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IndyCar Mid-Ohio

IndyCar president Frye praises “good first weekend” for hybrid despite Dixon woe

Scott Dixon’s issue the only cloud on race weekend debut of the new hybrid system at Mid-Ohio

Marcus Ericsson, Andretti Global Honda, Alexander Rossi, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, Christian Rasmussen, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, Linus Lundqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Marcus Armstrong, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Christian Lundgaard, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Despite some growing pains, the race debut of IndyCar's new electrical hybrid system at Mid-Ohio left IndyCar president Jay Frye applauding the end result.

Part of a collaborative effort between Chevrolet and Honda, the addition of a low voltage (48V) Motor Generator Unit (MGU) and an up-to-320 kilojoules-per-lap supercapacitor Energy Storage System (ESS) to the existing 2.2-litre, twin-turbocharged V6 internal combustion engines is worth a combined 120 horsepower.

Early issues with the self-start, one of the major changes that allows a driver to hit a sequence of buttons to start or restart their stalled vehicle as part of an effort to prevent the race being interrupted by a yellow flag, meant the software was disabled on Saturday before being reactivated on Sunday when it proved successful on multiple occasions.

The lone driver to be significantly impacted by gremlins in the race was Scott Dixon, whose Honda-powered Chip Ganassi Racing entry had a suspected issue with the ESS discharging during the pace laps. He started the race late, 22 laps down, and retired early. 

Dixon told NBC: “Something started discharging the capacitors immediately at an excessive rate, some kind of failure there with the power cell of the hybrid.”

The incident for Dixon put a dent in his quest for a seventh championship; having entered the weekend second in the standings and just 32 points behind Alex Palou, he has now dropped to fourth at 71 points back from his team-mate.

But Dixon proved to be the outlier on a day that Frye called the culmination of “a magnificent effort by many, many people”.

Speaking to Autosport, Frye said: “When the drivers used it throughout the course of the weekend, it was amazing. We had the #6 car [of Arrow McLaren rookie Nolan Siegel] started and backed up and drove off [using the hybrid self-start during warm-up], that was amazing.

Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Josh Tons / Motorsport Images

“The really cool thing about this is there is still a whole lot of potential that we’re not even tapped into yet, but a really, really good first weekend.”

Frye also shared the nerves that built up quickly after Dixon’s problems.

“Yeah, for sure, because you don’t know [what will happen next],” Frye said.

“The thing has been really flawless this weekend, we got the thing with the start function sorted out, and obviously it worked, which was great.

“Our race teams are amazing… We ran 31,000 miles or so in testing with this system, so the teams have had a huge input in this thing, just like they always do and it’s a big paddock-wide effort.

“But yes, once something like that happens right off the bat, you don’t know what happened, so you’re kind of on pins and needles the rest of the event, but obviously they got it sorted out and they got back out.”

Frye added that he was optimistic things will run more smoothly as teams gain experience of operating the hybrid system in race conditions.

“I think as we go on, everything will get better and better and better,” he said. “It’s a process.

“So today was just a really good check the box on the first weekend and I’m just proud of everybody’s efforts and look forward to the future.”

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