IndyCar had originally planned for its new engine era to begin in 2023, but last March announced this introduction had been pushed back to ’24, since Mahle – manufacturer of the hybrid component – was among the many automotive-related companies struggling due to the global parts supply issues.
However, Frye told Motorsport.com that this is being resolved, after admitting some degree of “panic”.
“There is a global supply chain issue for everything, so doing anything new now has been a little more of a challenge,” he said. “It seems to be getting better. I mean, we’re launching this in 2024, so we were in a little bit of a panic because it will be here before you know it. But we feel good about where we’re at with the program.
“What we’ve tried to do is create a unique system to IndyCar. Because of the diversity of the calendar, there’s certain things from a safety perspective that maybe other series can do with a hybrid that we can’t. So we’ve come up with something we think is pretty unique [but] we haven’t really announced it.
“It’ll be lighter than most, it’ll have more horsepower than most, it’ll be safer than most. So that’s part of the things taking a little while, too, as we’re kind of inventing something that’s kind of unique and new, which is cool. Hopefully, what we come up with is something that could be great in street cars.
“[The process] really hasn’t taken longer [than expected], it’s just run late, because of everything going on in the world. Like, 2020 was about survival – how are we gonna run races? It wasn’t about developing anything. So it took a little while to get caught back up and get going again. In 2021 it was better, but it still wasn’t normal, and 2022 was pretty normal. Now we’re hoping by 2023 we’re back to normal.”
Frye stated that details of the hybrid system will be announced “probably in the first quarter of next year because we have to start testing a lot, and once you start testing, it gets out there.
“We’ll have one car per manufacturer, they’ll be the test cars, and we let the manufacturers pick which teams they want to use. So we’ll take that through to the fourth quarter of next year, and then we will have probably one system per team, so each team will get one to go test. And then by the first quarter of ’24, every car will have them.
“We had a [two-day test with Honda] a month ago here, which is the first time we had a track test with “a system”. It was a pretty unique day. We created a product that did some really good things, we learned a lot. From that learning, there might be another single-car test day between now and the end of the year. And then in the first quarter of next year, it’ll be two manufacturers and go.”
Since the hybrid unit will not rely solely on regenerating energy under braking, IndyCar is confident the power boost can be deployed even on big ovals.
“Yes, that will be our intention,” said Frye, “which makes it unique. That’s never been done. Right now, on the street and road courses we have push-to-pass but we’ve never done that on an oval. So that’s part of the learning process, how that could work.”
However, the series is not yet committed to the WEC practice of running hybrid cars under electric power alone when on pitlane.
Said Frye: “That’s being discussed too, but how does that work? We’re not sure. It would be cool, but is it practical? For instance, when you do any kind of this development stuff, you look at your worst case scenario. Well, across the street [Indianapolis Motor Speedway] is your worst case scenario, because (1) it’s an oval – never been done – and (2) it has a massively long pit road. So if you did what you’re saying, you have to have enough energy from one end to the next to get out.
“So there’s all kinds of things that we’re thinking through about what can be kind of fun, unique, creative, different. And the ideas are limitless, but you have to go execute on them, you have to get it done correctly.”