League approves new Chevrolet

The Indy Racing League has approved a new Chevrolet engine for use at Michigan International Speedway next week

League approves new Chevrolet

The engine, a Cosworth originally designed to meet the IRL's 3.5-litre specs for Ford, will be used next week by Pennzoil Panther Racing. Other Chevy teams will receive the engine in subsequent races, with plans to make the engine available to all teams by the August 17 race at Kentucky Speedway.

The unprecedented decision was made to help GM Racing become more competitive against Toyota and Honda, who joined the IRL IndyCar Series this season and have won all eight races and pole positions heading into Saturday night's Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway.

"What we're doing is a major change," said Brian Barnhart, the IRL's senior vice president of racing operations, who made the announcement two hours before Saturday's race. "We've never done this before, but we're faced with unprecedented circumstances. Toyota and Honda have joined the series and raised the level of competition. It's been clear all season long that GM and Chevrolet have faced a performance deficiency. At this point in time, it's a request they've made to alter the specifications. It's in the best interest of all parties involved - Toyota and Honda as well as GM."

The new engine - dubbed the Gen IV Chevy Indy V-8 - will be made available to the next-highest GM team in points for the Emerson Indy 250 on Aug. 10 at Gateway International Raceway. Heading into Saturday's race, that was Red Bull Cheever Racing and driver Buddy Rice.

One of the key elements in the IRL philosophy is availability of equipment. However, Barnhart said the rules allow for introduction of key parts in small increments so manufacturers aren't forced to mass-produce pieces that aren't yet reliable.

"Our contract allows for the introduction of new bits once or twice before it's made available to all participants," Barnhart said. "That's so they can test. If there are reliability issues, they can make adjustments before mass production begins."

Panther is the only team to have tested the Cosworth. At a test on July 7 at Kansas Speedway, the engine reportedly turned laps at 216mph - more than 5mph faster than Hornish's qualifying speed July 5 in the current Chevy. By comparison, Scott Dixon's Toyota won the pole at Kansas City with a lap of 218.085mph.

Barnhart said Toyota and Honda officials were involved in discussions regarding the new GM engine. He said they were supportive of the decision to allow the Cosworth.

"The consensus has been very positive - that we need to get GM competitive and make a change in the interest of everybody," Barnhart said. "It's in everyone's best interest that we have the best competition and maintain the side-by-side competitive product that we put on the track."

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