The RACER Mailbag, October 5

The RACER Mailbag, October 5

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, October 5

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Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to mailbag@racer.com. Due to the high volume of questions received, we can’t guarantee that every letter will be published, but we’ll answer as many as we can. Published questions may be edited for length and clarity. Questions received after 3pm ET each Monday will appear the following week.

Q: Regarding the upcoming ERS, did IndyCar set any requirements as for the maximum amounts of energy to be a) recovered during a lap and b) stored in the batteries? We already know that the provided power boost will be +100HP, but since I’ve heard F1 cars will move from the current +160HP and 2MJ per lap to +470HP and 9MJ par lap in 2026, with a battery storing up to 4MJ in both cases, I’ve also been wondering about the megajoule numbers.

The point of my question is: what is the intention behind the addition of the ERS? Is it meant to be an overall performance booster (added to the engine, just like the 2026 F1 cars), or strictly as an overtake assist (just like the current Push-to-Pass system)?

Xavier

MARSHALL PRUETT: Yes, no, probably, and maybe, Xavier. We’re a good while away from having any decisions on exactly what IndyCar will do with all aspects of its MAHLE ERS units, but I’ve only heard the systems described as P2P solutions when the cars are on track. I’ll also mention for the umpteenth time that so far, after RACER broke the news of MAHLE being selected as IndyCar’s ERS vendor in February, the series has yet to publicly name MAHLE, which is weird.

Assuming that’s what they end up going with, it would be different than, say, what IMSA and the WEC have in mind for the new LMDh/GTP hybrid prototypes where the 40hp electric boost is always available and works in a useful way by doing things like ‘torque fill,’ where the ERS helps with initial acceleration low in the rev range where the combustion engine is at its least powerful stage.

BMW GTP driver Connor De Phillippi, who some folks might remember as a strong young American talent on the Road To Indy before switching to sports cars, told us in a recent video how the ERS unit has helped to reduce the effects of turbo lag by applying electric horsepower to propel the car while the revs build and the turbos spool up — all but eliminating that dead zone in acceleration.

But so far, I haven’t heard of IndyCar allowing its manufacturers to go that route with always-on ERS. More details to follow in the coming months.

Q: Who is at the top of Chip’s list to fill Jimmie Johnson’s seat?

Jonathan and Cleide Morris, Ventura, CA

MP: The most competitive driver who’s able to foot the bill is the overarching answer. In a perfect world, Chip would have a fully sponsored car so he could go and hire the best available driver, but that isn’t the case here.

I’ve heard a few names, but none that jump out as the right fit financially or competitively. I have reconfirmed, twice, since Jimmie’s announcement (which was shared internally about a week prior) that the team will field the No. 48 car (or whatever number it might have) next year. The sponsorship package for the No. 48 was known to be significant, so I do wonder if there are more who could afford to do road and street courses than pay for all 17 races. That’s why the search will continue this month and maybe into November if the right blend of funding and speed proves to be elusive.

Q: David Malukas takes J.J.’s seat. Your thoughts?

Jeff, Florida

MP: As soon as Ganassi buys out the second year of Malukas’s contract with Dale Coyne, sure. How many times has Coyne let a super-talented driver who was being pursued by a bigger rival go? So far, zero.

It’s been almost a month since Ganassi was embroiled in a messy and expensive driver contract fight, so maybe the time is ripe to do it again. Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

Q: After two years, the J.J. experiment is over. Was it his idea, or did the sponsorship/team decide not to go forward?

Now that he’s got more free time, do you know if he’s back to ‘personalizing’ his clothes as shown in the Carvana commercials? Sorry, but those commercials were just plain stupid but that’s what you do when someone puts up the big bucks.

Tom Patrick, Baja California

MP: Hi Tom—might be worth reading the story we wrote about it to answer the first question.

Collectively, we complain about the lack of IndyCar-related national advertising and promotional campaigns, and then when we finally get the rare chance to have those national campaigns, we piss and moan about them. This is where I’d insert a facepalm emoji.

Q: ‘IndyCar’s close relationship with NBC Sports is also highlighted in the new calendar as 13 of the 17 races are scheduled for the NBC network, plus both days of qualifying for the Indy 500. Three rounds, led by Road America, Mid-Ohio, and the second Indy GP, will be aired on the USA Network. For the second consecutive year, Toronto will be aired exclusively on Peacock, NBC’s streaming platform.’

Above is from your article on September 27. Sooooo does that mean that practice and qualifying will only be on Peacock ?

You did not address this.

Peter in Phoenix

MP: Well, you caught me, Peter. I confess to my sins. Yes, just as all practices and qualifying sessions were aired exclusively on Peacock last season (Indy 500 qualifying being the exception, with broadcast coverage added on), it will continue unchanged next season, as I understand. We tend to do the full IndyCar TV explanation when the series’ TV partner — NBC, in recent years — publishes its broadcast times for the new season, which has yet to happen.

Q: Laguna Seca was lengthened in the late ‘80s to prevent it from being dropped from the FIM calendar, because it was too short. I think the FIM required a minimum course length of 3.5 km to remain on the calendar. Losing the FIM sanctioned races would have seriously reduced the money the track would make.

Gilbert K. Arnold

MP: Yes, thanks, Gilbert, apparently I missed the second question in that submission on why it was changed. It wasn’t done exclusively for MotoGP; there were talks in the late ’80s of trying to attract F1 to Laguna Seca as well, and beyond meeting the minimum circuit length for FIM when they arrived in 1988, there was an overarching approach taken where adding the infield and pushing the track length out to 2.2 miles would open up a range of FIA-sanctioned event hosting going forward.

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