PHOENIX - Chevrolet's 2003 Chevy Indy V8 racing engine,
which was designed and developed in-house by GM Racing, debuted at the
season-opening event of the 16-race Indy Racing League IndyCar Series in
Homestead, Fla., on March 2. In the following Q&A, Joe Negri, GM Racing
Group manager, and Steve Shannon, GM executive director - marketing
services, discuss the progress of Chevrolet's IRL program going into the
second round of the IndyCar Series, the Purex/Dial Indy 200 at Phoenix
International Raceway on March 23.
Q. What is the current status of Chevy's IndyCar Series program?
Joe Negri: We are aggressively pursuing research and development programs with the new Chevy Indy V8, and we have made improvements for Phoenix. In addition to our engine development program, we have been working very hard with Chevrolet teams on chassis and aerodynamics because we recognize that it takes a complete package to be competitive on the race track.
Q. What are the areas that GM Racing is focusing on?
Negri: We are concentrating on areas that will increase horsepower and improve fuel economy. These include optimization of the camshaft timing, compression ratio, and intake and system tuning. Experience teaches us that at the beginning of a season with an all-new engine design, reliability is paramount. There were no failures in the opening race at Homestead with the new engines, which was a remarkable achievement by all three of the manufacturers in the IRL.
Our top priority was to bring a reliable engine package to Homestead, and we achieved that goal. Now that we have proven the soundness of the basic engine design, we are shifting our focus to developing more power and enhancing fuel economy.
Q. Were there any issues with the new 2003 chassis?
Negri: Most of our preseason testing was done with modified 2002 chassis. When teams tested the 2003 chassis at the Test in the West, we found that the new chassis were not as well suited to our engine as the previous version. The teams and chassis manufacturer responded quickly to make changes before the Homestead race and those problems are now resolved.
Q. What are your expectations for the Phoenix race and beyond?
Negri: Like Homestead, the Phoenix track emphasizes handling as well as horsepower. Chevy teams have tested well at Phoenix and have made significant strides in understanding the setups for their new chassis. We are making continuous improvements in engine performance as well and we expect that they will become apparent as the season continues.
Q. Are you planning to add any teams to the Chevrolet roster?
Negri: At this point we do not intend to add any more development teams, and we are working hard to help our one-car teams grow to two-car teams. While the current economic climate has made sponsorship a difficult issue in all forms of motorsports, we have programs in place to assist Chevrolet teams in securing the funding they need. We are optimistic that these efforts will ultimately prove successful.
Q. Has GM sought any concessions from the IRL?
Negri: Absolutely not. We have never discussed concessions, and we do not expect or want the IRL to make concessions for any manufacturer.
Q. Will GM Racing submit new "closed" engine components to the IRL for approval?
Negri: That is the system that has been in place during the six years that GM has competed in the IRL. In the past, when GM or Infiniti developed new major engine components, they were submitted to IRL technical officials for approval. In some instances, they were approved immediately, and in others we had to wait for approval. For example, we introduced new cylinder heads for the IRL Aurora V8 in August 2000. GM Racing subsequently made changes in the block which we also submitted for approval.
We are committed to continuously improving the Chevy Indy V8, and when we develop new major components we will submit them for IRL approval as we have done in the past.
Q. Can GM compete with the new manufacturers in the IRL?
Steve Shannon: The fact is that we compete successfully with them every day in the marketplace for car and truck sales. GM is the No. 1 automobile manufacturer in the world, and we very familiar with global competition. Competition is what drives us to improve quality and value for our customers.
GM competes with a wide range of manufacturers on the race track, from our domestic rivals in stock car racing to exotic marques in international road racing. Chevy has won more championships in major motorsports series than any other manufacturer, and Chevy engines dominate grassroots auto racing. Today Chevrolet is the only manufacturer that races in the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. So when you look at the big picture, the IndyCar Series is one of many series in which Chevrolet participates as part of its overall business plan.
Q. What is GM's commitment to the IRL?
Shannon: GM is committed to be an engine supplier and marketing partner with the IRL through at least 2005. This is the continuation of a relationship that began in 1996, so we have made a long-term commitment to the success of the series. Motorsports is cyclical, and we recognize that you can't win every race. Students of racing history know GM's current rivals in the IRL have struggled at times in the past in open-wheel racing, just as Chevrolet initially struggled in the mid-'80s. The first-generation Chevy Indy V8 was winless in 1986, but just two years later Chevrolet won 14 out of 15 races. To put the current situation in perspective, we've had one race in the first season of a three-year commitment we've made to the IRL. Chevy is in racing for the long run, and that is what has made Chevy the most successful manufacturer in American motorsports.
Go to our forums to discuss this article