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Twin-turbocharged engines to level IndyCar playing field


July 30, 2013

Chevy's 2013 2.2 liter dual blown IndyCar engine (Photo: Chevrolet)

Chevy's 2013 2.2 liter dual blown IndyCar engine (Photo: Chevrolet)

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INDYCAR has announced that all engines for the IZOD IndyCar Series from 2014 forward will be equipped with twin Borg-Warner turbochargers. After Lotus dropped out of competition due to a problem-filled 2012, returning engine manufacturer Chevrolet squared dual turbochargers against Honda's single, and dominated the season. Next year should show better performance and a more level playing field.

IndyCar engines represent remarkable feats of engineering and experience. These 2.2 liter (135.25 cu in) turbocharged V6 engines weighing a mere 114 kg (250 lbs) might be an appropriate size for pushing along a mid-sized sedan, but pump out about 650 horsepower at up to 12,000 rpm. A combination of direct and indirect fuel injection allows these tiny engines to swallow the enormous amount of fuel needed to achieve such power.

Normal turbo boost is 21.75 psi for these mini-brutes, with a passing option allowing a temporary (15 to 20 seconds, depending on the track) increase to 23.2 psi. Ten such boosts are allowed during a race, after which the capability is self-terminated. It isn't yet clear how much advantage the extra boost will deliver to these E85 powered thoroughbreds, but time will tell.

For most of the last decade, Honda has been providing the only IndyCar racing engine in the world, which automatically removed engine performance as a factor in these races. In 2012, Chevrolet reentered the game as a second source of IndyCar engines, however, it decided to use a dual turbo rather than Honda's single turbo. Both options fit within the rules and, while not a walkaway win, the Chevy engine took a clear first in 2012 and is on track for a repeat this year.

In response to the slightly imbalanced versions of the IndyCar 2.2 liter engines, the INDYCAR Engine Committee, in coordination with Honda and Chevrolet who are preparing to update their engines, has decided that only engines with dual turbochargers will be allowed starts for the 2014 season. As Borg-Warner supplies all the turbochargers for INDYCAR, this, together with the rules limiting boost, will help insure that the drivers are tested more strongly than their racecars during a race.

"In an effort for parity throughout the turbocharger range, mandating only a twin turbo system simplifies our efforts to ensure even closer competition," INDYCAR president of competition and operations Derrick Walker said. "Both manufacturers displayed a willingness to use a common turbo spec for 2014, so it made sense to mandate a twin turbocharger that maintains the performance we've come to expect while keeping the technology relevant to the automotive industry."


About the Author
Brian Dodson From an early age Brian wanted to become a scientist. He did, earning a Ph.D. in physics and embarking on an R&D career which has recently broken the 40th anniversary. What he didn't expect was that along the way he would become a patent agent, a rocket scientist, a gourmet cook, a biotech entrepreneur, an opera tenor and a science writer. All articles by Brian Dodson

What happened to IRL/IndyCar/ad nauseum's claimed goal of affordable performance?

John Gochnauer

Racing is more interesting when the cars aren't mandated to be identical.


I'm confused was Chevy using turbochargers or superchargers?

First "Chevrolet squared dual superchargers"

Then later "Chevrolet... it decided to use a dual turbo rather than Honda's single turbo"

Turbochargers are different than superchargers, where as superchargers derive their power to compress more air into the engine directly from the crank shaft turbos use the exhaust gases from the engine. Each have their benefits and draw backs. The supercharger provides air to the engine at low RPMs as it is physically connected to the drive shaft but this also causes more load to be running on the engine reducing power gained from the extra air. Turbocharges tend to provide more power in the high RPM range and suffer from something called turbo lag. Turbo lag occurs because the turbo is power by the exhaust gases which take moments to build up pressure. Turbo systems also cause more back pressure on the engine decreasing the advantage of more combustible air in the engine.

Jon Smith

Agreed with Pin... This is dumb! Where is the innovation?!


@Pin: I don't agree. When you have a runaway car, like the Chevy motors enabled, or a runaway tire (think Michelin vs. Pirelli in WRC a few years ago) you get something very boring. You have a few that completely dominate and everyone else is an also-ran. That's not fun for anyone.


Give me one of the 195 hp axial vector engines putting out 610 ft. lb. tq. weighing @ 200 lb.. and getting @ 40 mpg. designed in built in the UK back @ 2006 possibly 2007 and I will wipe the field clean... vroom,vroom,vroom... what a joke.


I agree with Pin. And identical cars may squash innovation.


Pin, you are correct... They keep losing their fan bases, and wonder why... It's because the fans can no longer root for their favorite car or engine manufacturer. Just like NASCAR, (National Association of SAME CAR Auto Racing). It's sad that the controlling bodies have gotten away from the intent of these races (entertainment for the fans, rivalries between manufacturers, and development of better engines, cars, etc.)...Oh well


Hang on a minute- by what standard is a 2.2 litre engine considered 'small'? Most of the cars in Europe are powered by engines smaller than this!

Back in the late 70's and through much of the 80's Renault's V6 turbocharged and twin turboed Formula 1 engines developed between 500 and 1200 bhp- from 1.5 litres!

So this Chevy engine hardly represents progress...


Pin -- You must be an American, likewise. Where's the ingenuity to become stronger through engineering. What happened to America being the strongest, and more dominant force in building better performing vehicles. Should we just sit back and watch racing for the drivers? BORING! I'd rather sit and watch my grandson play in the sandbox.


Making the cars have identical performance limits the cost to get in.

I would be much more interested in true stock car racing. The cars having to be identical the cars on the showroom floor, no additional safety equipment, options, or stripping. Just bare boned, base model econo-boxes. It would be all driver cheap cars and you can drive a car identical to the one your hero drove Sunday to work on Monday.

Alternatively limiting the rules to; 250cc maximum displacement engine. 3m-3.1m long, 1.7m-1.8m wide, 1m -1.1m tall. Four tires on the ground. 20liter maximum fuel capacity. 2tonne weight as handicapped with the cars dry except for the brake fluid. The same crash cage specifications as say Indycar.



A 250cc engine is what I call small! But I can't think of any viable road vehicles past or present that uses or used such a tiny engine, with the exception of the Piaggio Ape (that is Italian for 'bee', not a large furry simian), which is a range of tiny 3 wheeled delivery vehicles or auto rickshaws (or Tuk-Tuks) which are designed to operate at low speed in urban environment, or on faster roads very close to the kerb so that faster vehicles can pass.

Of course, it would be possible to use an extremely highly tuned engine, provided it was fitted to an extremely light chassis- but it wouldn't go far on 20 litres of fuel, and you'd need a very twisty course to make racing interesting- as top speeds would of course be rather low (an American oval circuit race would be even less exciting, if that were possible, with such cars).

The existing small displacement racing series is kart racing, which is suitable for juniors, and is fast and furious on scaled down tracks, with the riders so close to the road that the karts themselves are little more than motorised tea trays. Kart racing is an under-appreciated race format.


Re my last comment above- when I said that I couldn't think of any viable road vehicle (with an engine of 250cc) I meant vehicles with more than two wheels...


re; bergamot69 Thinking about it I'll add one more rule. The engine has to be four stroke and have a catalytic converter on the tailpipe. High speed is not what it takes for exiting racing. The cars are suppose to be slow enough that it will take a very very long time for the cars to get too fast for the tracks. How much power do you think the engine can produce 20hp. Using the Indycar engines as a benchmark 73.5hp is to be expected. Now add unlimited boost and weight control on the engine not being a concern.

Why people can't envision highly boosted tiny engines is beyond be.


Agree with Slowburn. I'd like to see 'true stock car' races.


@ bergamot69

These engines run much lower boost pressure and far less volatile fuels than their forebears. Also, they tend to burn less fuel, last longer and run an exhaust catalyst. I'd say thats progress. The similar car mandate comes from keeping the barriers of entry low, as well as for safety. True race fans will recall the heady days of the turbo era and the fan and multi-wheel cars of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Great times in racing and some truly innovative ideas came out of it, but quite a few racers died and the tech gave an unfair advantage to the financially well off teams.

That being said though, I would love to see a league of racing where virtually anything goes.

Michael Wilson

I agree with Pin. Races are getting to be nothing more than a choo choo train running around the track. Boring.


These races, are a test of the men and the cars. Designs learned from racing, have trickled down to street level cars, (and the other way around) with changes to suspensions, shocks and struts, tires, steering, and many other changes. It is this need for improvement, that drives car manufacturers to tweak it just a bit here and there for better than the guy next to me performance. Matching the cars is boring, and just elevates the status of the drivers. You want innovation? We Americans invented Nascar, while running from the Law. Street cars were modified to do what no other cars could do, more power, suspension tricks, transmissions redesigned, All so moonshiners could run 'shine' without getting caught by the cops. Need causes competition, competition causes innovation. Every time I hear "level the playing field", I know it is a step in the wrong direction. Set the rules to any game, and let the best man win. this PC matching crap is counter-productive.


This is exactly why I could care less about Indy Racing , same with Nascar. I don't car about the drivers , I wan to see developments in Hardware and technology. The playing field should not be level, the teams that innovate more should win and there should be enough leeway in the rules to allow for innovation.

You want a level playing field that is affordable and safe? How about a series featuring 20 or 30 simulators all running the same software competing. You can make them very high tech sort of like the high end flight simulators. Then you will have a level playing field , no body will get hurt and no greenhouse gases are emitted. You can cheer for your favorite driver knowing that everything is nice and equal and if one driver proves to be to good he can be easily dialed back. Make sure we have a good ethnic cross section of society and make sure that all of of the different sexual orientations are represented as well. Hell, fix it so every driver wins the same number of races and the championship can be shared because God forbid , we wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings by having a loser.

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