IRL could postpone new rules to 2012
|By Matt Beer||Thursday, February 5th 2009, 10:22 GMT|
The Indy Racing League has admitted that it might have to postpone its new technical package until 2012 due to the economic downturn.
The whole IndyCar Series field has used Dallara chassis powered by normally-aspirated Hondas for the past three seasons, but the IRL wanted to introduce a new formula for 2011, which would see a variety of manufacturers constructing turbocharged engines to use in a new generation Dallara.
But IRL president of competition and racing operations Brian Barnhart now fears that it will be difficult for manufacturers to commit in time for 2011 given the automotive industry's current financial predicament.
"As much as we'd like 2011, to be honest with you, if I had to say while I mentioned we're waiting on a manufacturer in the next 60 days, and that is perhaps for 2011, my gut tells me in this economic environment and situation, we're probably looking more toward 2012 now," Barnhart says.
"I wouldn't rule out 2011. But it most certainly and likely could be pushed back to 2012."
The IRL announced earlier this week that Honda, Fiat, Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche were all still involved in talks about the new engine formula, although none of the companies have yet made a firm commitment to producing IndyCar engines.
But Barnhart reckons the fact that they are all still in talks is an encouraging sign - even though he doesn't expect all five to join the series.
"The fact that we've got five of them involved in this global economy, I think it speaks volumes," he said. "And I think it's a really good indicator about the interest in the future of the IndyCar Series in this economy that we have five this engaged this far down the path.
"That being said, how many of those five are we going to get? We're not going to get all five of them. If we can get two to join Honda, and we came out of this deal with three manufacturers, it would be absolute pure happiness on our side."
He added that while the downturn was affecting the IndyCar Series' future technical plans, he was still upbeat about the size of the 2009 grid.
"I think in this economic environment we've been anticipating perhaps a significant down turn," said Barnhart.
"And I've come to the conclusion in talking with (commercial boss) Terry (Angstadt) about it, I think we might be better positioned from a league standpoint to be less affected by the economic climate than perhaps other racing series.
"While we may not match the full numbers of what we had with the first year of unification last year, indications are we may not be down too much.
"I think anywhere from 22 to 24 could show up on the grid at St Petersburg for our season-opener. I think that would be a strong statement."