It was about forty degrees Fahrenheit when Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden climbed aboard their Honda and Chevrolet-powered, respectively, Dallara IndyCar machines on Monday, and again on Tuesday when Newgarden was subbed out for Will Power. All drivers were in attendance for the 2024-spec engine test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to see what the new 2.4-liter engines could do. Not only are these engines intended to provide more power, they’re going to be more efficient than the outgoing 2.2-liter V6s.
The test was originally intended to be a two-day affair, but because the weather was so cold, neither team could be sure that their Firestone Firehawk tires were properly warmed up. Being that Wednesday is primed to see weather into the mid-seventies, Honda and Chevrolet agreed that IndyCar should extend the test for best effect. After all, running on Monday was postponed until the afternoon as the track temperatures were simply too cold that morning.
The next-generation engine specification is intended to incorporate a common hybrid system for added power and efficiency, but the Mahle-built units were not ready in time due to supply chain shortages. Without the hybrid system onboard, both cars were forced to run a 2022-spec alternator on the 2024 engine in order to keep the batteries charged up. The new engine is larger, more powerful, and judging by the videos taken from trackside, louder than the 2.2-liter engine it replaces, which has been used in IndyCar competition since 2012.
IndyCar’s turbocharged V6 specification has always been a bit undertoned when it comes to zooming by at speed. Fans can expect the 2024 engine to be a bit more sonorous, but the note has largely stayed the same. In this case louder is probably better, as it’ll provide a more engaging experience for trackside fans and television viewers all the same.
David Salters, president and technical director of HPD, said in a statement on Monday: “This is an important step for HPD, Honda and IndyCar as the series moves into the electrified era, and it was a successful day. But there are many more steps to take before the full, hybrid power unit debuts in 2024. The 2.4-liter engine is an all-new design, that has been fully developed, dyno-tested and manufactured by the great men and women at HPD. There is still a very, very long list of things to be accomplished before the power unit is tested in competition, but this is certainly a milestone for everyone at Honda and HPD.”
IndyCar is making a lot of great moves lately, and the racing has been off the charts awesome. Here’s hoping that this continues into the next generation of racing, because I’d hate for the series to lose any of its magic in an effort to appear more green. There have been many races I’ve watched where hybrid-powered cars put on a great show, but I question how well a spec hybrid unit can be put to best effect in IndyCar, or indeed in IMSA where a similar system will be employed starting next season. Do teams need the complexity and expense of low-power electrification? What does this prove, and to whom?