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A HERETIC I AM Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-27-07 03:35 PM
Response to Reply #67
74. is the Readers Digest version....
Edited on Sun May-27-07 03:44 PM by A HERETIC I AM
I started working for Ilmor Engineering in 1989. Ilmor is a company based in Brixworth, England, outside Northampton formed in 1983 by 2 former Cosworth engineers, Mario Illien (the "IL") and Paul Morgan (the "MOR", of Ilmor) with backing from their old friend, Roger Penske. Penske used his pull with folks he knew at General Motors to arrange financing and form an engine maker specifically to produce engines for Chevrolet to run in the CART series and the Indy 500. They built a 2.65 liter engine that within 2 years of its debut, began to dominate the series. Their 1st win at Indy came in 1988 in a Penske car driven by Rick Mears. In 1993, Chevrolet thought they had a deal inked for the following years. Late in '93 Ilmor announced that it had decided to turn down the offer from Chevrolet in favor of an offer from Mercedes Benz. (There is a HUGE amount of back story here, but i don't have the inclination to spell it all out just now)

So, for the 1994 season, the "Chevrolet" nameplates came off the engines and "Ilmor Indy V8" went on. The key to the deal with M-B however was the production of an engine specifically for Indy, the 500I that exploited a provision in the USAC rules at Indy that allowed for a pushrod "stockblock" engine of larger displacement to be allowed more turbo boost, primarily because pushrod engines have a fraction of the durability of an overhead cam engine at the high RPM's the OHC engines were running at (12,000 RPM's). Buick had been running their racing V6 with this extra boost for years but no one had been able to successfully make a V8 that could run competitively for 500 miles and the Buick's, while fast and competitive in qualifying, could not keep up with the thoroughbred racing engines.

Shortly after the announcement it became clear that there were some SERIOUS noses bent out of shape in Warren, Mi (GM's tech center and the home of Chevrolet Racing) because it meant they weren't going to be represented at Indy in '94 and they felt that they were shut out by a company that they had helped form (Ilmor). Those bent noses coupled with plenty of people surrounding IMS President Tony George that had axes to grind, convinced George to create the Indy Racing League with the intent of essentially bringing home Indy car racing from the foreign (Mostly British) chassis and engine makers. In other words, "If we can't win against the foreigners, we'll make it so they cant run here" became the mentality at the speedway.

The 500I was very successful (again, plenty more back story here, including a little known fact; The engine didn't complete it's first 500 mile durability test until the 1st week of May that year, just before opening day at the speedway) and if Emerson hadn't crashed in his qualifying attempt the 1st weekend, they would have had the entire front row with Al Jr., Paul Tracy and Fittipaldi. Ilmor and M-B held the engines for the exclusive use of Penske Racing that year but they had cast something on the order of 200 sets of blocks and heads for next year, if the project turned out to be a success so as to supply any other teams that wanted the engine.

Of course, the Speedway (read Tony George) changed the rules and dis-allowed the pushrod V8 for subsequent years. This rule change forced Ilmor and M-B to send several million dollars worth of castings to the shredder.

Over the course of the rest of '94, the Ilmor V8 and Penske racing absolutely DOMINATED the series, winning a total of 12 races, 10 pole positions and a total of 28 podium finishes between the 3 aforementioned drivers. This success further pissed off the folks at the Chevy "Raceshop". After all, it was essentially the same engine that ran the year before with "Chevrolet" emblazoned on it. Chevy lost all that good press and they weren't happy about it one bit.

The plans for the IRL progressed over the course of the 1995 season and began in earnest in 1996. Tony George laid out a rule for the 1996 500 that completely stunned the team owners. If they didn't compete in the first 3 races of the new IRL schedule, then any CART team that wanted to qualify for the 1996 500 would be fighting for 8 positions at the rear of the grid only. The majority of the team owners basically said "Fuck you" and ran at Michigan on the same day as the 500.

Tony George is basically an asshole. He knew he had the ace in the deck, the 500 - but he had very few other cards. He had AJ Foyt (His godfather, BTW) and he had a pissed off General Motors that wanted to win at Indy. Tony George is truly a member of the lucky sperm club, having ZERO business acumen and in fact, a history of cocaine abuse that has been noted but hushed up by the Hulman family. He was made a member of the board of CART in the early 90's primarily because he felt he should be involved in the rest of Indy Car racing outside the speedway but i have it on very good authority that every meeting he ever attended, he was either silent or when he did open his mouth, he added little or nothing to the conversation. He is a moron, basically and all the team owners know it. If it wasn't for his mother, Mary Hulman George, the Chairman of the IMS and daughter of the late Tony Hulman, Tony George would be a quiet, dopey nobody son of a wealthy midwestern family. Unfortunately for open wheel racing, he is in charge of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

There is a whole hell of a lot more to this story. The folks in the background whispering in George's ear, the guys in Warren who dropped the ball and let Ilmor get away, AJ Foyt who HATES street courses, etc. Perhaps someday, Tony and the remaining team owners holding out as "Champ Car" will get together and return Indy to it's rightful place as "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing".

I won't hold my breath.

On edit to add these Wiki links for your edification.
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