Drivers welcome 2011 turbo switch

News that the IndyCar Series will scrap its naturally aspirated formula and switch to turbos in 2011 has been met with enthusiasm from most drivers

Drivers welcome 2011 turbo switch

They have been lobbying Indy Racing League leaders for turbochargers - a staple of American open-wheel racing for decades - since the league unified with former Champ Car teams earlier this year and were pleased with the news.

"If it's turbo, I get a bigger kick out of it," said Tony Kanaan. "That's why most of my cars have turbos. They're just that much more fun to drive."

"That's what this type of racing was all about back in the day," Helio Castroneves said. "It's going to be awesome. Hopefully we'll be in good shape. It will be fun."

IndyCar officials confirmed the intended change on Saturday, telling the Indianapolis Star that the formula will be used with either four or six-cylinder engines.

League officials said they have the interest of two or three manufacturers aside from Honda, the current engine supplier, if turbos are implemented.

"They're going to change the cars, too, so it will be a big challenge," Kanaan said. "I don't know what else will change, but I'm sure that won't be all. And for those of us who have gotten used to naturally aspirated engines, it will be a major difference. We're going to have to get used to it again."

When told that league officials were considering an increase from 650 horsepower to as much as 750, Castroneves smiled. "Now we're talking," he exclaimed.

The transition to turbos stands out because it was one of the periphery reasons behind the split and one of the first things to change after the Indy Racing League began racing separately from CART in 1996. The IRL used existing CART equipment in 1996, but switched to naturally aspirated engines in 1997.

One issue was with the pop-off valves used to regulate boost on the turbochargers, following accusations that teams and manufacturers were manipulating the valves.

"You're going to have to police it," Kanaan said. "There are ways to get away with it, to get more boost than others have. But they opened it up to turbos because they want more manufacturers, so hopefully there will be more engine manufacturers this time around. It's a good problem to have."

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