The RACER Mailbag, January 11

The RACER Mailbag, January 11

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, January 11

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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: Michael Andretti keeps impressing me on the business side of things since his days of being a driver. First he acquires the IndyCar team in late 1990s or 2000, then slowly ventures into smaller formulae in Indy Lights, then Supercars, then Formula E, Extreme E, Mexican NASCAR and so on, and now F1. He was denied first and now lines up Cadillac which came all the way from left field. This is what is needed if you have to make heads turn.

This is where a Michael-kind of person should run IndyCar. I thought IndyCar would flourish under Penske due to his business acumen; instead, it’s floundering.  On the other hand, Michael is showing to everyone in IndyCar and the world you need to do aggressive moves to capture people’s attention, and this type of announcement is what is needed in IndyCar — but its lacking at the moment.

Shyam Cherupalla

MARSHALL PRUETT: Michael’s ambitions, combined with the ambitions of his investors, are something spectacular to behold. With the buyout of Barry Green and the transition from Andretti Green Racing to Andretti Autosport, real purpose was found and he’s continued to build his business into an empire. As for the rest, we’re living in surreal times.

Q: In your opinion, what will happen to Andretti’s and Honda’s relationship in IndyCar in the medium-term after the F1 announcement? I know teams like Andretti, CGR, and Penske have multiple programs with multiple manufacturers, but this feels too significant to allow that to happen. Will Andretti simply switch leases with a team like ECR or Foyt when the time comes?

Also what about their partnership with WTR? This feels less likely to swap given WTR has been helping Acura with its LMDh development.

Andrew

MP: Honda doesn’t have a Formula 1 deal to offer Andretti, so I don’t think anything will happen to their relationship. Ganassi represents Honda in IndyCar and GM/Cadillac in IMSA. Penske represents GM/Chevy in IndyCar and Ford in NASCAR. And at the moment, Michael represents Honda in IndyCar and Acura in IMSA, with a hope to represent GM/Cadillac in F1. And yet there’s no drama to be found. I know some folks think this Andretti Cadillac F1 thing is some sort of big conflict, but it’s not.

Andretti’s under contract to Honda and as they do at every interval, I’m sure they’ll weigh what Chevy and Honda have to offer before signing the next contract. They were the second-best Honda team last season, but a distant second. I’d say the Andretti team should be more concerned about giving Honda a reason to offer an extension — or to give Chevy a reason to covet its results and try to sign them away — than anything else.

WTR is one of two factory Acura GTP teams, so by buying into WTR, Andretti has become a co-owner of that factory program.

Penske won championships for two different manufacturers last year, so a bit of OEM double-dipping by Andretti wouldn’t be a problem. Motorsport Images

Q: With the pipe dream of a third OEM in IndyCar well flushed by now, where does the long-term future stand with the existing OEMs? It certainly does not sound exceedingly positive. HPD’s brass recently alluded to the 2.4l for the Acura DPi as being its last new ICE to be developed, and GM just announced a deal for the new Andretti F1 bid. If one of them leaves, what’s the solution? It would be an obvious negative and it’s been alluded to that neither are willing to (or perhaps can) support a full field.

You’ve discussed the limitations of the engine bays of the now historic-eligible DW12 for fitting other engines, say from DPi or GT3 machinery, so it does not sound like a solution would be there. With some of the negative news over the off-season it seems things are now culminating to create a number of potentially even larger issues in the not-too-distant future.

Kevin

MP: Chevy and Honda are committed to IndyCar for the near future, so there’s no immediate concern, and as GM told us, it won’t be leaving IndyCar if Cadillac makes it to F1. But what happens if Chevy or Honda elect to leave a few years down the road? If it’s just one that’s leaving, I’d expect the other to step up and go the single-supplier route, just as Honda did when Chevy bailed in the mid-2000s. It would suck, but we’ve been here before, with the same manufacturers, so it’s not uncharted territory.

Q: I have a growing interest in sports car racing although I find the different classes are never concisely explained — especially the GT classes. There is now a good presence of international racing in the U.S. (three F1 races and one WEC). Why did Porsche go the commercially available chassis route rather than an organic Hypercar route? After all, they seem to have a pretty good bead on endurance prototypes based on their history.

Jack Woodruff

MP: The cost-effective nature of GTP/LMDh is what has drawn big interest, and after spending trillions on its former LMP1-Hybrid program, Porsche saw the modest budget for a LMP2-based formula as the one that met its needs. Also, its upfront plans to sell customer cars was also a natural fit for GTP/LMDh with the formula’s heavy reliance on spec components.

Q: I know it’s all about money, but I am astonished that not one team owner has stepped up and signed Linus Lundqvist. His track record suggests that he would be able to compete at the sharp end and prove to be a good long-term investment. Mr. Penske must feel that the series ladder needs to show its purpose and integrity by checking the champion moves up. I’m disappointed for Linus big-time and really hope he is on the grid soon.

Oliver Wells

MP: Sadly, none of the open seats heading into the offseason were of the paying variety, and with his $500,000 advancement prize from Penske Entertainment — 10 percent of the budget needed to run a decent midfield entry — he never had a chance. Indy NXT’s owner has had months to step in and offer meaningful help to get its first champion on the IndyCar grid. To date, it has done nothing to suggest it will.

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