General Motors Co. and Chevrolet appear to be on their way to an open-wheel-racing return. The news first broke yesterday on a Web site that cited unnamed high-level GM sources who claimed that Chevy will rejoin the Izod IndyCar Series beginning in 2012.
No official confirmation had come as of today, but several well-placed individuals within the racing community said that an announcement was scheduled for Nov. 12. Chevy last participated in IndyCar in 2005 through an association with Cosworth.
GM had been a longtime supplier of engines to open-wheel racing but pulled out to save money.
There is no word at this early stage on whom the company might partner with to build engines this time around, but one source close to the situation did not balk when presented with the idea that longtime race-engine constructor Ilmor could be involved. And although Cosworth is devoting resources to Formula One these days, it is also rapidly expanding and diversifying its business model, making it a potential candidate as well.
Whoever builds the engines, IndyCar is due to have a new technical package for the 2012 season, with turbocharged engines limited to no more than 2.4 liters and six cylinders. However, other than those basic architectural specs, no rules have been finalized or published regarding engine distribution, allocation or control among teams. But series CEO Randy Bernard has met with nearly every auto manufacturer that might participate, including GM during the summer.
Bernard told AW he didn't know about GM's impending announcement but said he expects at least one manufacturer to compete with longtime series supplier Honda in 2012.
“It's purely speculation right now,” he commented regarding the initial report. “We're still talking to a variety of engine manufacturers, and we've got a short time to [secure] them.”
The report named Target Chip Ganassi Racing as Chevy's partner in the IndyCar deal, but team owner Chip Ganassi told AW he knew nothing of the connection. “The whole thing is news to me,” he said. “I literally know nothing. It doesn't have anything to do with our [NASCAR] deal.”
Just days before the Chevy-IndyCar news arrived, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing recommitted to Chevy after considering an offer from Ford. However, another person close to the news backed up Ganassi and said that particular part of the story was pure fantasy and that GM does not yet know how many teams it will have or if it will enlist one of them to be an official “factory” operation. However, this person did say that he expected the General to supply multiple teams in a competitive environment beginning in 2012, and there's nothing at this stage that says Ganassi could not be one of them -- or Penske, Andretti or any other team on the 2012 IndyCar grid.