Exclusive: Cosworth seeks return to IndyCar, possible one for F1

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Cosworth has built a long, established history across open-wheel racing for nearly a half century. But for 2014, a Cosworth engine isn’t on the Formula One grid, and for the seventh consecutive year isn’t in an IndyCar.

That could soon change.

In an exclusive interview with Cosworth Automotive CEO Hal Reisiger, an American who headed Cosworth’s U.S. companies and in the last year has advanced to be the head of the company in the U.K., plans are in the works for a return to at least one of the two championships – potentially both.

When asked by MotorSportsTalk whether IndyCar’s current  2.2L V6 turbocharged engine formula would portend a Cosworth return, Reisiger said it’s something they’re working on.

“We are committed to aligning ourselves with an OEM for an IndyCar engine program,” Reisiger said.

He confirmed he’ll have meetings next week on the possibility, and said it’s something they’re keenly interested in.

“I think that IndyCar wants it, the teams want it; they want another entrant other than the Chevy Illmor and the Honda and miss having the Lotus engine,” Reisiger said.

“We have set a target and a goal of finding an OEM engine partner for an IndyCar. It’s something that’s very high on the list of priorities, and we have the support of IndyCar ourselves in doing so.”

The Lotus engine wasn’t a popular choice in 2012, as it was initially fielded by four teams with five cars (HVM Racing, Lotus Dreyer & Reinbold, Dragon Racing and Bryan Herta Autosport). However, all bar HVM ended their association with Lotus by the month of May in Indianapolis, thus leaving Keith Wiggins’ team and Simona de Silvestro to see out the season with the lesser-rated engine.

While the Lotus wasn’t a popular choice, its presence meant that the manufacturers only needed to supply up to 40 percent of the IndyCar field. Once Lotus pulled out and left only Chevrolet and Honda in play, those two had to increase capacity to make up the field.

The 2014 IndyCar grid is likely to see a reduced number of full-time entrants compared to 2013, but that’s not down to the engine manufacturers. Dragon Racing’s departure reduces Chevrolet’s number by two; Panther Racing (Chevrolet) is yet to confirm its plans and Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s second Honda is not confirmed for the full season. Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing add a Chevrolet apiece.

Cosworth last powered the Panoz DP01 Champ Car for the 2007 full season, and the engine last appeared in the series’ final race, the 2008 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

As for Formula One, Marussia was the last team to field the normally aspirated 2.4L V8 Cosworth at the end of the current development cycle there. But according to Reisiger, it wasn’t the new regulations that prevented Cosworth from building a new 1.6L V6 turbocharged engine. It was simply economics.

“There had been some design work, simulation and analysis done by our engineering staff and there had been some discussions, some of which were fairly recent, about whether there wasn’t a team or teams plural that were willing to sponsor the development,” Reisiger explained.

“But given the scope of the work and budget that’s required, it wasn’t something Cosworth was prepared to undertake independently. If one of those discussions came to fruition, and they still take place, it’s still something we’d be interested in that we’d need to be in collaboration and partnership with an OEM or team or teams.”

So would that leave the door open to an F1 return down the road? In a word, yes.

“Absolutely we would (want to),” Reisiger said. “I think that we provide a very cost-effective solution for people to be on the grid. We have the ability to excel from a performance standpoint. Decisions take place fairly frequently; it’s a matter of whether or not it makes sense for teams, OEMs and/or Cosworth. We’d look forward to the right opportunity if we could find the right collaboration.”

Potential Cosworth programs could also appear in sports car racing and/or another form of motorsport down the road. Further information from our conversation with Reisiger today will follow in a separate post.

How IndyCar rookie Sting Ray Robb got that name (and some more of his backstory)

IndyCar Sting Ray Robb
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Every NTT IndyCar Series season brings a new round of getting to know the rookies, and it’s fairly obvious where the story starts with Sting Ray Robb.

Just for clarification, “Robb” is the last name. His given name indeed is “String Ray” on the birth certificate.

Why, yes, he does come from performance-car parentage.

And yes, the IndyCar rookie named “Sting Ray” will be driving the No. 51 Dallara-Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware.

How did that go over with a mom and dad who clearly prefer American automotive brands?

“That’s a tricky question,” Robb said with a laugh Tuesday during the IndyCar Preseason Content Days. “Yeah, my parents are big Corvette fans, and I think that they ruled out criticizing me too badly because they know the dream is IndyCar.”

“I’ll be in a Honda car and I’m assuming it’ll go pretty quick, so I’m OK with all of that.”

“They’re not going to rename you ‘NSX’ or something?” asked Motorsport.com’s David Malsher-Lopez (whose bitingly sardonic wit is regularly heard in IndyCar media centers).

“No. I hope not,” Robb said. “My name is my name. I don’t need a rename, thank you.”

Robb, 21, has been making a name for himself lately, finishing second in last year’s Indy NXT standings with 11 top-five finishes, eight podiums and two pole positions.

But the Payette, Idaho, native also has an intriguing backstory beyond his successful four years in the Road to Indy ladder system (that also included the 2020 Indy Pro title).

He hails from the same small town (northwest of Boise on the Oregon border) that produced Minnesota Twins slugger and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.

Robb, whose graduating class was less than 100, recently found that Wikipedia listed him and Killebrew as the “notable alumni” from Payette High School.

“It’s nice to be see and appreciate all the things that I’ve learned and been through,” said Robb, who also played some baseball in his day, adding that “I’m more of a consistent singles hitter, slap hitter if you want to call it. No home runs, just doubles or triples here and there.”

Some other facts on the newest memorable name of IndyCar:

–He’s managed by Pieter Rossi (father of Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner), but he also gets a lot of help from his mother, Kimmie.

“We call her my ‘momager’ because she’s my mom and my manager,” Robb said. “She has been a huge role in my career because she does things that I’m unable to do as a driver.

“She’s able to play hardball with the contracts, etc., and have my best interest in mind when it comes to negotiating, along with Pieter. He may be someone that has a lot of experience in the series with Alexander, but he may not know what’s best for me. It’s good to have them both on my side, and I can learn a lot from them.”

–His family have been lifelong supporters since go-karting. “It was my mom, my dad, my grandparents on the road every weekend,” he said. “My dad has missed one race in my entire life, and it was because he was in the hospital. So we let him have a pass, and he was still on the phone every 30 minutes making sure that tire pressure was right, engine temp was right, we had the right gear on the car, etc.”

–Robb graduated high school a year early to focus on racing after being home-schooled as a child. “I went to someone’s house actually, and she taught me from the time I was in pre-K through sixth grade,” Robb said. “So in seventh grade I started going to public school, and I hate to say it, but I feel like I stopped learning after that point. But it was OK. I got some social skills, lucky for you guys.”

–He also has a wild story about how he landed his current ride during a random encounter in a trip to the gym (which you can read about here).