IndyCar officials announce preliminary details of return to innovation

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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).

IndyCar’s Vasser-Sullivan expand into IMSA for 2019

James Sullivan and Jimmy Vasser. Photo IndyCar
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Not even one year after returning to the IndyCar ranks, Vasser-Sullivan Racing is taking AIM at the IMSA world, you might say.

While team co-owners Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan will continue to partner with Dale Coyne Racing on the IndyCar side, they expanded their holdings Tuesday, announcing a partnership with AIM Autosport to campaign a new two-car Lexus-backed RC F GT3 effort in IMSA’s GT Daytona class.

The new team – named AIM Vasser-Sullivan – will replace 3GT Racing, which was part of Lexus’ sports car program launch in 2016. It will announce its two drivers in the coming weeks, the team said.

“Sulli and I are excited and looking forward to entering a new chapter in our racing careers,” Vasser said in a media release. “I have driven sports cars before, but my career was pretty much limited to the 24 Hours of Daytona, including a ‘class’ win in 1992 and second overall in 2008.

“The AIM Vasser Sullivan team, with the support of Lexus and our sponsors, has the tools to get the job done and we are looking forward to this new challenge.”

Lexus has made significant progress in its first two seasons in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition, having earned a combined two race wins, five poles and finished third in the 2018 GTD Manufacturer point standings.

Vasser and Sullivan were part of the ownership group of KVSH Racing in IndyCar from 2011 through 2016 before the organization folded.

They also owned Tony Kanaan’s 2013 Indianapolis 500-winning car.

After sitting out the 2017 season, Vasser, a former CART champion, and Sullivan rejoined forces this past February, just before the start of the 2018 IndyCar season, partnering with Coyne to form a satellite team led by driver Sebastien Bourdais, who previously drove for KVSH.

Bourdais kicked off the new team’s effort with a win in the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He finished seventh in the overall season standings.

AIM Vasser Sullivan will have two home bases for its IMSA program: AIM’s current facility in Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada, as well as a new U.S. shop in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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