The RACER Mailbag, April 26

The RACER Mailbag, April 26


The RACER Mailbag, April 26

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Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to 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: The Long Beach Grand Prix was a fun race to watch, and good to see Andretti finally get to finish up front. I’ve been going to the Grand Prix for about 40 years and I’ve been sitting down from the starter stand, and this year I noticed on the few restarts they were waving the green flag before the leader even left the hairpin. Was this to prevent stacking up and possible crash at the end of the front straight? Normally the yellow helps to punch everybody up but this was basically single file.


MARSHALL PRUETT: The consensus so far is the race starts and restarts at Long Beach were epically bad. Considering how we’re receiving letters about it for a second consecutive mailbag, there’s no way we’ll get more.

Q: The start of the race last Sunday in Long Beach was absurd. Only six of the 27 cars were lined up properly. Six! That means the other 21 cars were single file and most of them hadn’t even hit the last turn at the green flag. How many turns into the race was the Kirkwood when last place hit the start/finish line? I know it’s tough to bunch the field up for the start at LB, but really? This is why there should be standing starts at street and road courses. It puts everyone on a level playing field. They’re big boys, figure it out.

Bill Phypers, Brewster, NY

MP: Well, so much for that idea. When we go hybrid next year and the ERS units fire the motor, I’m going to lobby for a return of Le Mans-style running starts, and in a modern twist, the car won’t start until all belts are connected.

Q: Can you shed any further light on exactly where things went wrong with the 2.4L hybrid system? Were there problems with individual hardware components, or was the integration process more difficult than anyone expected? Will it ever make it to the track?

I’m thinking I might just want to forget about it if I were R.P. since it didn’t attract a third manufacturer, and it seems like Chevy’s engine program is on hold while the Honda engine is getting valuable track experience behind the ARX-06s.

John M.

MP: There were no problems with the 2.4L motors themselves; Chevy and Honda invested heavily in the new engines and did track testing with them in anticipation of going hybrid in 2024. The main problem was that IndyCar failed to deliver a third (or fourth) engine manufacturer to share in the costs of supplying the field. The knock-on effects were significant.

Although both brands refused to say so on the record, Chevy and Honda held firm to supplying approximately eight full-season 2.4L leases apiece, and with that in mind, IndyCar would have seen a massive year-to-year loss to its grid. It’s easy to paint the two brands as the villains here, but they weren’t. They went into the 2.4L agreement with the full expectation that IndyCar would bring a third manufacturer to the formula to make it something close to a three-way share, with each brand covering eight leases in a 24-car field. It could have been 27 cars if each went to nine leases, but the only way that made financial sense was if the supply was shared three ways. Chevy and Honda didn’t have budgets to keep doing what they’ve been doing and splitting a 27-car field with 12 or more leases per side.

When the series came close but didn’t land Toyota, it became clear that a third supplier wasn’t going to happen and without some form of change, IndyCar’s teams would take a huge hit and some might be at risk of falling out of the series. The costs to develop, build, and support the new 2.4L motors was decidedly more expensive than the 2.2Ls, so it wasn’t a case of Chevy or Honda not wanting to continue taking care of their current teams. They simply didn’t have the budget to do more than single-digit leases for the season.

The decision to put IndyCar’s 2.4L engines on ice had very little to do with the formula itself, and quite a lot to do with the lack of a third supplier to help Honda and Chevy offset the costs. Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

Additionally, MAHLE, IndyCar’s chosen energy recovery system vendor, signaled that it would not be able to supply the full grid with ERS units in time to go racing in 2024.

So, faced with two troubling dilemmas, and one of the two manufacturers being less interested in pressing forward with the 2.4L formula than the other, a proposal was made to halt development on the 2.4Ls, keep the trusty old 2.2Ls around for an indefinite period and, to bail out the series and its hybrid supply dilemma, Chevy and Honda agreed to put some of its 2.4L budget that would go unused in making the costly new motors into developing the MAHLE-inspired ERS units.

Hard to say if those 2.4Ls will see the back of an open-wheel car anytime soon, but if that decision is taken, I’d think it would be packaged with the announcement of a third brand joining the series. Here’s the main takeaway: If a third manufacturer was signed from the time the 2.4L formula was announced in 2018 to the latter stages of 2022, we’d be going to 2.4Ls in 2024.

Q: After reading about Kevin Kalkhoven’s share of the Grand Prix of Long Beach being put up for sale, I found a news article from 2005 (just before the purchase) when it wasn’t clear whether CCWS or IRL would be racing at the 2006 GPLB:

“…Kalkhoven said, should Champ Car lose the event, there is already a
contingency plan in place for another street race at an unspecified
location in the Los Angeles area.”

I’m very curious — where would this street race have been?


MP: Best that comes to mind was a proposal — and I’m not sure if it ever reached anything close to being formally pitched to the city — to race around the Los Angeles Dodgers’ MLB stadium.