Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 14, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 14, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for August 14, presented by Honda Racing/HPD


Q:  I’m 1.5 pages into the Mailbag concerning the hybrid announcement. Sounds like many either didn’t read Marshall’s story or didn’t understand the new system. Is it like adding a KERS system to the present DW12? It’s a thing that collects and stores energy, then passes it to the drivetrain for extra HP? The car would look the same, sound the same, race the same? Hey guys! Here’s a magic box of extra HP… bolt it in!

Todd in Danville, VA

RM: You got it, Todd. How about conducting a press conference at Pocono?

Q: OK Miller, I fully expected complaining after the hybrid announcement but… really? I will admit being terrified after reading the first headline, since it made me think that amazing scream would be replaced with totally silent cars. Then I did something crazy and actually read the whole article. So we are looking at more horsepower, possibly even louder cars, fewer cautions, and maybe a third manufacturer. I’m not seeing much downside here. If you had to make a prediction, would the third OEM be more likely to come from the U.S., Europe or Asia?

Tate in Kansas

RM: Got no idea about where the third manufacturer might come from, but I believe Jay Frye took this step to and score that third OEM. But, to your point, it’s not going to affect the sound or the competition, but it should give more HP when called on.

Q: I have no problem with IndyCar’s planned move to hybrids. As long as the racing continues to be entertaining and wheel-to-wheel, I’m fine. Having said that, I enjoy following race strategy. Do we know if the hybrids will affect pit stop times, pit windows and refueling? I think that is one element that is sorely lacking in F1.

Jim Muessig, Carle Place, NY

RM: “Hi Jim. You’ve listed a number of things in the ‘don’t know’ department. I’ve heard nothing to suggest the KERS systems will be used in ways to save fuel, but if the series chooses to activate all-electric power on pit lane, or if teams are given the option to use it while behind the pace car, we could reduce fuel consumption.” – Marshall Pruett.

IndyCar is joining F1 on Planet Hybrid, although the respective systems will be very different. Image by Etherington/LAT

Q: I have been a fan of IndyCar racing since the late ’80s. The sound and fury of those high-revving turbocharged engines of the ’80s and ’90s living at the limit of performance were a drug, and I pity those who did not get to experience that era. So when IndyCar announced that turbocharged engines were returning for the 2012 season, I was thrilled. To my mild disappointment, however, I found the current engine formula to be, frankly, underwhelming.

Maybe I am mistaken about this, but it seems the necessary cost containment of the current engine formula with its mileage and reliability requirements has kept the revs down, and the fury at a simmer. Fast-forward to the 2022 engine formula recently announced, and I still wonder how much fury the new engine will unleash given the assumption mileage and reliability requirements will keep the revs in check.

I acknowledge engine costs still have to be controlled, but the question I have is, can IndyCar and its engine partners agree to some type of engine development competition which increases revs and power each year, but doesn’t break the bank? Keep it modest, say 25 HP per season, but also increase the reward for reliability through the engine manufacturer’s points system so there are trade-offs. Or perhaps, just for the crown jewel Indy 500, eliminate engine manufacturer’s points and allow any HP the manufacturer’s feel confident their engine can generate for 500 miles. What do you think?

David, Greensboro, NC

RM: I think IndyCar would like to get to 900 HP by 2021 or 2022, but I think good competition, great racing and 15 cars on the lead lap supersedes blown engines because manufacturers are free to turn up the boost. I told Jay Frye that I really don’t think people care anymore about a new track record or somebody upping the speed every day. Practice and qualifying haven’t drawn crowds since The Split, and while leased engines aren’t the fabric of what Indy was built on, they’re just fine for today’s budgets. And competition. The fact we have 22-23 full-timers and enough cars to have bumping at Indy with the paltry payoffs is amazing.

Q: I’m sort of lukewarm either way on the introducing hybrid units in IndyCar. If I understand it correctly, the KERS unit would be a spec item so all cars would use the same unit. What I can’t wrap my head around is why would using a spec KERS unit make it more attractive to other manufacturers? I don’t see how that makes it more attractive, if the manufacturers were to develop their own unit then I would understand, but as it is it makes me scratch my head as to the attraction.

Greg Wright, Rapid Racing Inc.

RM: I gratefully defer to Marshall: “Hi Greg. It’s all about perception and promoting that perception. Formula E, for five years or so, used spec electric engines, and yet, it wasn’t a limiting factor for waves of auto manufacturers. It’s about ticking the box of being green and future-minded. Also, please know that as manufacturers look to race (or continue racing) in series where their road cars aren’t transformed into race cars (IndyCar and NASCAR are prime examples), there will be increasing levels of resistance if those series only use internal combustion engines (ICE). We don’t know what the future holds for the auto industry and what kind of propulsion systems will become the norm, but I can say that today, pure ICE solutions are regarded as old-timey technology, and by 2027, when the next IndyCar engine formula expires, there’s no way IndyCar will have manufacturers playing in the series if ICE is the only thing it offers.”