Olds Indy 500 Notes, Final Practice
27 May 1999
OLDSMOBILE FASTEST IN FINAL INDY 500 PRACTICE IRL Aurora V8 Runs 14 Fastest Speeds in Carburetion Day Warm-Up; IRL Announces 300 rpm Reduction in Engine Speed for Next Race INDIANAPOLIS, - While there hasn't been a carburetor on the track on "Carburetion Day" for decades, Thursday's practice session is traditionally the last chance for teams to check out their cars and engines before the start of the Indianapolis 500. Oldsmobile's IRL Aurora V8 - which uses sequential electronic fuel injection rather than a carburetor to meter its methanol fuel - set the pace in the final two-hour session, just as it has since Opening Day at the Brickyard. Oldsmobile engines powered the 14 fastest cars on Carburetion Day; when the Indianapolis 500 begins on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. local time, 30 of the 33 starters will use IRL Aurora V8s. IRL officials also announced a reduction in maximum engine speed from 10,300 to 10,000 rpm effective at the next event, the Lonestar 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 12. The reduction in maximum engine rpm is expected to reduce lap speeds two to three mph. Sam Schmidt ran the fastest lap today at 222.458 mph in Treadway Racing's Oldsmobile Dallara, nearly duplicating his qualifying speed in spite of warmer air and track temperatures. Greg Ray turned the second fastest speed in Team Menard's #2 Glidden Oldsmobile Dallara at 221.822 mph, as well as the third fastest lap in the #32 Glidden/Menard Oldsmobile Dallara (221.790 mph) that will be driven by Robby Gordon on race day. Polesitter Arie Luyendyk was the fourth fastest driver at 221.380 mph, and surprising Hideshi Matsuda was fifth on the speed chart at 221.185 mph. The fastest Infiniti Indy driver was Eddie Cheever, Jr., 15th on the speed chart at 219.047 mph. "When I said that we had qualified our race car, I wasn't lying," said Schmidt. "The car can run 220's pretty comfortably even in bad conditions. It may be hotter on Sunday, so we tried to make some adjustments for that. From Wednesday on, we've had the car in the window where it will work in windy, dry, damp, or overcast conditions. We may have been too conservative in qualifying, but it made for a good race car. I've been able to run a lot of laps, and I have a lot of confidence in the car. The one thing that's at the top of everybody's checklist today is 'Do not crash the car!'" "Our engine builder, Comptech, is doing a heck of a job," Schmidt noted. "They've got three Oldsmobile engines in the first two rows. I'm happy to be with Treadway Racing because we have the resources to have good engines. "I've been with the IRL since the beginning of the new formula, and the engines have come a long way," Schmidt continued. "The first year we came to Indy in 1997, we only had one engine, and we had to rebuild it between practice and qualifying. Those days are long gone. Now we have a good supply of reliable and consistent race motors." * Lower RPM for Next Race: IRL Executive Director Leo Mehl announced today that all engines would be required to operate at 10,000 rpm (revolutions per minute) or lower beginning at the Longhorn 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 12, a reduction of 300 rpm from the current level. The maximum engine speed was previously reduced from 10,500 rpm in 1998 to 10,300 at the start of the 1999 season. The maximum engine speed is regulated by a tamperproof programmable rev limiter installed by IRL technical inspectors. "We anticipate a reduction of 20 to 25 peak horsepower with the new, lower rpm limit," said Joe Negri, GM Motorsports IRL/Road Racing Group manager. "To put that in perspective, the output of the Oldsmobile engine has increased 55 horsepower since the 4.0-liter engine formula was introduced in 1997. The original specification produced 675 horsepower, and we are now at 730 horsepower. We were able to maintain that horsepower level even with the initial rpm reduction to 10,300 at the start of this season. The additional reduction in engine speed announced today is a good interim step before the introduction of 3.5-liter engines in 2000. "The reduction in piston speed with the lower rpm limit will improve reliability," Negri noted. "Piston speed is an area where the IRL formula has been pushing the limits compared to other racing series. We had planned to concentrate all of our development effort on the 3.5-liter version of the IRL Aurora V8 for next season while continuing to work on the 4.0-liter package to improve reliability and durability as required. We will now continue development of the 4.0-liter version so we can give specifications to our teams on how to optimize the engine for 10,000 rpm. The changes will be relatively minor - optimizing intake runner lengths, exhaust tuning, and camshaft timing. "We anticipate a 50 horsepower reduction with the 3.5-liter engine formula next year, which will essentially bring the power level back to where we started," Negri reported. "We are suggesting to the IRL that they initially limit the 3.5-liter engines to 11,000 rpm. If the series subsequently needs to limit track speeds, they can reduce the maximum rpm incrementally."