By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
With rumors of a third potential engine supplier possibly in the works for the Verizon IndyCar Series, let’s take a look at a few companies that could provide a nice boost to rival the current regime of Chevrolet and Honda.
Mercedes has a long motorsports heritage dating back to the early 20th century. Granted, they stepped away from the sport for nearly 40 years but they came onto the Indy car scene with a splash in 1994 by badging the Penske pushrod engine at the Indianapolis 500 (for more on that, read BEAST by Jade Gurss). In 1995, Mercedes badged the Ilmor engine and remained in what was then known as CART until the end of the 2000 season.
Mercedes is doing a fantastic job in Formula One and is one of the more dominant players in GT3 racing. If they are looking to capture glory in another form of motorsports, IndyCar would not be a bad place to go, especially considering that their first manufacturing plant outside of Germany was built in Alabama, just miles from one of IndyCar’s best road courses – Barber Motorsports Park.
2. Aston Martin
Aston Martin is already involved in American racing in Pirelli World Challenge and in the IMSA WeatherTech United SportsCar Championship. While they have been focusing on GT racing, Aston Martin had a small presence in Formula One in 1959-1960 and would be an asset to open wheel racing today. Being a premium brand, they would be a welcome partner to IndyCar racing, tapping into a new market.
Porsche currently has a large presence in the World Endurance Championship with their LMP1 and GTE entrants. They are also stalwarts in GT racing worldwide but some may have forgotten that Porsche was involved in IndyCar racing 30 years ago.
Back then, Porsche had designed and raced their own car at the end of 1987 before turning to the March chassis for 1988-1990. Porsche got more competitive and more powerful as time went on, scoring three poles and a win with Teo Fabi before pulling out after 1990. With America being one of Porsche’s largest markets, entering IndyCar racing would be a big shot in the arm to their marketing efforts.
With a massive presence in American open wheel racing with the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, Mazda has the pieces in place to move up to IndyCar racing and further promote drivers that have success in the ladder system. With several Indy Lights champions moving up to IndyCar, Mazda has not been able to properly promote their success in moving up the ladder because of Honda and Chevrolet’s duopoly on engine competition.
Mazda is already heavily involved in the top tier of sports car racing in America, so why shouldn’t they expand into the top level of open wheel racing in America?
Yes, we get it. Ford rejecting overtures to join IndyCar are about as commonplace as memes about the Atlanta Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead to the Patriots in the most recent Super Bowl. However, Ford does have a rich history of being involved in open wheel racing in America.
In 1963 Ford joined Lotus for the iconic Lotus Powered by Ford entries at the Indianapolis 500, scoring a second in 1963. As an engine supplier, they won every 500 from 1965 to 1971, the lone exception being 1968.
Ford then returned to Indianapolis as the badging partner of the new Cosworth engine in 1992, winning the 500 with that engine in 1995 and 1996. However, Ford has an excellent reason to enter IndyCar and that reason is Chevrolet.
Their rivalry is the biggest among American automobile manufacturers and with Chip Ganassi Racing running the Ford GT program in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, it would make perfect sense for Ford to come back with Chip’s team. Besides, having the two biggest teams in IndyCar in Ganassi and Team Penske be with Ford and Chevy is a perfect rivalry for America’s top tier open wheel series, not to mention Honda as the main supplier for what is considered the third biggest team on the grid in Andretti Autosport.
Fernando Alonso’s announcement that he’ll be running a McLaren-branded Honda powered entry in the Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport has opened the door to them being a potential third engine manufacturer. McLaren Technology Group Executive Committee Principal, Mansour Ojjeh opened the door to that possibility in the team’s announcement of Alonso competing at Indianapolis.
“The Indy 500 is the only IndyCar race we’ll be entering this year, but we may possibly repeat that in years to come and it’s just possible that we may even run a full-works McLaren IndyCar operation at some point in the future,” said Ojjeh.
McLaren first competed as a works team at Indianapolis in 1970. McLaren cars won in 1972 with Mark Donohue driving for Team Penske, and then in 1974 and 1976 in their own factory effort with Johnny Rutherford driving.
The first car to officially go over 200 mph in qualifying at Indianapolis was also a McLaren, so they have a rich history at the Brickyard.