Panel could approve multiple chassis
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The advisory committee for the IRL will spend the next three days in Indianapolis hearing presentations from five companies vying to become the future car supplier of the IndyCar Series.
Six of the nine people involved in the advisory group, known as the Iconic Izod IndyCar Series Advisory Committee, spoke at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday. All of them will fly to Indianapolis after the Firestone 550 to hear the proposals of the chassis designers and engineers.
The committee hopes to make a recommendation on a new chassis by June 30th.
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"That would give us 18 months to have the new cars ready for 2012," said Brian Barnhart, president of competition for the IRL and a committee member.
The advisory panel members are sworn to secrecy about the process, but it's possible more than one chassis will be selected.
"One of the biggest decisions we make will be on the next car for the series," said Randy Bernard, chief executive officer of the IRL. "Every one of these people [on the committee] has a huge weight on their back. They have a huge responsibility to determine if this next car will be a success or failure. It's a huge task."
The range of ideas goes from the Lola, which is similar to the current chassis style, to the futuristic look of the Delta Wing car. Swift, Ashmore and Dallara (the current chassis supplier) also will present proposals to the committee.
Earlier this week, the IRL announced it plans for a new engine package in 2012, which was agreed on by the advisory committee. The new engine will have a maximum of six cylinders, 2.4-liters displacement and a turbo-charger.
The goal is to make it easier for as many engine manufacturers as possible to compete in the series.
"We feel developing rules in conjunction with the automotive manufacturers [production designs] is a more rational approach," Barnhart said. "We feel it's more welcoming rather than creating a rules package that is an obstacle to participation."
Honda is the only engine supplier in the IRL now, but Honda officials have said they would welcome competition for other manufacturers.
Along with Barnhart, members of the committee who spoke at TMS Saturday included TMS president Eddie Gossage, IRL team owner for former series champion Gil de Ferran, former IRL and CART competition director Tony Cotman and retired Air Force Gen. William R. Looney III, who acts as a mediator for the panel.
All the committee members agree the process on selecting a new chassis is the most important decision they have for the future of the IRL.
"Having a voice in this process is a privilege," Gossage said. "As a stakeholder, you get to say your piece."
Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He is the author of "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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