect this engine to be available to whichever teams want to get involved with it besides Penske Racing?
ROGER PENSKE: I think as we've seen in the past when we've had multiple engineer manufacturers, each team has the opportunity to pick a manufacturer. I think this is what makes the level playing field as we go forward.
The goal of the league is to have engines from the two manufacturers throughout the field. I've not seen exactly how that's going to be put together. I can tell you anything that we have has been in the past when we provided engines. The same thing had been from the aero kit. This is going to give Chevrolet, General Motors, the benefit of not just one team but multiple teams throughout the field, which I think that's exactly what the league wants.
CHRIS PERRY: We're thrilled that Roger is joining Chevrolet, we'll be joining them. Obviously there's a number of other teams out there. We'll certainly be talking to them here in the future.
Q. Roger, you're a pretty influential person. You made the call to Chevrolet and got the ball rolling. Did you make the call to Ford yet?
ROGER PENSKE: I guess when you live in Detroit, you have an opportunity to communicate with all the manufacturers. I think we helped the committee with some introductions, with at all the manufacturers. I think Chevrolet looked at this in their strategy with the brand going forward, felt it would be a time to go. Hopefully this will bring the other big three manufacturers in.
Also, to me, we need to see this be a worldwide series with competition from around the world. So this is the first step. Typically when someone makes that step, people are going to open their eyes and say, This is a real opportunity for us, we don't want to miss the chance to compete at the Indy 500. I think that's what's happening. Honda certainly has done that. Chevy has seen the opportunity to go through the door with the new rules, the way we're going to structure the league in the future, I think we'll see other people in.
I just live in Detroit and try to do my job.
CHRIS PERRY: It's more than just compete at Indy. For the first time in history, when you look at the challenges in our industry, the technologies that need to be developed very quickly to address those challenges are the same technologies you need to develop here to win at Indy. It really does make it a very attractive situation for the OEMs these days.
Q. Helio, the speed at Indy has settled in at 225, 226. Is there a chance this might push them back up to the 230 range?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You might ask Tony, but my understanding is there's a lot of work being done to look at speed and aerodynamics. We want to keep the driver in the car, not just everybody be able to able to drive around wide open at a track like this.
On the technical side, Tony Cotman, to be sure, that we do have the right situation, I'll let him add to that.
TONY COTMAN: I think it's fair to say that the vehicles have been designed to be more efficient. More efficiency often leads to greater speeds. There's many things to take into consideration.
But I think that you'll find the vehicle is plenty capable of running that even with smaller displacement, reduction in horsepower. It's capable of doing it. So at the end of the day I think it's up to IndyCar to choose the direction they want to go. I'll say the pace will be there, the performance will be there to do it.
Q. Tony, in a release that came out the other day, it said that the manufacturer, in this case Chevrolet, there's no house team, no Chevy teams. So when the testing goes on, will it be open to everybody? Will they rotate different teams as they go out to test their product so that everybody gets a chance to run it?
TONY COTMAN: I think we need to get a little deeper into it when we're talking about testing. But in reality, I think I'll just reiterate what Roger said: obviously, there's heritage here with Ilmor, Chevy and Penske. Any other team who runs a Chevrolet will have exactly the same specification that Penske will have.
When we go and we get into a test program between IndyCar and Ilmor, we plan on having a car on track mid next year anyway, and that will develop. Hopefully we can develop a pattern which we can put together with a test program.
I'm sure we'll get to a point when teams have decided which engine manufacturer they're going to choose. There will be on-track testing. I think on-track testing is just an evolution. You're constantly evolving, updating, trying to fine tune into a certain period before the race.
I think it's fair to say that everybody will be involved or participate all the way up to the end. As we've said before, this is about competition. It's about controlling competition within certain aspects. But it's about being in together.
I think it's in Chevy's best interest they have more teams participating in what's going on. I think it will lead to a far more level playing field in the long-term.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Thank you all for coming. We appreciate your attendance and have a terrific day.
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