There isn’t a Chevrolet on the grid at this year’s Indianapolis 500, which is surprising considering the high profile the brand is playing at the race, ranging from being the official pace car, to a consumer drive event that can get fans behind the wheel of everything from a Corvette to a Volt. A year from now, however, Indy cars powered by Chevy engines will be prepping to hit the track with the bowtie-brand announcing its new twin-turbocharged direct-injection 2.2-liter V6 engine will first fire up in June, with testing set for later in the year.
Speaking to a group of journalists in Indianapolis, Chevrolet VP of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports Jim Campbell (middle right), explained that while there are numerous reasons for Chevy’s return to the series, now is the right time because of a new set of rules that, for Chevrolet, makes them much more relevant to the real world, i.e. production cars. In total, he lists five areas of “technology transfer” from the track to the street, namely: smaller displacement engines, the use of V6 engines, turbocharging, direct injection and E85.
The first four are obvious, with V6s continuing to be the backbone of many GM vehicles, while many of Chevy’s new models make use of smaller engines that feature both direct-injection and turbocharging. Take the Chevy Cruze for example, which uses a DI turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder. That same powerplant will also find its way into the new Sonic sub-compact. As for E85 and ethanol fuel in general, Chevrolet continues to make E85 compatible vehicles and often discusses it, but with no other automakers really paying much attention and other drawbacks to the fuel, it continues to be mostly irrelevant.
In addition, Campbell also discussed racing’s relevance to sales and marketing, as well as Chevy’s desire for competition, highlighting a 100 year shared history with the Indy 500, as well as heavy involvement in numerous other racing series from NASCAR, to the American Le Mans Series, to Grand Am road racing and drag racing.
Campbell says the IndyCar series allows Chevrolet to reach new customers, particularly as the series grows. While it has struggled to find fans over the past many years Campbell says that more recently viewership between 18 to 34 year-olds has grown 40 percent. Chevy isn’t alone in hopping on board with Indy either, with sponsorship spiking recently.
2012 may be Chevy’s first return to IndyCar since 2005, but the plan is to win says Campbell. “Winning is the goal,” he says, adding that “it gives you the most marketing leverage.”