Sweet Sound of Speed Returning to IndyCar?

Tiffany DaviesCorrespondent IAugust 23, 2008

Have you been missing that high pitched, smoother sounding engine in the IRL? Starting in 2011, die-hard IndyCar series fans can expect to hear the sound of turbocharged engines, a sound that hasn't been heard on the circuit since the switch to V8 engines in 1997.

Following a meeting in June, IndyCar series presidents are expected to notify automakers of their decision to switch back to turbo engines at a meeting in September at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis Star is reporting. Officials are also interested in increasing engine power from a current 650 horsepower to approximately 750. However, the current debate centers on whether to adapt a turbo four cylinder or V6 engine, and that could depend on what manufacturers express interest in making engines for the series.

One could anticipate that with a decreased number of cylinders, more engine manufacturers may join Honda, as these engines bear more similarity to other series' engines and closer to their passenger cars.  Also, with the switch to ethanol, fuel efficiency may also be playing a part in this switch. Primarily motivating the IndyCar series, however, is the desire by many fans and drivers for more horsepower and speed, much like the Champ Car series had exhibited in recent years.

History has shown that smaller, four cylinder turbos can be run with success, as was noted by the use of the four cylinder in Formula 1, with those engines reaching in excess of one thousand horsepower. The question remains, however, whether or not this change will satisfy the so-called "traditional" IndyCar fan, or if it instead will enrage those who see the series drifting more towards the Champ Car series rules and specifications.

On one hand, one can see how this will satisfy the "need for speed" that long time fans have been craving, although improved aerodynamics and a better chassis design could also solve that problem. Many have criticised the engineering and design of the current body, but a total redesign of the car would take years and still will not satisfy everyone.

On the other hand, one can also see how the move to turbo will further anger those who feel IndyCar is becoming too much like the series it overtook, as Champ Car also ran turbocharged engines. However, the circumstances surrounding the use of the turbo in those engines are vastly different than the current situation. Those fans are most likely more upset by the changing racing culture of the series, with an influx in road courses and foreign drivers, exactly what the IRL never intended to become.

Current IndyCar series fans must understand, however, that although the use of the turbo will gain more speed for the cars, this isn't the sole solution to the problem. Others must also understand that although this move does bring the IndyCar series closer to the Champ Car specifications, it isn't necessarily a bad thing. The reunification of the two series is going to take compromise, both in cars and drivers, tracks and engines, so that the best of both series can combine and provide for optimal American open-wheel racing and competition.