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IndyCar’s 2024 hybrid system could be “most effective” on ovals

IndyCar’s venture into racing with an electrical hybrid assist system next season could be “most effective” on oval tracks, according to Honda’s US motorsport boss.

Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Having junked the initial plan to switch to a 2.4-litre-with-hybrid engine formula for 2024, IndyCar will stick with its 2.2-litre powerplants boosted by a common supercapacitor system next year, which is currently under development as a joint venture between engine suppliers Chevrolet (with its partner Ilmor) and Honda.

Honda Performance Development president David Salters told Autosport that after early doubts about the effectiveness of a hybrid system on oval tracks, the opposite is now becoming apparent.

Drivers will be able to use the slipstream on the high-speed banked tracks to rapidly charge up their powerpacks via the motor generator unit, which they can then redeploy through the powertrain to attack the car in front – increasing overtaking opportunities.

“The original discussion was ‘we’re not sure you can actually use this on an oval’ but it might turn out that’s where it’s the most effective,” said Salters. “We’ll see. I think we might end up with some unintended cool stuff.

“You tend to draft a lot on ovals, and the car in front makes the hole in the air, so maybe you want to be clever, so it actually gives you much more control. We don’t really want pack racing, we want more overtaking, but with the electrical stuff you can recover here, then you can do what you want.

“We want to give more [control] to the drivers, so they can do some different stuff to use it. There are places on ovals where you save energy, and then you can redeploy it, so maybe you use the smarts of the driver over when to do that.

“We have a technical working group where we discuss ‘what do we do with this thing?’ and we get the teams and drivers involved.”

David Salters, President of Honda Performance Development, with Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing

David Salters, President of Honda Performance Development, with Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing

Photo by: Honda Racing

Salters also explained how Chevrolet and Honda are working towards a common goal, having taken over development of the system from Mahle, which developed the initial hybrid concept.

“With IndyCar, along with GM and Ilmor, we’ve got more involved and there’s kind of a love-in going on between us,” he said. “We’re normally trying to beat each other to death at the sharp end of a racetrack, but we’re collaborating to get hybrid over the finish line.

“It’s going okay at the moment. It helps us pivot more towards electrification. You’ve got a lot of smart people there, and we all respect each other, so working together rather than trying to beat each other has been rewarding.

“All this change, even between IMSA GTP [which employed a new hybrid battery system this year] and IndyCar – we’re using a different kind of energy store, and IndyCar is supercapacitor stuff, and we have a technical partnership with Skeleton.

“And it’s all new, so it’s all very interesting technically.”

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