Tuning 2012 IndyCar engine regulations

Trevor Knowles is elbows-deep in compressors and injectors. Not literally, mind you. But with three manufacturers developing their own V6 engines for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series car, the director of engine development for INDYCAR is immersed in working with Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus on the time-sensitive project.

Knowles also will develop the rules and performance standards.

“With three engine manufacturers coming on board for 2012, the task of managing the introduction of three new engines – and they all are brand new bespoke engines – homologation requirements, new regulations and the subsequent management of those requirements is going to require not just a single person but a dedicated team that’s engine-focused," INDYCAR vice president of technology Will Phillips said.

“The manufacturers are committing large sums of money and we need to show that we’re treating that investment and doing our job for them as well as us. We went through a rigorous process and Trevor was the best candidate and ideally suited to lead that for INDYCAR."

Knowles has an extensive motorsport background with experience in Indy car racing, NASCAR and Formula 1. He worked with Penske Racing and Evernham Motorsports in NASCAR and also worked with Honda Performance Development, helping develop the 2003-2006 Honda Indy V8 engine and the Acura's P2 engine for the American Le Mans Series.

The IZOD IndyCar Series engine project, whose specs were introduced in June 2010, includes a switch from normally aspirated V8 engines to turbocharged V6s (2.2 liters of displacement) that will produced between 550 and 700 horsepower depending on the circuit/oval.

“Most series are shrinking on what you can do, choices of chassis-engine, whereas the IndyCar Series is going the opposite direction of going from one engine to three manufacturers, opening up chassis rules," Knowles said. “It is all good stuff. It’s a sign of a growing series and an exciting place to be.

“The turbocharged formula gives you a lot more opportunity for managing engine performance, and the way INDYCAR plans to do it is pretty unique among racing series. It opens up a lot of scope for us to put on real exciting racing. With INDYCAR racing on so many different types of tracks, you can adjust the engine performance to suit that type of track.

“The current engines have done an excellent job, and this new formula gives us an opportunity to really adjust the engine and I think it’s a great idea. And V6 engines are just nice-sounding engines and I think it will be good for fans."

The seven-member ICONIC committee unanimously agreed last July that the next generation car would be a rolling chassis – the IndyCar Safety Cell – developed and manufactured by Dallara Automobili. Multiple engine manufacturers were invited to produce the public-relevant engines fueled by E85 gasoline. Testing begins in early August, with teams scheduled to take delivery of their first chassis on Dec. 15. Engine manufacturer testing with a chassis is scheduled for mid-October.

“With the management of the regulations, a very good technical committee has been formed between INDYCAR and the manufacturers and Trevor will play an integral role," Phillips said. “He’ll visit all the manufacturers to make sure they’re staying within the intention of the letter of the law. It’s often when you write a rulebook from scratch for new engines it’s difficult to catch every single minute detail, and we’re working closely with them to make sure that they not only follow the letter of the law but maintain the spirit of what we’re trying to do – be open and fair and give everyone clear and concise direction of what they can and can’t do.

“We have to provide a set of regulations that we can officiate over. We’re trying to limit the cost to the competitors; there’s a fixed price for the engine, there’s a fixed price for every single entrant. It will be the same price for every single manufacturer no matter who you work for. That’s one of the fundamental intentions, and that cost is very much reduced from this year to next year."

So, will Knowles be more marketing or policeman?

“At this stage, we’re working closely with the engine manufacturers," he said. “We don’t want to get into a situation we’ve had before where we have one manufacturer; we want to keep interest high and to do that we need to work with the manufacturers and any potential new manufacturers.

“(Adding other engine manufacturers) would be a long-term goal. Increasing manufacturer involvement makes the series stronger and more entertaining."

Added Phillips: “We have to be the policemen. Decisions have to be made and INDYCAR will make those decisions and those decisions won’t always be liked by every party but that’s our job and we have to guide the regulations going forward." IndyCar.com

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