IndyCar group to hear from chassis hopefuls

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — An IndyCar Series advisory committee will listen to presentations from five manufacturers competing to provide the next generation of chassis for the open-wheel cars.

The decision on a new chassis is expected by the end of June.

Series CEO Randy Bernard said Saturday that the committee will hear presentations in Indianapolis from chassis manufacturers on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, then begin deliberations. He wouldn't go into details about the design.

Currently, all teams use the Dallara chassis, as well as the eight-cylinder, 650-horsepower engines made by Honda exclusively.

The presentations from the potential chassis manufacturers come only days after the IndyCar Series announced their engine strategy for the future, and opening up the process to a variety of manufacturers and configurations for the 2012 season.

"About 2½ months ago, we decided one of the biggest decisions that IndyCar would make in this decade would be their next car," said Bernard, who became the league's new CEO in March. "We feel it's very important to maintain our position as the fastest and most versatile racing car in the world. "

While Bernard and committee members couldn't discuss specifics about the chassis because of confidentiality agreements, they didn't rule out the possibility that the series could allow multiple chassis like was common in the past, and similar to what will happen with the engines.

The new engine platform calls for the ethanol-fueled engines to be up to six cylinders, allow turbocharging and produce between 550 and 700 horsepower, depending on the type of course the series is racing.

"This process has been a very diligent one.," Bernard said. "Our time process has been very short because there isn't a lot of time. There's been debate, but there's been decisions. "

Gil de Ferran, a former IndyCar driver who is team owner representative to the advisory committee, said speed and having a powerful engine platform "in keeping with the tradition of IndyCar values" are important in the process.

"Bringing innovation and diversity back into IndyCars, we also felt was very important, as well as being cost-effective," de Ferran said. "So I think with this new strategy, we were able to accomplish all of these goals."

Brian Barnhart, the IndyCar president of competition and racing operations, said the reason for announcing the principles and strategy for the future engine specifications was to declare the series' commitment to diversification.

Barnhart said several details remain to be determined, and that the committee didn't want to establish criteria that would prematurely eliminate any manufacturer.

"We feel it's more inclusive and welcoming rather than creating a rules package that is an obstacle to participation," he said.

Engine manufacturers who want to participate in the IndyCar Series beginning in 2012 have until the end of this season to notify of their intentions to do so. Barnhart said there has been ongoing dialogue with multiple manufacturers, though he didn't elaborate.

"The burden is on us to attract manufacturers to the series," Barnhart said. "Certainly there's been some interest generated by what has been put out publicly right now. It will be a matter of hammering out those details and attracting somebody. Whether or not that can be done by '12 or not, I don't know."