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All Systems Go as IndyCar Set to Usher in Hybrid Era at Mid-Ohio

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All Systems Go for IndyCar Hybrid Debut This WeekPenske Entertainment/Chris Owens

After 18 months of development and 31,000 miles of testing, the IndyCar Series’ hybrid engine is scheduled to make its debut this weekend in the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The addition of a hybrid unit to IndyCar powerplants marks a dramatic move for the open-wheel series as it takes a step toward what many in the automobile industry see as a future dominated by hybrid or electric vehicles.

The hybrid has been under development by Honda and Chevrolet engineers and IndyCar personnel since late 2022 and has been tested, tweaked and transformed both on-track and in simulations. The Mid-Ohio weekend of practice, qualifying and racing will mark its first use “in anger,” as General Motors director of motorsports competition engineering Mark Stielow put it.

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Teams have been working overtime over the past 18 months developing and testing the hybrid engines for IndyCar.Penske Entertainment/Chris Owens

The hybrid unit is expected to provide an initial power boost of about 60 horsepower, a number that should rise as teams work with the unit across the remainder of the IndyCar schedule. The unit pairs IndyCar’s 2.2-liter twin-turbocharged V6 combustion engine with supercapacitor hybrid technology, and it will add another tool to onboard choices drivers can make during competition. Using steering-wheel buttons, drivers will have control over how much energy is stored and how much is used from the storage unit.

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The storage system also will allow the car to be restarted without assistance, in theory lessening the need for safety-worker deployment and full-course cautions.

“We’ve put all this technology in the drivers’ hands,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “There’s multiple ways for them to use it. It was important that the drivers have big input in this, and I think over the next couple years they’ll have even more.”

On road courses, drivers will continue to have push-to-pass technology available in addition to the hybrid unit. Exactly how the new configuration will work in competition and how the unit will respond under dynamic race conditions—both in power and endurance—won’t be known until the 27-car field puts tires on the track at Mid-Ohio.

The hybrid unit is being unveiled for competition this week—as opposed to the start of next season—because it has been through all levels of testing and is ready, Frye said. “We thought this was kind of a natural break in the season, launching it at Mid-Ohio,” he said. “We certainly wanted to be 100 percent ready, like we mentioned, so we feel really good about where we're at. We feel really good about the technology, the performance, the supply, all of that. This is as good a time to do it as any.”

Honda and Chevrolet engineers partnered on the unit.

“It’s an interesting moment,” Stielow said. “Honda and Chevy are used to trying to beat each other up every weekend, and this was an opportunity for us to work collaboratively on something for the good of the sport and the good of the series.”

Honda manager of trackside engineering Wayne Gross said the hybrid development “needed both of us to come to the table. It was a lot to take on as one of us independently, so it was good to split up (on various parts of the project) and work together.”