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Exclusive: Cosworth seeks return to IndyCar, possible one for F1

Feb 26, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

F1 Grand Prix of Korea - Practice Getty Images

Cosworth has built a long, established history across open-wheel racing for nearly a half century. But for 2014, a Cosworth engine isn’t on the Formula One grid, and for the seventh consecutive year isn’t in an IndyCar.

That could soon change.

In an exclusive interview with Cosworth Automotive CEO Hal Reisiger, an American who headed Cosworth’s U.S. companies and in the last year has advanced to be the head of the company in the U.K., plans are in the works for a return to at least one of the two championships – potentially both.

When asked by MotorSportsTalk whether IndyCar’s current  2.2L V6 turbocharged engine formula would portend a Cosworth return, Reisiger said it’s something they’re working on.

“We are committed to aligning ourselves with an OEM for an IndyCar engine program,” Reisiger said.

He confirmed he’ll have meetings next week on the possibility, and said it’s something they’re keenly interested in.

“I think that IndyCar wants it, the teams want it; they want another entrant other than the Chevy Illmor and the Honda and miss having the Lotus engine,” Reisiger said.

“We have set a target and a goal of finding an OEM engine partner for an IndyCar. It’s something that’s very high on the list of priorities, and we have the support of IndyCar ourselves in doing so.”

The Lotus engine wasn’t a popular choice in 2012, as it was initially fielded by four teams with five cars (HVM Racing, Lotus Dreyer & Reinbold, Dragon Racing and Bryan Herta Autosport). However, all bar HVM ended their association with Lotus by the month of May in Indianapolis, thus leaving Keith Wiggins’ team and Simona de Silvestro to see out the season with the lesser-rated engine.

While the Lotus wasn’t a popular choice, its presence meant that the manufacturers only needed to supply up to 40 percent of the IndyCar field. Once Lotus pulled out and left only Chevrolet and Honda in play, those two had to increase capacity to make up the field.

The 2014 IndyCar grid is likely to see a reduced number of full-time entrants compared to 2013, but that’s not down to the engine manufacturers. Dragon Racing’s departure reduces Chevrolet’s number by two; Panther Racing (Chevrolet) is yet to confirm its plans and Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s second Honda is not confirmed for the full season. Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing add a Chevrolet apiece.

Cosworth last powered the Panoz DP01 Champ Car for the 2007 full season, and the engine last appeared in the series’ final race, the 2008 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

As for Formula One, Marussia was the last team to field the normally aspirated 2.4L V8 Cosworth at the end of the current development cycle there. But according to Reisiger, it wasn’t the new regulations that prevented Cosworth from building a new 1.6L V6 turbocharged engine. It was simply economics.

“There had been some design work, simulation and analysis done by our engineering staff and there had been some discussions, some of which were fairly recent, about whether there wasn’t a team or teams plural that were willing to sponsor the development,” Reisiger explained.

“But given the scope of the work and budget that’s required, it wasn’t something Cosworth was prepared to undertake independently. If one of those discussions came to fruition, and they still take place, it’s still something we’d be interested in that we’d need to be in collaboration and partnership with an OEM or team or teams.”

So would that leave the door open to an F1 return down the road? In a word, yes.

“Absolutely we would (want to),” Reisiger said. “I think that we provide a very cost-effective solution for people to be on the grid. We have the ability to excel from a performance standpoint. Decisions take place fairly frequently; it’s a matter of whether or not it makes sense for teams, OEMs and/or Cosworth. We’d look forward to the right opportunity if we could find the right collaboration.”

Potential Cosworth programs could also appear in sports car racing and/or another form of motorsport down the road. Further information from our conversation with Reisiger today will follow in a separate post.

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