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Chevy ‘Issue’ Heats Up Long Beach Paddock

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 13 2012

Chevrolet teams went to work at replacing 11 engines in Long Beach. (INDYCAR/LAT USA)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Chevrolet Racing and team personnel spent a busy afternoon spinning wrenches in the IZOD IndyCar Series paddock in Southern California on Thursday, methodically trading-out all 11 V-6 engines in cars entered for Sunday’s 38th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The decision was made following the tear-down and inspection of the 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged engine in the No. 27 GoDaddy.com Dallara driven by James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport. That powerplant experienced “an issue” during a team test Monday on the Infineon Raceway road-course in Sonoma, Calif.

Per the IZOD IndyCar Series rulebook, each of the 11 entries will be levied a 10-grid position penalty after qualifying to start the 85-lap race on the famed 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit because of an unapproved engine change. Rules 15.3.1 and 15.6.1.1 outline the penalty for a change-out if the engine has not reached its minimum mileage threshold of 1,850 miles.

“We are still learning the limitations of the new engine controls calibration,” Chris Berube, Chevrolet Racing’s IZOD IndyCar Series program manager, said in a statement from Detroit. “Through our testing in Sonoma, as indicated by an engine issue, we uncovered a problem that we believe could affect all engines. So, as a result, we feel it is prudent to change all engines prior to the start of the on-track activities this weekend.”

Through the first two races, Chevrolet’s new V-6 has recorded two victories and two poles – one each by Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Will Power. Castroneves is the series championship point-leader by two over Scott Dixon of Honda-powered Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

Sunday’s race, Round 3 of the series, will be telecast live at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) by NBC Sports Network. The IMS Radio Network also will carry the event live on XM Channel 94 and Sirius 212.

Hinchcliffe put a misery-loves-company corporate spin on what rates as a major embarrassment for Chevrolet in its return to the series’ “engine wars” against longtime partner Honda and newcomer Lotus.

“I was already penalized the 10 spots before the decision to change out all Chevy engines,” said Hinchcliffe, who is in his first season with Andretti Autosport. “It’s a bummer, but now at least I’m not alone. There will now be some good racing happening mid-pack. The engine mileage rule is a tremendous engineering challenge and ultimately helps improve technology for the automotive industry.

“In an era of multiple manufacturers you sometimes have to exceed limits to know where they truly are. Chevy has been an incredible partner since the new cars arrived. They have won the first two races, from pole, and I’m proud to wear the ‘Bowtie’ on my chest. It would be easy to complain about how harsh (the penalty) is, but I think the attitude of everyone on the Go Daddy crew is that when the going gets tough, it’s time to nut-up, buckle down and push hard for the best result possible. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Drivers affected by the sweeping decision are Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport; Rubens Barrichello, Tony Kanaan and E.J. Viso of KV Racing Technology; JR Hildebrand of Panther Racing; Castroneves, Power and Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske and Ed Carpenter.

A first-year team-owner/driver, Carpenter was philosophical when informed of the penalty.

“It’s definitely going to make things interesting,” Carpenter said. “It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re all playing by the same rules. It’s the safest choice and, even though we’re starting at a disadvantage from the get-go, it’s better than potentially having an issue later on. It’s a learning process for all of us, and it’s not a decision they made lightly.”

Berube confirmed that point. “We intently discussed the situation with our partners and our teams prior to determining that this was the best course of action to preserve the integrity of the racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series,” he said.

Also on Wednesday, IndyCar Series officials announced that the No. 7 Lotus Dragon Racing Dallara driven by three-time Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach winner Sebastien Bourdais would incur a 10-grid spot penalty for changing-out the car’s Lotus V-6 following the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Bourdais finished a season-high ninth at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 13 2012
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