An important change is coming to Chevrolet’s NTT IndyCar Series effort as the reigning manufacturers’ championship winner will receive all of its support from inside the brand-new GM Charlotte Technical Center in North Carolina.
Housed in a 120,000-square-foot facility on the Hendrick Motorsports campus, the GM tech center brings all of its engineering support and research & development capabilities in-house for its IndyCar project led by program manager Rob Buckner. This marks a significant change as Pratt & Miller Engineering’s longstanding involvement in Chevy’s IndyCar engineering activities, which included vast simulation tools and developing its championship-winning aero kit from 2015-17, will reach its conclusion at the end of the year.
Along with serving as the new engineering home for the Bowtie’s open-wheel effort, the GM tech center also supports its multi-tier involvement in NASCAR and Cadillac’s IMSA GTP program with shaker rigs, aerodynamic testing, and three driver-in-the-loop (DIL) simulators, among other high-value chassis tuning and optimization tools made available for ready use.
“A little over two years ago, Eric Warren and I came over to motorsports with the charter from our leadership, Mark Reuss and company, to move motorsports more in house,” Mark Stielow, GM’s director of motorsports competition engineering, told RACER. “Eric and I have led the charge on developing the tool chain, and with that, we stood up the new Charlotte Tech Center and in that building will be a lot of shared resources between all of our race programs. So NASCAR, IndyCar, and sports car will all run out of this operation in Charlotte. Then I’ll have the sister operation in Milford, Michigan, based in the Milford proving ground campus, to make sure we have tight linkage back to the (manufacturer) side for technology transfer.
“The heart of NASCAR racing is here in Charlotte, so we decided to put our big tech center here, right outside the Hendrick campus, and we’ve been able to recruit and hire a lot of good talent. At the same time, Rob Buckner and I have been hiring talent to support IndyCar. So, 2022 was a transition year, Pratt & Miller was still in contract with General Motors, and Rob and I were bringing people on board to work hand in hand with Pratt & Miller to get our team stood up. Moving into the 2023 season, we’ll still be reliant on some Pratt & Miller tools, but we’ll be bridging over to our new in-house tool chain from General Motors to support IndyCar racing.”
With annual reductions in track testing becoming the norm for most racing series where GM has an official presence, Buckner looks forward to having a big and consolidated building to work within where all of the bench, rig, and virtual testing tools are at his team’s disposal.
“What we’ve really embraced is a lot of alignment and complements between production vehicle engineering and trying to push towards being all-virtual and digital with very few physical test properties,” he said. “The challenge in front of us for motorsports is to roll off the truck and be very strong in first practice and then keep building on that through a weekend, and I think we have a lot of opportunity to do that with the new tech center investment and the driving simulators.