Indy Racing League stars Sam Hornish Jr. and Jaques Lazier successfully completed the first track test of the all-new 2003 Chevy Indy V8 engine Oct. 26 at Kentucky Speedway.

Hornish, the two-time and reigning Indy Racing League champion, completed more than 208 trouble-free miles in Pennzoil Panther Racing's Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Lazier completed 82 laps on the 1.5-mile superspeedway in Team Menard's Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone before darkness ended the test, which was postponed Oct. 24 and 25 due to rain.

"The new Chevy Indy V8 ran really well for its first test," Hornish said. "We wanted to take our time, get up to speed slowly and complete the first test cycle for the GM engineers. Everything feels really good so far, so we' re pretty excited."

Hornish needed little time to get up to speed. He turned his first lap with the new Chevy engine at 2:20 p.m.; within 35 minutes, he was running at a race pace.

Both teams tested with 2002 chassis that were modified to accommodate the 2003 Chevy Indy V8 engine. The new 3.5-liter engine is 3 inches narrower, 3 inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter than the 2002 version. The new Chevy Indy V8 is the successor to the Chevrolet engines that won 14 of 15 IRL events in 2002 and swept the manufacturer, driver and team championships.

"The engine felt really strong," Lazier said. "We were just trying to get as many miles on the engine as possible, but I'm already very happy. I can't wait for the Menard engine department to get the motor back on the dyno and keep working on it. The engine pulls extremely hard coming off the corners, and it runs right up to the red line extremely fast. It's already a great package."

Said Joe Negri, GM Racing program manager: "The goal for this initial track test was to accumulate a significant number of miles on two engines so that we could evaluate how the new design worked with the car systems and withstood the torsional loads that the chassis imposes. The feedback from the teams is that the new Chevy Indy V8 already has excellent low-end power.

"The cars were set up with high downforce because we weren't looking for absolute speed under these wet conditions. The new engine does have a different sound that serious fans will be able to hear - and the drivers could certainly feel a difference, as well."

The 2003 Chevy Indy V8 ran for the first time on a dynamometer July 23, 2002. It is the second new Indy Racing engine designed and developed in-house by GM Racing in two years. Chevrolet engines from three independent builders were on hand for the rain-delayed track test.

"Since July we have worked in the laboratory and on the dynamometer, and now we're on the track with two of the most competitive teams in open-wheel racing," said GM Racing project engineer Dick Amacher. "For this first test, we had engines built by three of our engine partners: Menard Engine Group, Speedway Engine Development and VDS Engines as our backups. We already have three engine builders ready to support the Chevrolet program.

"We'll inspect the engines after the test, reassemble them using the same components, and then continue testing until we complete 500 miles. We will continue track testing in November and December at a variety of venues to simulate every kind of racing environment that we will encounter during the IRL season. GM Racing will concentrate on developing the 2003 engine package and calibration as thoroughly as possible before delivery of the 2003 chassis."

The teams will begin aerodynamic and suspension testing using GM Racing's resources upon delivery of their new chassis in December.

"We're just starting a long process to develop a combination that we can take to the racetrack," said Panther Racing co-owner John Barnes. "With our team, our association with Speedway Engine Development and our relationship with Chevrolet, we think that we will be competitive. We don't believe in crystal balls; we believe in hard work. We think that with the people we have in this program and with GM's assistance, we can continue as winners."

Chevy's newest racing engine will make its competition debut March 2, 2003, at the Indy Racing League season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Honda and Toyota, new engine suppliers to the IRL, will join Chevy on the track.

"Chevrolet is in open-wheel racing to win," Negri said. "Chevrolet has been very successful in the past, and because of the increased competition in the IRL, we've stepped up our program considerably."

~ Kentucky Speedway ~

By Rick Voegelin
indyracing.com Special Contributor