Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.
Your questions for Robin should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.
Q: What is IndyCar thinking? So, they delay the engine rule change a year. Add a battery power unit to assist in powering the car. All in a naked play to lure another engine/powertrain manufacturer. Oh, and let’s add in a new chassis. And let’s have only one supplier of the battery power unit. I don’t see this plan working, as I do not believe it will result in another manufacturer entering the series because there is no upside for the engine manufacturers, since only one supplier will supply the battery power unit.
Mr. Pruett is drinking the bad Kool-Aid, but got the business side of the reasoning correct. It’s all about the money. Not about the racing. Add in that all the teams will have to find and spend the money for this new package, and the haves will win out over the have-nots again. I’m sure you’re aware that F1 tried electric assist and abandoned it. My idea for the new rules package is simple. Abandon the spec concept and set minimum and maximum standards for chassis, engine and wings, and go race. If there is not the interest, read no money, then close it down and go nostalgic watching IndyCar on YouTube.
RM: We went to the ‘ol Kool-Aid drinker himself for a rebuttal:
“If there’s one thing I love about the announcement of major changes to IndyCar, it’s the revealing of psychics and fortune tellers. I would have never guessed the series had so many fans who can tell the future. I love Kool-Aid, BTW. Who doesn’t? As for drinking it, quite the opposite: I’ve been the one feeding it to IndyCar for years, telling the series how far it has fallen behind the sports car series I cover and how they offer manufacturers modern technology to showcase. As for the gross mistake IndyCar is making by adding a small KERS unit, I’m sure the same overreactions were made when slick tires were introduced, seat belts became mandatory, roll hoops were welded in, closed-face helmets were adopted, wings were bolted on, etc. The past is always better. Go back to (fill in the decade) when the (fill in the chassis names) and (fill in the engine brands) were better and the drivers were real men, blah, blah, blah.
“It’s a spec KERS unit. Like spec tires. Everyone will have the same thing. The haves were the haves before, and the have-nots will remain the have nots. A stupid KERS unit won’t change financial realities. And, we have no idea what it will cost or who will pay for it. Oops. I didn’t mean ‘we,’ I meant ‘I.’ … I still can’t predict the future.” – Marshall Pruett.
Q: Put me in the column of not caring about/not wanting electric motors for IndyCar and the Indy 500. Could I really catch myself talking to my friends, “Hey, that Honda sure does an awesome job with that kinetic recovery blah blah blah! What a cool, quiet, and non-threatening engine note from Chevy!!!” Hardly. I feel like this is not what Jay Frye meant when he mentioned something about “fast, loud, unapologetic” – certainly sounds more like “Hi, excuse me, merging.” The current F1 motor or engine power unit BS sounds terrible, and if that is where IndyCar is going, good luck to them.
RM: I’m not sure you people read the release or Marshall’s news story or commentary, but it’s not an electric engine. We all hate the thought of 33 cars flying down the straightaway at Indy in silence, but that’s not going to happen.
Q: I have a feeling I’m in the minority but I think the new engine rules were inevitable and necessary for the series to have any chance of enticing more engine builders to get involved. I don’t pretend to understand how the new technology works, but if it keeps the series viable, that’s great. Kudos to the IndyCar leadership, this all seems to have been very well thought out and reasoned. To those opposed to the new rules, I urge you to keep an eye on NASCAR and the NHRA in the years to come. I see a storm cloud forming for those organizations.
John Fulton, Akron, Ohio
RM: I don’t pretend to know much either and thankfully RACER has Marshall to explain things, but his column pretty much laid it out that this was necessary to try and get another manufacturer interested in IndyCar. I trust Jay Frye knows what he’s doing because his track record is pretty damn good.
Q: Hybrid? No way! Watched my first race in Phoenix in ’65 when AJ won in his Dean Coyote and I’ve seen over 120 Indy car races in person – from Gurney winning in Riverside, to Montoya winning at Indy, and Al Jr. winning in Portland. I’ve heard and seen it all – the Offys and Fords run in the ’60s, including the one Chevy win by George Follmer in the spring of ’69. I’ve even got to see and hear Granatelli’s beautiful cheese wedge-shaped turbine cars in 1968.
I’ve either heard or seen it all over the past 50-plus years of being a avid fan, and for the life of me I can not one reasonable reason for IndyCar to succumb to the showroom’s wishes! It’s an insult to true motor racing fans. What’s next, NHRA electric cars? True racing fans want to hear that that old growl of the old four-cylinder Offy, the high-pitch whine of the Ford Cosworth, or the intense pitch of the Ferrari V16! What the hell can we do about this, Robin? It’s a travesty. SpaceX won’t be building a hybrid rocket anytime soon. Whats your view?
Joe in California
RM: I suggest relaxing, Joe. We’re not going back to four-cam Fords or Novis or turbines or Offys, but we’re also not going to have the indiscernible buzz of Formula E powerplants. A hybrid is combining two different elements, and in this case it’s adding a little more power and the ability to have self-starters with the goal of attracting a major manufacturer.