The NTT IndyCar Series is finally initiating some technical changes to its major open-wheel series, moving to effect a hybrid system that it believes will enhance the push-to-pass (P2P) apparatus that increases horsepower to the directly-injected, twin-turbocharged V-6 engines for specific periods of time within each race.
Even as the series works to change its engine application on both Chevrolet and Honda power mills, and as it prepares to update the Dallara chassis used by all competitors, it is looking to attract new original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to the open-wheel arena by utilizing this KERS-based hybrid application, which will consist of a multi-phase motor, inverter and electric storage device that will increase energy recovery from the car’s braking system.
Set to be applied at the start of the 2022 IndyCar season, INDYCAR believes the implementation of the hybrid P2P system will enhance competition and increase safety. An important aspect of the hybrid system is its ability to integrate self-starting for the Indy car engines, a departure from traditional, manual, hand-held electric starters that have been used for decades. The hybrid component can be activated by the driver from the cockpit, INDYCAR said.
“As we move toward the future,” said Jay Frye, INDYCAR president, “we will remain true to our racing roots of being fast, loud and authentic, and simultaneously have the ability to add hybrid technology that is an important element for the series and our engine manufacturers,” Chevrolet and Honda. Frye is looking towards INDYCAR’s subsequent engine and chassis updates to complement this adoption of hybrid technology.
INDYCAR had intended to introduce a 2.4L formula for 2021 that would increase base horsepower by 100 from its current 700hp maximum. This has been pushed back to 2022 to complement the introduction of the P2P-based hybrid system, which when activated should produce as much as 900 horsepower from the 2.4L twin-turbo engine. The P2P system is only used on road and street courses.
Both engine manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda are working with INDYCAR to produce the hybrid powertrain, as this ideology complements their road-going products, allowing them to “improve the breed” through their racing activities. Chevrolet’s Jim Campbell and Honda Performance Development’s Ted Klaus expressed pleasure with the adoption of the system to complement their race engine development.
From a competitive standpoint, the adoption of P2P hybrid technology answers a firm request from drivers to effect additional horsepower. Some who raced in the late CART/Champ Car series recall fondly engines that were able to produce upwards of 900 horsepower in all forms of competition.
The safety aspect of the hybrid component relates to improving on-track reaction times, by giving racers who have stalled their cars re-start capabilities without the need for assistance from the AMR Safety Team. This could lessen the duration of caution periods, a benefit to fans watching at the venue or through the race broadcast. It’s expected to improve overall pace and the time of races.
The new engine regulations are set to be in place for six years, from 2022 to the end of the 2027 INDYCAR season. This is an effort to provide clear vision and stability to the NTT IndyCar Series engine manufacturers and its teams. It is a continuation of INDYCAR’s initial five-year strategic competition plan that began in 2016.
Current homologation tables remain in place though the upcoming two seasons for both Chevrolet and Honda engine packages.