It's been 60-days
since the CART Franchise Board announced that they had chosen
an IRL-like 3.5L normally aspirated engine for CART to use
beginning in 2003. At that time the board charged John
Lopes and Derrick Walker to come up with the details of those
engines for CART. Those details were presented at
today's Franchise Board meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. The
details needed to be agreed upon now for the manufacturers and
teams to be ready for 2003.
From what I
understand, Lopes and company presented four companies that
agreed to supply the 3.5L engines - Toyota, Ilmor, Judd and
TWR (Tom Walkinshaw Racing). However, of those, only
two, Toyota and TWR, are car manufacturers. Nissan does
not want their name on the engine in CART I am told (probably
to not piss off Tony George), so it would be badged TWR in
CART races and Nissan for the Indy 500. Indy 500 rules prohibit any engine from
competing that does not have a car manufacturers name on
it. Hence, only the Toyota and TWR/Nissan CART teams would be any
closer to going to the Indy 500, which means this entire
concept has hit a major roadblock. If all the teams
don't get closer to making Indy with the 3.5L engine, how do
you get the votes needed to win approval?
meeting, Bruce McCaw and Jerry Forsythe made a strong pitch
for the 'spec' 2.65 Liter 750 HP Turbo Cosworth deal, priced
at around $1.5 million per car per year. With different
Franchise Board members in favor of one or the other package,
the meeting quickly became chaotic and Chip Ganassi stormed
out. With Chip gone, apparently there were not enough
members present to get the 18 necessary votes to approve
anything, and the meeting was adjourned around 1:00 PM with no decision
made. I don't ever see that group getting 18 of 21 votes
to agree on anything, and I was shocked when they got it when
they voted on the 3.5L N/A engine in the first place.
Time is quickly
running out for anyone to be ready for the 2003 season.
The final details for 2003 really should have been completed
by now. Therefore, like it or not, CART may have no
choice but to take the Cosworth offer, as those engines can be
essentially ready tomorrow. Frankly, most of CART's fans would
be ecstatic if that were to happen, as most prefer the 2.65L
turbo and its wonderful sound.
I learned today
that CART is even entertaining the idea of buying Cosworth Inc
(i.e. just the Torrance, Ca. rebuilding facility) and buying
all the engines (150 or so) for $15 million. CART would
then lease the engines to the teams for the same $1.5 million
annually. By the 2nd year CART would be close to break
even, and by the 3rd year of the deal, actually be making a
small profit. It's assumed the engine would have the 'CART'
name on it, i.e. it would be a CART Turbo Engine, or
they could sell the naming rights to just about anyone I
suppose. By buying Cosworth, CART would have absolute
full control of their engine destiny for at least three years
and the teams would be assured of low-cost race engines, as
cheap or cheaper than IRL engines.
As I have alluded
to previously, I have information that another deal is in the
works whereby the teams would get Cosworth engines essentially
free, however, I am not at liberty to reveal those details at
this time until all the loose ends are tied up....it's still
possible it may not happen, but I am told it's 90% real.
the Cosworth offer is very attractive, as I have written in
the past, having a 'spec' engine means zero engine
manufacturer involvement. That means no companies buying
print advertisements, TV ads, hospitality, ticket giveaways,
etc. In essence, CART loses out on the millions of
dollars these manufacturers would spend, and the overall
'wealth' of the CART series would be much lower. Hence,
I would keep the Cosworth deal in my back pocket as a
last-ditch resort until, say, June.
If I were CART, I
would seriously recommend they entertain my previous
proposal. Either buy Cosworth's Torrance, CA
rebuilding plant, or do the deal with Cosworth, to supply just
the bottom half of the engines, the turbo system, and the electronics. This
'partial' engine would not have the Ford name associated with
it at all, it would be strictly a 'CART' bottom end that they
contracted with Cosworth to make for them. Then offer to any car manufacturer who wants to participate in
the CART series, the opportunity to design just their own
heads, intake manifolds and fuel injection system, and by
doing so, would be entitled to call the engine their own.
proposal, it's estimated that all the engines would be within 20
or 40 HP of each other, regardless of the company doing the
heads and intakes, because there's only so much one can do
with the bore, stroke, turbo, and electronics being
fixed. Also, if the Cosworth bottom end of the engine is
fixed, the manufacturers who design the top end of the engine
would not be able to significantly bump up engine RPM (this is
the #1 factor that raises engine costs) because the bottom end
would not be designed for it, and would fail. In essence then, you have 1) an easy and cheap
way for any manufacturer to enter the series, 2) pretty close
performance on all the engines for good competition, 3) car
manufacturers involved, thereby, spending the millions of
dollars in the CART series that would otherwise be lost with a
purely 'spec' engine.
I propose this
engine formula for a period of just three years,
maximum. Then by 2006 CART will have grown their series
into something much stronger than it currently is (because of
Chris Pook's new leadership), and CART will have engine
manufacturers who would be willing to spend the gazillions of
dollars needed to do an entire engine from scratch, be it
normally aspirated or a 1.8L turbo.
any of these proposals, the teams will see the current engine
budgets cut drastically, meaning they will save plenty of
money to also be able to lease equipment to run the Indy 500
each year, which was their goal when they adopted the idea of
a 3.5 L N/A engine in the first place.
At this point,
time is running out folks, a decision has to be made.
Perhaps Pook will be installed as President within a week (I
hear) and hit the ground running and ruling with an iron
fist. It's time to lay it on the line - tell everyone
(don't ask) what the engine formula will be, make sure it's a
viable one, and open it up for takers. If you get no
takers, we will have 100% Cosworth engines for a couple of
years, and go from there. It's time for the
procrastination to stop......now!
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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