Why is Ford not in IndyCar? IndyCar has strict regulations around who can join as their engine manufacturers which discourages Ford from participating because the automaker is focused on production-based engines. Current engine regulations require a custom-designed engine just for the series using the 2.2L V6 turbocharged formula, with IndyCar engines supplied by Honda and Chevrolet.
We last saw Ford race in the Indianapolis 500 in 1996 with a turbocharged Ford-Cosworth XB engine and a 1995 Reynard chassis that powered Buddy Lazier’s No.91 Hemelgar Racing entry. Ford Cosworth provided engines to several others in that year’s field IndyCar made changes to its engine regulations for the 1997 season.
Under current regulations, IndyCar turbo V6s can make more than 700 hp from only 2.2 liters of displacement. To make this possible, engine manufacturers must comply with a strict set of rules that define boost levels, cylinder count, and displacement. IndyCar currently only allows a twin-turbocharged 2.2 liter V6.
IndyCar also specifies that engines don’t have to be built to last for the standard warranty period (which is three years). This means that teams can build four fresh engines per year, allowing builders to take new risks that use higher tolerances, which could fail over a long period of time.
This engine conundrum explains why Ford is reluctant to participate in IndyCar seasons. Ford’s engines have powered 153 Indy Car victories in total, including 81 consecutive IndyCar victories from 1981 to 1986, making its return highly anticipated.
IndyCar’s insistence on sticking to its ‘tried and true’ formula for success has resulted in a lack of interest from many engine manufacturers, with Ford being just one of them. At the time of writing, engines are currently supplied by Honda and Chevrolet. IndyCar has been looking for a third manufacturer.
IndyCar seems to get the memo as it realizes that few engine manufacturers, including Ford, are willing to meet current requirements. This is why the 2023 season was scheduled to be the final season that uses the existing 2.2 liter V6 twin-turbocharged engine formula.
Will Power is the reigning champion for the series who, won the title at the final round in Laguna Seca by 16 points.
A major problem with IndyCar is that it only has Honda and Chevrolet providing them with engines. As a result, both engine manufacturers are calling the shots. Teams are not allowed to buy their engine or modify their performance characteristics. Instead, teams have to lose the engines at a price that Honda dictates.
Teams are only allowed to get one engine at a time. No spare engine is allowed for a backup car. The engines can only be replaced at 1400-mile intervals.
Because very few engine manufacturers are interested in participating at the IndyCar, Honda maintains its monopoly. At the current rate, IndyCar’s regulations have deterred involvement from any other major engine manufacturers.
However, this monopoly may soon come to an end as the series announced long-term extensions with both Chevrolet and Honda. Reports indicate that IndyCar has been trying to add more engine manufacturers, with Ferrari hinting at participating. Ford, so far, has shown no interest in providing engines to IndyCar due to the regulations.
Although IndyCar had plans to use the new 2.4-liter engine for 2024, it has instead opted to add the new hybrid unit to its current 2.2-liter engine instead. The 2.4-liter engine was delayed from 2023 primarily because of global supply chain problems. This means that the 2.2-liter unit will continue to be in use, with no news of Ford showing any indication of interest. At the IndyCar.
IndyCar hasn’t provided any reason for this change. However, it is believed that the project was too expensive, with many hurdles in production. This means that manufacturers had to choose between moving forward with hybrid technology or the 2.4-liter engine and not both.
The 2.4 liters and hybrid engine was designed to have a power output of more than 900 bhp for the current car.
Although Ford shows no interest in IndyCar, journalists believe that Toyota may have plans to join as a third engine provider. This is primarily because Honda and Chevy are struggling to commit to their supply contracts for the 2.4-liter twin-turbo V6 hybrid formula. This requires the need for a third manufacturer to chip in and provide the teams with power units.
Toyota may be looking at a 2024 launch – but under a different name. Toyota already has a celebrity status due to its presence in NASCAR and the NRA, along with its FIA World Endurance Championship program. In other words, Toyota may be looking to promote one of its sub-brands. It is believed that Toyota may decide to use Lexus as its manufacturer of choice.
This means that Toyota won’t directly cover the 2.4 liter twin-turbo V6 engines, but one of its smaller brands may decide to take on Chevy and Honda.
It is worth noting that the IndyCar 500 has been limited to 36 entries in the past ten years. This is primarily because of the extreme costs associated with staffing. These expenses are split between Honda and Chevy.
If Toyota, or any other manufacturer, decides to chip in, we might see the number of entries push past 40 and beyond. The same applies to full seasons entries, which are usually restricted to 25 cars but can easily go up to 30 if there is a third supplier.
But once again, Ford isn’t eyeing a shot at IndyCar, at least not in the near future. Under a different name, Toyota may join IndyCar and re-energize the series.