A Cosworth employee approaches the Rahal Letterman Trailer at Barber Motorsports Park. Photo by Matt Schafer
So, long-term engine builder Cosworth has publicly announced that it’s courting manufactures for a Verizon Indycar Series effort in 2016, but they’re not talking to the most likely suspect.
Cosworth has announced a plan to compete in the 2016 Indy 500 and then launch a full-time effort in 2017. Both Chevy and Honda have said they’d welcome a third manufacture in the sport, and Chevrolet’s head of their Verizon Indycar Program, Chris Berube, told Autosport that Cosworth could step in and be competitive. Still the question remains, who is Cosworth talking with? It’s not who I thought it was.
Ford Motor Company and Cosworth have a rich history together starting in Formula One and going down every major category of international motorsport. The Ford-badged Cosworth Double Four Valve engine is widely considered the most successful engine in the history of motorsport. Together Ford and Cosworth won twelve Formula One titles, claimed ten Indianapolis 500 and two 24 Hours of Le Mans, but Edsle Ford Jr said he there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in Arizona of returning to Indycar. Ford told More Front Wing that they aren’t coming back to the Indy 500.
"The General Motors guys would like us there, and Honda would like us there, but there’s just no value in it. I’ve talked to Jamie [Allison, director of Ford Racing] a lot about it. He, Raj [Nair, group vice president of global product development] and I don’t think any of us really want to go to IndyCar racing.”"
So, if Cosworth is in honest talks with two manufactures, as they’ve reported, who are they? Here’s my best guesses on the likely contenders:
Long rumored to be interested in the series could Audi be serious about coming to the Indy 500? If they have they’ve been successful in being quiet. Last spring Audi Sport director Wolfgang Durheimer told Autosport that they were honestly exploring Indycar, and it makes sense they’d still be in the game. I’d say the odds are at least 60-40 that Audi is talking with Cosworth.
Mazda is the sole engine manufacture involved in the Road to Indy ladder system, and is heavily invested in endurance racing worldwide. It seems likely to me that they’re at least considering the possibility of moving up to Indycar with Cosworth. They, along with Toyota and Honda are expecting a slowdown in Japanese auto sales because a tax increase, and with Indycar’s supposed international push coming perhaps they would see more value in Indycar’s brand in America and abroad.
Before you think that the Dodge Ram brand might not blend well with the Indycar crowd I was at Detroit and Alabama for the Indycar races last year and saw a good number of American trucks. After leaving NASCAR for lack of a team to partner with in 2013 could a member of the Dodge/Chrysler/Fiat group be looking at Indycar? Badging a Cosworth engine, supporting six to eight entries and the corresponding ad buy would be significantly less than what they were paying for their three-team NASCAR effort.
Long at the small end of the American auto sales it could make sense to me if one of the smaller manufactures would look at Indycar as a way to build their brand. Beating Chevy and Honda in Indycar could be a valuable marking tool to a company like Kia, which has no racing heritage to speak of. Also, with Formula One not returning to the Korean International Circuit it opens a door for Kia or Hyundai to title sponsor an international race on their country’s premier track.
The only reason I think they could be interested is that they raced in the old IRL from its formation in 1996 to 2002. They recently stepped back into motorsports in a big way when it sponsored Red Bull Racing’s Formula One effort.
I can’t possibly imagine:
I consider it super unlikely that an international track day or luxury brand could be considering the Indy 500. They were interested in CART around the time of the split, but I can’t see them coming back, not with the crowds and the engine rules being what they are