IndyCar’s 2.2-liter twin-turbo V6 units were introduced with Dallara’s all-new DW12 for the start of the 2012 season, and will serve their final year in 2022. During this period, the series has only licensed than Chevrolet / Ilmor and Honda / HPD to work on certain areas each year – sometimes larger, sometimes smaller – to help contain costs.
Still, Buckner says there would be a “remarkable performance difference” between a 2012-spec and current-spec engine.
“A 2012 engine [is] probably around 100 horsepower at current racing engines, while being massively [fuel] inefficient in comparison, and with poor handling. It was not very fancy packaging.
“I think if you could take a 2021 race engine and race it against a pack of 2012 cars, it could probably go around the pack! It would be amazing. It shows how much the two vendors really pushed each other in development and constantly improved. “
Although the current engine formula is being replaced for 2023 by 2.4-liter engines with hybrid units, and Chevy and Honda have said over the past 18 months that only fragments of development potential remain in the on 2.2 Buckner said the builders will keep pushing.
“For both sides, Chevy and our competition, if you stopped now you would be left behind next season,” he said. “For 10 seasons, both parties have been on the path to continuous improvement.
“You always think you’ve updated and found something that gives you a clear advantage, and then you find it’s almost on par with the competition. Each pushes the other forward, relentlessly.
“So we really can’t stop. No doubt if we stop now and run this motor twenty more times [through to the 2022 finale] we’re going to be late at the end. So there are always improvements to be made.
“Four or five years ago we could have said, ‘That’s it. Oh, we’ve explored enough and that’s all we can get out of the 2.2L. If we had done that then, we would be overwhelmingly late by now. You have to continue the development process; run engines on the dyno, revisit old ideas, maybe calibrate hardware development. We will not consider the development of the 2.2L officially 100% complete until it has competed in its last event.
When asked how difficult it has been to harness the last potential of the 2.2-liter while tackling the 2.4-liter engines, Buckner said: “Fortunately… the homologation chart for 2022 is pretty minimal in terms of changes, so there is little we can revisit.The fundamental engine architecture is very similar, and the rulebook is quite similar on the purely internal combustion side.
“There are things that we continue to learn and develop on 2.4 that could be rolled out for 2.2 next year in its final year of competition – and vice versa. So there are more engines running and the staff are sort of dealing with these projects at the same time, because we know the 2.2 expiration date is just around the corner.
Buckner said IndyCar president Jay Frye’s goal to start testing the 2.4-liter cars in the first quarter of 2022 is realistic, although he said: “The final deciding factor for the Getting started will integrate the new engine into the car and the cooling system that goes with it.
“There are a lot of pieces and pieces that need to come together before you hit the track. Everyone on our side and our competition – there was a lot of collaboration to be ready to test for the first time.
In recent years, Chevrolet engines have been considered more powerful at high revs than Hondas, which produced better torque at lower revs. Buckner said those specs were difficult to change under such restrictive IndyCar regulations, and didn’t expect them to necessarily change with the 2.4-liter car – but also added that weak points will be corrected.
“We’ve always focused on high-speed performance, and I don’t think we’re going to drastically change that approach with 2.4,” he said. “You spend the majority of the time at full throttle in a high rev range in an IndyCar event, so some of our fundamental decisions will be similar.
“Some things in the engine design that you lock in earlier in the program, like the entire intake system, the engine block, the cylinder heads. Some big decisions that you make early on, you put them forward for years because that you cannot re-register.
“2.4 allows us to do a complete overhaul of the spreadsheet. Early on we learned from 2.2 to make decisions that could have produced trade-offs – but engine design is pretty much all about trade-offs, as well as the rulebook framework and the limitations of the packaging. of the car.
“I have good faith in our group that we are going to fix some of our weak points and the 2.4 will be a good package. From the start in 2023, you will see our best and the best of our competitors from the start. “
Drivers who drove for both engine builders also noted a fundamental difference in the way track engineers operate. HPD is generally seen as more willing to tailor its engine mapping to individual drivers, while Chevrolet prefers more consistent data sets that it hopes all of its racers will benefit from, and is therefore more restrictive in its choices.
Buckner recognized this difference and said he was not considering a policy change.
“Our group tries to be pretty controlled and we don’t like to run things on the track that we haven’t raced on the dynos,” he said. “I don’t see it changing too drastically.
“I think it’s easy to ignore the challenge of driving almost all of the same cars and expecting them to be reliable. So that’s one of the reasons we don’t let our track engineers get too crazy about calibration changes. You would end up with 11 cars on different calibrations and likely damage some hardware.
“Clearly there are other ways to do it, but we always prioritize proven options to minimize our risk of hurting performance or reliability… Overall we go to the track with proven concepts. backed by data. “
Start of the IndyCar race in Baltimore in 2012.
Photo by: Adriano Manocchia