IndyCar officials announce preliminary details of return to innovation


Set against a backdrop of the historic cars that have graced Indianapolis Motor Speedway for more than a century, at the IMS Museum, IndyCar’s new leaders described the preliminary plan for innovation to return to the series.

The key word here is “preliminary.” Specific details were hard to find in the formal remarks made Thursday by Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, head of IndyCar’s parent company, and IndyCar’s new President of Competition/Operations Derrick Walker, who will take his new post after the month of May concludes.

The official line from the sanctioning body is that IndyCar will open the door to increased technical innovation in its cars and safety, with Walker directly responsible for identifying specific improvements and guiding their implementation.

Miles wants to see big speeds return to the Speedway – pun intended. Arie Luyendyk has the four-lap track record (236.986 mph),  the single-lap record (237.498 mph) and unofficial practice lap record (239.260) at IMS, all set in 1996 with a previous-year Reynard-Ford Cosworth IndyCar.

“We want to step up our game,” Miles said. “We’ve achieved a great car platform, so now we can move forward to explore what’s next.”

Ways to do so, at least with the current Dallara DW12 chassis and the 2.2L V6 turbocharged engines from Honda and Chevrolet, include the long-discussed but not-yet-finalized introduction of aero kits, and the plea from drivers, teams and fans alike for – as “Top Gear’s” Jeremy Clarkson might say – more power.

Walker said aero kits are more likely to see the light of day first, before manufacturers agree to a horsepower increase.

“The first bit will likely be aero kits,” said Walker. “There is room for the cars to advance aerodynamically.”

There’s a fine line to ensure innovation returns and the solid nature of the current IndyCar on-track product isn’t affected as a result, Walker said.

“There is plenty of speed in this car if we want to let it go, and if we can manage it,” he said. “To get where we want to go, it will take time. It will take a very careful structuring.”

In March, IndyCar announced the formation of an 11-member advisory Competition Committee. Members on it include Walker, officials from Dallara, HPD, Chevrolet and Firestone, other IndyCar senior officials and two drivers (Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dario Franchitti) and two team representatives (Tim Cindric, Penske and Bryan Herta).

Lorenzo looking to Honda, Ducati for help in MotoGP title race

ALCANIZ, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 27:  Jorge Lorenzo of Spain and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP celebrates the victory on the podium at the end of the MotoGP race during the MotoGP of Spain - Race at Motorland Aragon Circuit on September 27, 2015 in Alcaniz, Spain.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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Jorge Lorenzo hopes that he can get some help from the Honda and Ducati riders in his championship battle with Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi in the final four races of the 2015 MotoGP season.

Lorenzo currently trails Rossi by 14 points at the top of the riders’ championship, and with just four races to go, barring an unlikely run of results, the title will go to a Yamaha rider for the first time since 2012.

The formbook offers little in the way of clues for the Lorenzo/Rossi battle, for although Lorenzo has won more races, Rossi has been more consistent, finishing off the podium just once this season.

Lorenzo had hoped to reel Rossi in last time out at Motorland Aragon, but the Italian rider managed to finish third, minimizing the damage of his teammate’s victory.

Nevertheless, Lorenzo was pleased to bounce back after two disappointing races at Silverstone and Misano, having lost ground on Rossi in the title race.

“I am very happy with this victory because it came after two races that were a bit disappointing and I expected to take more points, but due to a few factors and especially the weather, I failed to achieve the desired result,” Lorenzo said. “The victory in Motorland [Aragon] was crucial.”

Rossi was beaten to second place by Honda’s Dani Pedrosa after a titanic battle in the closing stages of the last race, and Lorenzo hopes that the Spaniard, among others, could aid his cause inadvertently again in the remaining four races.

“[Pedrosa] was very strong and it was useful to recover the points lost earlier and it has given me more chances to recover with four races left until the end,” Lorenzo said.

“But [Marc] Marquez or maybe the two Ducati riders could also stand in front of Valentino and take away some points. It is a real possibility, but very dangerous for us both.”

The next round of the MotoGP season takes place at Motegi, Japan next weekend.

Steiner: Haas F1 Team could not afford rookie mistakes

KANNAPOLIS, NC - SEPTEMBER 29:  (L-R) Gunther Steiner, team principal of Haas F1 Team, Romain Grosjean of France, and Gene Haas, owner of Haas F1 Team, pose for a photo opportunity after Haas F1 Team announced Grosjean as their driver for the upcoming 2016 Formula 1 season on September 29, 2015 in Kannapolis, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Stewart-Haas Racing via Getty Images)
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Günther Steiner has said that Haas Formula 1 Team could not afford to have its drivers making rookie mistakes during its debut season in the sport, reasoning the decision to only sign experienced racers for 2016.

On Tuesday, Haas unveiled Lotus driver Romain Grosjean as its first signing for next season, luring the Frenchman away from Enstone after ten years of association.

The second seat is set to go to either Esteban Gutierrez or Jean-Eric Vergne, who both work as development drivers for Ferrari and both have at least two seasons of racing under their belt.

As team principal, Steiner (pictured left) will work under team owner Gene Haas, and said that both had agreed that a rookie driver for season one would be unwise.

“We looked around a lot to find the right guy because we wanted somebody with experience but still hungry to do something, to go with us this long way,” Steiner explained.

“I started talks with the management of Romain in Barcelona to see if he’s interested and, you know, we spoke to quite a few drivers, and in the end I spoke also with technical people, what they think about Romain, how he develops a car.

“We have got a steep mountain to climb here, new team, all new team members, so we needed somebody who knows what he’s doing. I think in the end we found the right guy because he has so much ‘want to drive’ now, and he’s still aggressive or still wants it.

“He’s not [so] young anymore that he’s inexperienced. We lose time by having accidents or doing rookie mistakes. I think we just picked the best one out there for what we are doing, and we focused on him and got him, and we are very happy and we are looking forward to working with him.”