Jay Frye, the president of IndyCar, talked about the progress of the next generation engine and the future state of IndyCar as part of the Grand Prix of Portland this past weekend.
In an exclusive interview with me for Forbes, Frye talked about where about the progress of the next generation engine slated to go into effect for the 2023 season. After going to a 2.2 liter twin-turbo V6 engine that produces around 700 horsepower in 2012, the series will move to a 2.4-liter hybrid engine in the car after next season. All of it is part of a phased approach to design change across the entire car through 2028 designed to spread the cost out for the teams over several years.
“We are reverse-engineering the car from 2028 back,” said Frye. “We’ll start by making changes to the existing car to mount the new engine, and work forward in 2024-2028 with minor updates as we go.”
One question heading into the 2020 season was the addition of the Aeroscreen to protect the drivers. Concerns about additional weight and the aerodynamics of the car were a topic in the paddock given it was mounted to the existing car making it top-heavy. Asked if there would be any additional changes to the Dallara chassis, Frye believes the car is now in a good place.
“The Aeroscreen has now largely been incorporated into the car,” says Frye. “We think that Red Bull and Dallara, as well as all the teams, have done a good job with the car. It’s done a phenomenal job. There have been multiple incidents over the last couple of years, and we’ve seen it work in a big way.”
Another part of the future centers on the possibility of different fuels. As the world works toward lowering carbon footprints, the racing community is looking at how that affects them.
State Of A Third Engine Manufacturer And Whether Ferrari Is Still In The Mix
For several years, execs at IndyCar have said that the need for a third engine manufacturer is an increasing need as car count continues to increase and the strain on Honda and Chevrolet continues. Multiple manufacturers including the likes of Mazda have been bandied about, but the largest buzz has been around Ferrari, who seems to have dropped out of discussions as of late.
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With the 2021 IndyCar season close to wrapping up, I asked about both.
“The reason we haven’t talked about the situation with Ferrari is those talks have been ongoing,” Frye said. “I’d rather talk about something when it actually happens rather than when talks are occurring,” adding that IndyCar has had active talks with multiple manufacturers on a near-daily basis. “We will continue to have those conversations until there is a third manufacturer,” Frye said that IndyCar was very fortunate to have signed extensions with both Honda and Chevrolet in the middle of the pandemic, indicating the strength of the IndyCar series.
“A third OEM is going to become a necessity here in the near future,” said Frye. “Car count continues to go up for the last three races of the series, not counting the Indianapolis 500, which is its own animal. We’ll have 27 or more cars for these last events of the 2021 season, and that’s the most we’ve had in a decade.”
Beyond Hybrid Engine, IndyCar Will Continue To Lower Carbon Footprint
Combustion engines are still at the heart of racing, even as forms of electric vehicle racing series continue to grow. Even so, lowering the carbon footprint of IndyCar is something continually being looked at, not just with the hybrid engine slated for 2023, but beyond. Different fuels that could help achieve that is not out of the question for IndyCar. “We’re looking at fuel technology such as cellulose and that is ongoing as we continue to strive toward being more carbon neutral,” says Frye. “We’re looking at a range of other products that we can run in the cars right now. There are factors such as supply, etc. that come into play that we have to work out to make sure that it fits with our engine platform, but there are a couple of products we’ve looked at that don’t adversely affect the engines, at all.”