The IndyCar Series has met with an undisclosed number of auto manufacturers in recent months, all holding an interest in possibly joining the American open-wheel championship when its new engine formula debuts in 2021.
IndyCar competition president Jay Frye wouldn’t name the manufacturers in question, but did say more inquiries have been fielded and meeting taken in response to the 2.4-liter twin-turbo V6 non-hybrid regulations announced in May.
“It’s certainly ongoing, and we’ve been working with a couple for a while now, and recently, we’ve had a few new ones come in and that feels even more encouraging,” he told RACER. “This is the window we’ve been talking about to get something moving with a third manufacturer so they make a decision before this time next year, can be track testing by spring of 2020, and get ready for 2021.”
General financial outlines given to prospective engine suppliers have placed the annual expenditures at a surprisingly low figure. Based on a three-way supply share, with Chevy, Honda and a new manufacturer responsible for eight to nine full-time entries, plus 11 to 12 Indy 500 entries, a projected annual outlay of $8-10 million, amortized over five years, has been the standard quote.
That sum includes advertising with the series, event sponsorship, and all of the technical expenses to build and support one-third of the field. With the wealthier IndyCar teams known to spend $6-8 million per year on a single entry, the relative costs to supply engines for a season are not dissimilar.
Frye is heartened by the manufacturer feedback he’s received, and believes the odds are turning in IndyCar’s favor.
“We sit in the meeting and they tell us they see the series as growing, they see we’ve said we’ve done everything we’d said we’d do, they see the car count going up, they see more enthusiasm around the series, they see we’ve worked to bring costs down, which creates a better return,” he said. “It’s been interesting when we talk about the ‘fast and loud’ side of what we’re doing with the next engines that are coming; they all perk up. In a good way.”
As many auto manufacturers embrace hybrid technology, Frye’s team has found allies with those who want to champion traditional performance methods. He’s hoping IndyCar will be viewed as a worthy alternative to series like Formula E which, in all likelihood, is what’s needed to land a third supplier.
“A lot of times you’re dealing with racers from the motorsports group at that manufacturer, and they love the direction we’re going. Sometimes, that doesn’t always match on the corporate side, so that’s where we put in the most amount of work to try and bring those sides together,” he continued. “We haven’t heard that too much, though. The odds are going up. It’s a batting average and we’re getting more at-bats. We’re not there yet, but it feels like we’re making the right kind of progress.”