Could Cosworth be close to Indy engine return? We’ll know shortly

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As the Verizon IndyCar Series heads for its final event of the season this weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., engine reliability is likely to be a big topic.

The 500-mile season finale was a war of attrition a year ago as Chevrolets and Hondas went left and right, primarily due to the heat and radiator clogging that took place.

A third engine manufacturer could well be joining the fray soon and have its own chance to win on reliability itself.

MotorSportsTalk was first to report earlier this year that Cosworth is actively seeking a return to IndyCar by attempting to partner with an OEM, as part of the company’s growth plan and strategic development.

Per an update from the company’s CEO Hal Reisiger in a conversation last week, we’ll know within 30-60 days whether the company’s intentions can become a reality.

“We have had discussions take place with two OEMs, and we are obviously very committed to it,” Reisiger told MotorSportsTalk. “A number of the OEMS with new management and sponsors of IndyCar have been watching the positive changes to determine their level of interest.

“We’re hopeful that within the coming weeks, we can take it to the next level.”

Reisiger said Cosworth, which still maintains a regular presence in IndyCar from an electronics standpoint and also premiered the “Cosworth Live on Air” program earlier this season, would seek to align with an OEM to allow for technology transfer between both production cars and race cars. Cosworth is amping up its presence on production cars as we speak.

Regarding aero kits, which are set to be introduced this offseason and then make their race debut once the North American portion of the 2015 season premieres, Reisiger said Cosworth has partners who could work with them to make that happen.

“We have partners we could work with we’ve already lined up, which is something we have to take into account,” he said. “We have two pre-selected partners for the aero kits who could support our efforts immediately.”

Perhaps the biggest piece of Cosworth news that is immediately coming down the pipeline, beyond the potential IndyCar engine involvement, is the development of a performance data recorder for the model year 2015 Corvette.

“It goes to our strategy of bringing motorsports inspired technology going to road cars,” Reisiger explained. “It’s basically data acquisition and telemetry that originates in our motorsport programs, and so we will have a data recorder for model year ’15 Corvette. We are at the start of regular production for that. That’s a big event for us.”

There’s more coming, it seems, for Cosworth on the automotive side of affairs. So the company’s continuing growth and development continues. The only question is whether that growth and development includes being the long-awaited third manufacturer in IndyCar.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.