AER’s turbo in sports car guise. (Marshall Pruett photo)
The Indy Lights series will have a small-displacement turbo engine to power the new and recently announced Dallara chassis that will debut in 2015, completing the overhaul that began when Andersen Promotions took control of the series in July.
England’s Advanced Engine Research (AER), has been tasked with providing a version of its championship-winning 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged sports car engine to accompany the Dallara IL-15. After being nominated to power the European GP3 series with its 3.4-liter V6, AER will supply two spec open-wheel championships with the addition of the Indy Lights contract.
The engine’s endurance racing heritage in the American Le Mans Series and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a unique choice by Andersen Promotions owner Dan Andersen and his advisor Tony Cotman of NZR Consulting. Rather than commission a deal that would see a clean-sheet engine design for the IL-15, Andersen went with an existing solution that can provide the desired power levels for an entire season with a single unit.
In another interesting twist ” one that places the burden on Andersen to find a commercial partner ” the new Indy Lights engine will be available for branding by an auto manufacturer.
?We got to the point where we had proposals from Honda and Nissan and BMW, and we hoped to get Mazda interested but right now they’re so invested in their expansion of their sports car program that they were not able to do anything right now,? Andersen told RACER. ?Hopefully, in another year, Mazda will revisit it.
?Regardless, I looked at the engine lease deals that everyone was proposing, everyone had nice motors, but there was not a lot of support being offered for the series or the champion’s prizes, so I decided if I go with AER, I’ve got a bespoke engine and I can badge it with any manufacturer that wants to come along and partner with the series. It gives me options.?
Andersen says signing an auto manufacturer isn’t a make-or-break situation for the Indy Lights series, but it would be an obvious benefit to everyone involved with the championship.
?I need a manufacturer to partner at some point because I want to build up the prize package and I need to have more spending done around the series, but I don’t have to from a financial standpoint,? he explained. ?Right now our business plan works with this program exactly the way we have it. What an engine manufacturer would do would be to enhance what I can offer.
?We’ve already gone out with our prize package but if I got manufacturer support, I could enhance that. It’s something that I want for a lot of positive reasons but it’s not something I desperately need.?
The various attributes of the AER engine, as Andersen shares, should make for a light and dynamic racing product.
?It makes gobs of horsepower, and we’ll actually have to ratchet it down; it’s too powerful for our application,? he said. ?It’ll run a whole season, 6000 miles. We will offer it at 450hp. I could put a 100hp push-to-pass on top of that but I’m not going to do that because that’s too much. So we’ll probably offer it with a 50hp push-to-pass, which does make life interesting.
?It’s a very light engine, 97 kilos, with a low center of gravity, and we’re aiming for a total vehicle weight around 1400 pounds. This is going to be a pretty interesting racecar with this engine in it, and with the horsepower we’re making, the car should be pretty fast.?
Lease pricing for the engine is still being finalized, but should fall within recent pricing ranges, according to Andersen.
?It’s in between what they’re paying today and what they paid three years ago,? he noted. ?It’s much less than what they paid three years ago and a bit more than they’re paying now, but with the chassis payment plan we have, the dollars and cents are certainly being structured in a way to make it easier to acquire cars and join the series. That’s the underlying effort here.?
With the final piece of the 2015 Indy Lights package in place, the next step is for AER, Dallara and Cooper Tires to collaborate on bringing the product to the racetrack.
?We’re shooting for Aug. 1 to test the car ” a full-blown testing program overseen by Tony Cotman,? said Andersen. ?We’ll have our heads down until then getting next season off to a good start, hopefully will add some cars to the grid, and then start getting the new car ready in August. It’s exciting times right now for the Indy Lights series.?