Devils Advocate

Photo Credit: Vincent Anderson @vincent1701

 The Gist

Despite Indycar announcing a hybrid-turbo formula with the addition of a KERS unit for 2022, let's play devils advocate for a bit and outline potential OEM's for Indycar if they maintained the original turbo ICE formula enhancement


January 24, 2020

The hot topic for the spring of 2019 was the potential of a third engine manufacturer signing on to join Chevy and Honda into the Indycar engine family, arriving in time for the 2021 season. The current formula, which utilizes a turbo charged 2.2-liter V6 was going to move to a more powerful 2.4-liter V6 producing upwards of 900hp at 12,000 rpm (also turbo charged which is the nexus of the topic). The problem was, that didn't happen.

The main reasoning for the dropout (mainly Porsche), according to Racers Marshall Pruett, was the lack of hybrid components in the new formula. So the response from Indycar was "Ok, let's add hybrid components." A new formula was announced that combined a turbo-hybrid approach and everyone rejoiced. However, the time is ticking on getting an OEM on board still, for the 2022 (delayed 1 year) season. 

As of today IMSA and WEC announced the intention to have hybrid components in a combined class but Mazda and Cadillac said they aren't really interested in that. So, is it possible, that Indycar could be the only major series left to maintain a turbo formula and THAT becomes the OEM draw? 

The "race on Sunday, sell on Monday" mantra never really was a 1:1 translation when it came to Indycar racing. The connect to the general public was that the technology behind the car you saw win the Indianapolis 500 was the technology thats behind your vehicle you drive to work. Not the same vehicle. 

And believe it or not, there are a significant amount of vehicles that still leverage a turbocharged ICE and could use Indycar to help showcase those exact cars by winning the Indy 500 (Chevy and Honda do not currently sell a turbo-hybrid vehicle by the way but they sell plenty of turbo charged ICE's).

James Hinchcliffe has helped promote the Honda Civic for the past 2 years. The Civic Type R uses a 2.0L turbo charged engine producing 306 HP

So if, and a big if, Indycar were to stick to a turbo only formula, let's meet some of those candidates that make complete sense to partner with Indycar and become the third OEM that is so desperately needed. 

Hyundai - Veloster N

Photo credit: RPMcanada

Hyundai has been making some noise recently in and around the motorsports community with whispers of getting involved in NASCAR with their new engine formula. That being said their Veloster N boasts a 275-HP 2.0L turbo charged GDI inline four revving at 6,000 RPM, which sounds much better as part of an Indycar lineup than NASCAR. If they so choose, a foray into Indycar could prove to be the perfect platform to market this vehicle against Chevy and Honda something they are trying to gain traction on in North America.

Motorsports Pedigree -  Bryan Herta Autosport (current Indycar team owner) also owns a team in the Touring Car Series which runs Hyundai Velostars. That seems at least ripe for conversation. Hyundai also has representation in the World Rally Championship (WRC) so their motorsports aspirations appear to evolving at the perfect time. 

High Level Pitch

"Continue to advance your motorsports offering and come compete against Honda and Chevy at the worlds greatest race using the Veloster N as the connection to your every day turbo charged consumer vehicle."

Hyundai Velostar N

The right match ranking

Nissan - Altima

Photo credit: Nissan

Available with the world's first variable compression 2.5L turbo engine that creates 236hp and 267 LB-FT torque clearly showcasing Nissan's desire to remain relevant in the turbo ICE space. Nissan has really struggled lately in the North American market and could use the additional brand awareness in this space as it continues to compete against the likes of Chevy and Honda. 

Motorsports Pedigree -  Nissan Motorsports (NISMO) actually has a history with Indycar. They supplied the engines to the IRL (under the Infiniti brand) from 1997-2002 then moved into the Infiniti Pro Series until Mazda took over that relationship. They understand Indycar and what the Indy 500 has to offer. Beyond that, NISMO is currently involved in motorsports all over the world including Formula E, IMSA, Super GT, Micra Cup to name a few. It really seems like NISMO is all about motorsports and would not surprise us if they leveraged Indycar to help promote their Altima.

High Level Pitch

"You guys know racing. You are involved in racing all over the world. You know us (Indycar). We will give you the platform to promote your variable compression turbo engine and compete against the best in the world at the greatest race in the world!”

Nissan Altima

The right match ranking

Alfa Romeo - Giulia

Photo Credit: Autotrader

A brief foray in Indycar history could help to bring the auto manufacturer back stateside as it continues to try to make a splash into the North American market. The hard part here is that Alfa Romeo could not be any further from Honda and Chevy in terms of brand awareness and positioning. But perhaps thats exactly why you would leverage Indycar? The Giulia packs a variety of turbo charged engines with the entry level being a 2.0L 280hp Inline-4. 

Motorsports Pedigree - Alfa Romeo has recently launched their motorsports endeavors into Formula 1 but don't forget about their Indycar history from 1989 to 1991 where they would help pilot Danny Sullivan to an 11th place finish in the points. 

High Level Pitch

“Use Indycar for your brand similar to what you are doing in Formula 1. We have Cosworth available as a partner to do that for you. Come and compete at the biggest race in the world and put your brand on the map in the United States!" 

Alfa Romeo Giulia

The right match ranking

BMW - X1

Photo credit: Autotrader

BMW’s X1 has featured a 2.0L turbo charged inline-4 since 2011 while producint 228hp. Interestingly enough this line of vehicles – X1 through X7 – account for 56% of BMW sales.  They also have a relationship with both Bobby Rahal (IMSA) and Michael Andretti (Formula E) both of which could be leveraged to get potential partnerships ironed out. 


Motorsports Pedigree - Beyond the above, BMW used to run its own open-wheel series (Formula BMW) which was a feeder series to Champ Car and currently it competes in IMSA, DTM, Formula W and Formula E.

High Level Pitch

“Road racing is in your blood and now you can expand on that category while getting the benefit of competing against Honda and Chevy at the Indy 500 for share of the North American market with your entry level vehicle." 


The right match ranking

Ford - Fiesta ST

Photo Credit: Car and Driver

Remember the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series POWERED BY FORD? Well Fords relationship goes way back with Indycar as a whole and their Fiesta ST uses a 1.6L turbo charged EcoBoost® engine that churns out 197 horsepower and 202 lb.-ft. of torque. It may not be a Ferrari killer but certainly has the guts to compete against Honda and Chevy (both on and off the track). Oh by the way, the new owner of Indycar (Roger Penske) currently runs a Ford in NASCAR so one could say the relationship mending between Edsel Ford and Indycar has a direct path forward. 

Motorsports Pedigree – Ford has a long history in Indycar and motorsports in general. Most recently competing in the top level of sportscars with IMSA as well as competing in the 24 hours of LeMans with their EcoBoost team. With their recent departure however from GTLM, the door may be open for a return to Indycar also potentially leveraging the Cosworth relationship from the past with Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe as owners. 

High Level Pitch

“Come on back to your roots, where you have won so many Indycar races and Indy 500’s. Let Indycar help elevate your EcoBoost Ford Fiesta by competing against Honda and Chevy at the Indy 500 (something you haven’t done since 1995).”

Ford Fiesta

The right match ranking

Suburu - WRX

Photo credit: Hypebeast

Suburu has always been a market leader when it comes to selling a turbo charged vehicle and within their fleet of consumer vehicles the WRX has led the way. The 2.5L 268-hp Direct-Injection turbo charged engine features a twin-scroll turbo charger delivering 258 pound-feet of torque while the STI boasts 310 horsepower. But when you think of Suburu and motorsports you really only think about Rally cars. Would it be possible to venture into open-wheel racing to help market their turbo charged vehicles?

Motorsports Pedigree - It would be a pretty significant addition to their motorsports lineup which is split between the WRC, Rallycross and some dirt truck racing. This is what we would call the “drifter demographic.” Beyond that Suburu has some Toyota involvement as a parent brand and would be the potential connection here with Indycar.

High Level Pitch

“You have been a leader in rally cross and a leader in the use of a turbo charged vehicle so come with us to take the next step and compete at the greatest race in the world.”

Suburu WRX

The right match ranking

Audi - R3

Photo credit: Autocar

We know the VW Group have shifted heavily into the electric/hybrid market but they still have a significant investment in their turbo charged consumer vehicles in both the VW Golf R and the Audi R3 for example. The range-topping Golf R utilized a 2.0L 292-horsepower turbo four (also shared with the Audi S3) while the Audi RS3 features a 2.5-liter TFSI® turbo charged engine producing 394 HP and 354 lb-ft of torque.


Motorsports Pedigree – Volkswagen group has of course been been around sports cars and rally cars forever and extremely successful in both but their most recent jump has been into the Formula E under the Audi e-tron brand and they seem to be hooked. 

High Level Pitch

“Come and let the sweet sound of the Audi sport exhaust be heard at the Indy 500 in our 2.4 L turbo charged engine formula and be one of the exclusive brands in the world to win at both the 24 Hours of LeMans and the Indy 500.”

Audi R3

The right match ranking

Mazda - CX9

Photo credit: Guide Auto

If we could pick one OEM to come into Indycar, Mazda remains our top choice. Mazda has had such a rich history in racing currently focused on the DPi class in IMSA but also was most recently the engine manufacturer for the Indy Lights Series. They get racing and they get Indycar. Their CX9 is powered by a 227-horsepower, 2.5-liter Dynamic Pressure turbo DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine that pairs with a six-speed automatic transmission. Rumors also exist that the ever popular and sporty Miata will be heading into the turbo charged family as well.

Motorsports Pedigree – Mazda is currently involved in sportscars with IMSA while also running their own Global MX-5 Cup, both of which could and should have heavy partnership with Indycar. Having been directly involved with Indycar in the ladder series they know what Indycar and the Indy 500 has to offer and have not been supportive of the Hybridization of motorsports. 

High Level Pitch

“We want to help deliver your grassroots marketing and racing program to our fans and customers that come to the track and watch Indycar on TV. We will reserve dedicated space for your Club Racing and integrate the MX-5 Cup series into as much of our schedule as we can.”

Mazda CX9

The right match ranking

Mercedes - C Class

Photo credit: CNET

Mercedes clearly has a long standing history with Indycar, CART and the Indianapolis 500. It also has a long relationship with the new owner of Indycar and IMS in Roger Penske, having partnered in one of the most storied engines in history with the 1994 "Beast" which dominated Indy. Clearly the brand is deep into Formula 1 but the entry level C Class Mercedes offers a 2.0L turbo charged engine packing 221hp. Its high tech, fast and affordable which would fit into the Indycar demographic quite nicely.  

Motorsports Pedigree – Formula 1 and DTM has always been Mercedes bread and butter, but hopefully the likes of McLaren has shown them a path back to Indycar that is 1/100th the cost and still get a decent bang for their buck racing at Indy against Honda and Chevy. Their exit out of CART was disappointing but a direct result of the split and really the first major manufacturer departure from the split. 

High Level Pitch

“Remember 1994? Remember the good old days of CART? We are getting close and now is the time to get on board and showcase your turbo charged vehicles in a major North American motorsports series. ”

Mercedes C-Class

The right match ranking


Mazda is one of the few manufacturers that have been consistently involved in North American road racing. They get it. The understand the customers and the customers understand Mazda. Most recently the title sponsor for Indy Lights, Indycar would be a perfect compliment to their IMSA motorsports program allowing them to claim Rolex 24 and Indy 500 victories as part of their marketing campaigns. Pretty exclusive company. 

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