Chevrolet will make its return as an engine supplier to open-wheel racing when the IndyCar circuit introduces a new equipment package in 2012.
The General Motors Co. division announced today it will develop a new 2.4-liter, twin-turbocharged, direct-injected V-6 racing engine powered by renewable E85 ethanol fuel.
Chevrolet will compete alongside Honda Motor Co., which has been IndyCar's sole engine provider since the 2006 season.
"Our vision is to design, build and sell the world's best vehicles – and racing is one of the best ways to showcase what we can do," Tom Stephens, GM's vice chairman for global product operations, said in a statement. "Re-entering IndyCar racing will help us take our advanced engine technology to the upper bounds of what's possible. And it will also provide a dynamic training ground for engineers, who'll transfer the technologies we develop for racing to the products we sell to our customers."
Stephens said the engine agreement will allow GM engineers to enhance engine performance, explore ways to use less fuel, as well as optimize E85 ethanol.
GM and other automakers face increasingly stringent fuel economy requirements in the United States and other markets to reduce dependence on oil.
Chevrolet previously provided V-8 engines to open-wheel racing from 1986 until 1993, and from 2002 through 2005. It has won 104 races, powered six driver champions, and scored seven Indianapolis 500 victories.
"Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been a proving ground for manufacturers since Louis Chevrolet, our co-founder, first raced here in 1909,” Chris Perry, head of Chevrolet marketing, said in a statement. "This engine program will be a showcase for the efficient and powerful engine technologies that parallel new Chevrolet vehicles like the Camaro, all-new Cruze compact and Equinox crossover.”
Buick and Oldsmobile have also supplied engines to the series.
Roger Penske is leading Chevrolet's return to Indy-car racing, but IndyCar officials said today Team Penske won't have special or preferred engines from the manufacturer.
Izod IndyCar Series officials made that point clear today at a news conference at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Hall of Fame Museum.
Penske has tallied 31 open-wheel victories with Chevrolet engines, including four Indianapolis 500 wins.
Ilmor Engineering, partly owned by Penske, will build the Chevrolet engines. Ilmor is currently working with Honda, and it's unclear who will build Honda's engines for 2012.
Penske's team will use Chevrolet's turbocharged V6 engines, as will other IndyCar race teams.
Penske, who first brought Chevrolet to open-wheel racing in 1986, said today he expected other "Big 3" manufacturers to look at supplying engines to the series.
Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz have also been engine suppliers to the league.
"This is the first step," said Penske, who played a key role in Chevrolet's return to the open-wheel series. "I think we'll see some other people seriously look at it."
AutoWeek reported today that Fiat SpA's Alfa Romeo and Ferrari brands are looking at engine supply agreements with the series. Under its alliance with Chrysler Group LLC, Fiat is reintroducing the Fiat and Alfa Romeo brands in the United States.
AutoWeek contributed to this report