By the time NTT IndyCar Series teams and partners start moving towards the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the October 2-3 Harvest Grand Prix doubleheader, a clearer picture of what the series will look like in the future should start to emerge.
With significant short-term items like the 2021 race schedule and testing plans, and medium-term topics like engine and chassis packages for 2022 awaiting confirmation, the majority of September will be spent locking down key details that dictate the coming years.
On the subject of IndyCar’s new-for-2022 engine formula and whether the series will introduce the full 2.4-liter twin-turbo V6 motors along with kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS) from the start, or go first with internal combustion engines and introduce KERS at a later date, IndyCar president Jay Frye says an answer is forthcoming.
“I would say by the end of this month, we’ll have to have clarity on all of it,” Frye told RACER. “The time’s coming to talk about timelines and how it will work or how it will look. We’ll know more by the end of the last week [of September]. We’re working on it. But we’re also doing everything we can to make sure we go race first, get this impacted season towards the finish line, and that’s been very time consuming to this point. We’re heading into our 10th and 11th races this weekend at Mid-Ohio.”
Frye has been forthright in pointing out the long lead time needed to commission 30-plus spec KERS systems, which could push their introduction past 2022 due to industry-wide delays caused by shutdowns and staffing limitations due to COVID-19.
“Correct, and again, we deal with lots of people, lots of suppliers, we have great manufacturer partners, and everybody’s affected in a different way and have different timelines,” he said. “So, part of the timeline of things that will come, all of these are factors. There’s no lack of enthusiasm for anything we’ve already talked about doing in any way, it’s just the timing of how it can be put together.”
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri acknowledged the company’s ongoing investigation into joining IndyCar, where he suggested less restrictive rules would heighten the manufacturer’s interest in supplying engines.
“We’re studying Indy,” Camilleri said. “It depends somewhat on the flexibility in terms of their future regulations,” he added, noting that the chassis and the aerodynamics are pretty standard, “which we understand they’ve done as a cost-containment exercise.”
Frye says conversations with Ferrari have revealed a number of regulatory unknowns to the Italian brand.
“Historically, when we’ve talked to OEMs, and we talk to them all the time, and especially the initial conversations we’ve had with (Ferrari), is they’ve been surprised at how much stuff we have open already, that they weren’t aware of,” he said. “So, it’s a lot less spec than what they originally thought. There are areas on the car where people can do a lot of things on their own.
“And remember, we’ve worked a few years ago as part of the plan to deregulate some things, and even spec parts, where we allowed the teams and manufacturers to build them. So, that gives them a little more control. A lot of it’s just wanting to feel like you have control over your own destiny. So, even if it’s a spec part, if you can build it, I feel better about building my own than having somebody build it for me.”
The barrage of future news will include the next schedule, which should add a Nashville street race among the familiar stops on the IndyCar tour. And with a later end to the season than expected – October 25 in Florida – the blackout period for offseason testing is also being determined. One proposal has the start of pre-season testing getting under way on February 1, but like the other items on the docket, it is subject to review and change before confirmation.
“We’ll know more on that in a couple of weeks because when this all went down with COVID, we just eliminated testing and we said there was a date next year that we would open it again,” Frye said. “Well, now that we know where we’re at with engine miles and lots of different things, the testing regulations for 2021 is something we’re pushing to have done by the end of the month, too.
“Everything fits together. So, the schedule; we haven’t announced that yet, and that’s still being worked on. Part of the testing program calendar for the year is based off of the race schedule, so those are linked, and by the end of the month, the schedule should be done and then we can plug in the testing piece and how that’s going to work going forward. And still, everything is partly predicated on economics, and economics matter, so, we just got to be conscious of that, too. So, we’re flat out trying to get all of this buttoned up and done as quickly as we can.”