EXCLUSIVE: Chevy Power returns to Indy in 2012 as GM Racing steps up its game.
By Peter M. De Lorenzo
© 2010, Autoextremist.com
(Posted 11/7, 4:00 p.m.) Detroit. General Motors Co. and its motorsports entity - GM Racing - has committed to fielding a Chevrolet-branded Twin-Turbo V6 racing engine to compete against Honda in the IndyCar Series beginning with the 2012 season. The announcement will be made this Friday, November 12, at a venue yet to be determined, although a press conference at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would not be unexpected. The one thing that IndyCar needed to solidify its future - more than even new teams and additional sponsors - was another engine manufacturer to compete against Honda, and they'll get that as GM - spurred on by executives at the highest level of the company - has decided to jump into the series. When reached over the weekend the most senior executive directly involved in the decision declined to comment, but it's clear from my sources that GM is planning a new and very aggressive offensive into motorsports as it begins to shed the black cloud of bankruptcy that has stymied the automaker for going on 12 months. GM first fielded a Chevrolet-branded Indy V8 from 1988 - 1993, winning the Indianapolis 500 six consecutive times. GM also won the "500" with an Oldsmobile-branded engine five times in a row from 1997 - 2001, with GM's last victory at the world's most prestigious race coming with a Chevrolet-branded V8 in 2002.
But there's more to this story - much more - because as GM Racing accelerates its motorsports involvement for the 2011 season and beyond, many interesting collateral details are emerging that are at the very least eye-opening.
First of all, the players involved are noteworthy, beginning with Chip Ganassi Racing. Ganassi, after an intense flirtation with Ford where he considered joining their NASCAR program, is instead committing to a relationship with GM Racing and Chevrolet in NASCAR starting in 2011 and in IndyCar beginning in 2012. Ganassi had apparently been leaning toward going with Ford over the last several weeks but once Ganassi learned that GM was going "all-in" for a new IndyCar racing engine program, his decision to go with GM was a fait accompli. Two details that could not be confirmed at post time are whether or not Ganassi would have an exclusive with the new Chevrolet-branded Indy V6 for the first season - something I would expect would be very attractive to Ganassi but with Roger Penske around certainly not an automatic by any means - and who GM Racing's technical partner will be for its IndyCar engine program.
The implications for IndyCar can only be viewed as enormously positive. This will mean an immediate uptick in credibility for the racing series with the competition between the two global auto manufacturers spurring renewed fan interest, something the series so desperately needs. It also means that other manufacturers who had been sitting on the fence while contemplating involvement with IndyCar may be pushed into joining the fray. That development remains to be seen, however.
For GM it means a renewed emphasis on big ticket motorsports events although going back to Indianapolis with an engine program turned out to be a somewhat surprising priority even for its new enthusiast-charged regime, at least below the Dan Akerson level, that is. (Akerson is the newly-minted GM CEO with a heavy Wall Street-oriented financial background and it's safe to say the idea to go back to Indy didn't originate with him.) GM has been sending definitive signals with its rejuvenated product programs that once the restraints of bankruptcy come off they are going to become very aggressive in promoting and advertising these products - especially with Chevrolet - and a high-visibility expansion of their racing endeavors is a clear indication of that.
The rest of the GM Racing story?
- GM Racing will be supporting several Grand-Am DP teams with Chevrolet engines and will also be supporting Camaro teams in Grand-Am GT for a total investment of around $1 million.
- GM Racing is ramping-up its involvement in NHRA Pro Stock in 2011 with several teams being targeted.
- GM Racing will be fielding a two-car team of Cadillac CTS-V Coupes in the 2011 World Challenge GT series with a team yet to be announced.
It's clear that the tail-between-the-legs, bankruptcy-tainted GM is about to become a thing of the past. Instead, we have a new, invigorated company with enthusiasts at the top who are committed to competing and winning at every level - in the showroom and on the race track.
Will GM's direct competitors have anything to say about this?
Stay tuned, it's about to get very interesting.
To quote Speed's Steve Matchett..................