Brian Lisles slams the IRL
Brian Lisles is general manager of Newman/Haas Racing. Lisles has been with the team for more than twenty years and started his racing career in his native England as an engineer with the Tyrrell F1 team. As Newman/Haas's general manager Lisles is in charge of balancing the team's books so he's very aware and well-informed on everything from sponsorship to engineering. Lisles is a very professional, reserved individual who speaks quietly, measuring his words with care. He speaks out only when he feels seriously wronged or frustrated and this is one of those times.
Lisles is among many IndyCar engineers and team owners who were big supporters of the Delta Wing concept and were deeply disappointed when the Delta Wing was rejected along with three other contenders for the new Indy car of 2012 in favor of a renewed Dallara-Honda combination. Lisles thinks the 'Iconic' committee did a poor job of making the car selection and believes that IndyCar needs help on many fronts. In particular, he thinks Randy Bernard urgently needs to hire an experienced racing man with plenty of engineering knowledge, a man very like Dan Gurney in fact.
"I applaud the IRL for thinking outside the box and getting a new leader who may or may not be the marketing guru that everybody says he is," Lisles commented. "But unfortunately they only did half the package. They needed the other half--somebody who actually understood motor racing from the inside, its history and how it works. Clearly, marketing is very important, but I think you need somebody alongside you who is smart and knows about motor racing and understands the history and why things are the way they are and what has happened in the past. And I don't see anyone there with those capabilities."
Nor does Lisles think the 'Iconic' committee did a good job of reducing the cost of car and engine.
"As always, it's all about the money and there is a big disconnect between what the series is worth and how much it costs," Lisles observed. "You can't fix it by tackling one aspect. You have to tackle both aspects in a hurry. They've tackled the car, not very well, but they have not done anything and I don't know what they can do to increase the revenue of the teams.
"Certainly, they did not do a very good job at all of reducing the teams' costs. The car is still expensive and the engine is still horrendously expensive compared to what could have been done. It was a pretty half-hearted attempt. The car should be less expensive and the engine should be a half or a third of what they've done the deal for and we should have been tackling the marginal costs too."
Lisles wrote a briefing for the committee about the cost saving in eliminating refueling, a lesson even Formula One has learned.
"We should not have refueling," he said. "But the only way you can do that is to have a car that burns a lot less fuel, which was one of the attractions of the Delta Wing. We could have actually had a car that didn't require refueling.
"That was all in my submission to them about knocking costs out here and there, but they drove blithely past all of it. It was very disappointing. I could have thrown all that refueling stuff out of my truck. We would have needed one less truck and I wouldn't have to pay for all that equipment and would need that many fewer people."
Lisles is adamant that going to a cosmetically changed new Dallara-Honda in 2012 won't begin to solve IndyCar's problems. He points to Champ Car's famous last stand with the Panoz DP01 in 2007.
"The new car won't make any difference," Lisles declared. "I know that there seems to be a fear in the United States of looking at history and learning lessons from history. But you only have to go back a few years to look at the introduction of the Panoz DP01 which made zero difference to Champ Car.
"And why should it make any difference? The only people who know that the car is different are the people who are already interested in the series. Sure, they're your audience. But they're not enough to sustain the system. You need a much bigger audience. You need to attract the people who don't know about IndyCar racing. From a business point of view, it seems to me that the new car and new engine will make absolutely no difference to the series." More from Gordon Kirby, The Way it Was