Indy Lights Engine Upgrades, Monitoring In Motion | Performance Racing Industry
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Indy Lights Engine Upgrades, Monitoring In Motion
September 7, 2017
Despite seven different drivers sharing 16 race victories this year, questions of engine parity arose, and with a few lingering reliability concerns, Andersen Promotions, which runs the Mazda Road To Indy, and its partners at Advanced Engine Research set a few initiatives in motion.
Indy Lights Engine Upgrades, Monitoring In Motion

Having celebrated the triumph of its new champion Kyle Kaiser and his team Juncos Racing Monday night in New York, the Indy Lights series quickly turned its attention to 2018 by commissioning important engine upgrades and new performance monitoring plans.

Despite seven different drivers sharing 16 race victories this year, questions of engine parity arose, and with a few lingering reliability concerns, Andersen Promotions, which runs the Mazda Road To Indy, and its partners at Advanced Engine Research—responsible for the stout 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder Lights engine—set a few initiatives in motion.

"There were some peripheral problems we've dealt with in the past like replacing the alternator vendors to fix issues there, and together with AER, we're changing wastegate vendors and they've readily agreed to upgrade all of the cars before the end of the year," Dan Andersen said.

"In addition, we're upgrading the turbocharger, going to a different manufacturer with a greater product. Those will all be changed before next season. We also had two electronic boost management box issues, so we've implemented a more frequent service and inspection schedule and we'll be relocating them in the car to a position that's cooler in the engine compartment."

The topic of engine parity is always a touchy subject when spec units are involved. Andersen met with all of the Indy Lights team owners and managers during last weekend's season finale at Watkins Glen to address the toughest topic he faces: engine equality.

"The biggest issue all season is the perception that the engines aren't equal," he confirmed. "We have an engine down-on-power rule where a competitor can file a claim, post a $5000 fee, we ship the engine back to AER in England, dyno it, and if it's out of range – and we're talking single-digit variance for all motors – they'll get a new motor and their money back.

"If it's within spec, they get the engine sent back to them and forfeit the $5,000. We had six or seven claims this season, only one turned out to be down on power. Nevertheless, we still have this perception."

Indy Lights race director Tony Cotman, who oversaw the creation of the Dallara IL15-AER package, was tasked with adding a new monitoring system to quash any concerns of parity going forward.

"We'll be monitoring cars with torque sensors in every session as we go forward," Cotman said. "We're still developing the process, but we're going to have at least six sensors, if not more, to go on the cars of our choosing and we will be rigorously checking the data to search for any variances. And teams, if they have a genuine reason to ask for it, can come and request to have one placed on a car to determine if there's an issue. This step is to remove any doubt."

Positive reaction to the changes were found throughout the paddock, starting with Brian Belardi, whose two-car Belardi Racing team earned four victories with Santi Urrutia and Aaron Telitz, and scored the Teams' championship despite suffering some mid-season engine problems.

"It's a thumbs up from me; they're going in the right direction," he told RACER. "The engine question is a tough thing to deal with when talking with potential drivers. There's two we spoke with last weekend and that was the first questions they had. I'm happy with what I could tell them about the changes that are coming, and the series is doing the right thing."

Andretti Autosport COO Rob Edwards, who has played a major role in developing Indy Lights talent, applauded the news.

"It's a great series in terms of talent, and I think the biggest difficulty teams have is – real or perceived – that the engine program is a concern, so I salute Dan Andersen and Tony Cotman and AER for addressing them head on," he said.

"The needs to make some changes with the engine ancillaries is a great call, and the addition of torque sensors to make the data readily available when issues come up is what we need. It's being proactive and I think the series will continue to attract the best drivers from America and Europe and elsewhere to come and compete where their talent will shine through."