Audi's entrance into IndyCar could cut both ways

April 17, 2013
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Look out Chevrolet and Honda. Audi might soon become the new kid on the block—and the neighborhood bully.

While the addition of a new engine manufacturer has the potential to significantly muscle-up the IndyCar Series’ global marketing efforts, it also has some team owners and series suppliers worried the move could trigger an engine arms race and price some suppliers, teams and drivers right out of the paddock.

This week, honchos for Audi said they’re seriously looking at joining the series as an engine supplier. Lotus dropped out after a pathetic showing last season, leaving Chevy and Honda as the only suppliers for the open-wheel series.

It’s a complete reversal from Audi’s stance in 2010, when then-IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard tried to recruit the Bavaria-based company as a supplier of the series’ revamped engine, which debuted in 2012.

So what changed? It’s possible that Audi simply wants to increase U.S. sales and sees a strong IndyCar presence as the best way to do it.

Whatever the reason, new Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles has to be encouraged. It’s likely that Audi’s interest will be seen as an endorsement for the series and the changes Miles has in mind.

This much is certain. The addition of the German carmaker would give IndyCar an important European presence and raise its international profile. And unlike Lotus, Audi isn’t likely to fall flat.

Audi has deep pockets and is competitive in all its racing efforts. It has dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans in recent years and also won the 2012 World Endurance Championship.

Just as important as its on-track prowess, Audi has been known to spend tens of millions of dollars to market its teams and the series it races in.

Wolfgang Durheimer, Audi’s boss of technical development and the company’s motorsports initiatives, told reporters this week that the company is considering three North American racing options, including the IndyCar Series.

“Another opportunity would be IndyCar, which I think is still very popular and the Indy 500 is an outstanding race,” Durheimer told reporters.

The other two initiatives are Daytona Prototypes and DTM America; Durheimer said the company could take on two of the three.

Jeff Belskus, Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO and interim IndyCar Series CEO, reached out to Audi officials Monday to say the German firm would be welcome. He added that it would be challenging for Audi to get up to speed with Chevy and Honda right away.

While there’s little concern Audi would drag the series down the way Lotus did with its underpowered engine, some feel the free-spending Audi could escalate the cost of IndyCar racing. That’s a serious concern for IndyCar officials. Series officials have worked hard at cost containment and most teams make little or no profit.

“We’d be concerned about a manufacturer coming in and spending more than is justified than the business model outlined by the series,” Chevrolet Racing boss Mark Kent told this week. “I would hope that, as we’ve seen in the past few years, IndyCar would put an emphasis on this to avoid runaway spending. As manufacturers, I’m sure we can sit down and make sure no one upsets the chemistry in such a way that everybody wants to get out of the series.”

Honda officials appear to be licking their chops at the prospect of an IndyCar matchup against the formidable German foe.

“We always want to prove ourselves against the best in any category, and Audi fits that bill,” Honda’s racing manager, T.E. McHale, told

  • Chief...series is dying
    Chief, I hope you're still kickin, but this doesn't sound good. Millions more coming into t he series will keep it going for another twenty my indy tax money....yikes, sorry...if god willing, you're still thriving.
  • Audi DTM!
    If Audi comes to IMS, lets hope that it includes DTM. Imagine a DTM road race the same weekend at the Brickyard. They proved they (IMS) could change the setups last year. This could be
  • Diesel?
    Will Audi come to Indy? That's almost a foregone conclusion at this point. The more interesting question is whether they bring a diesel engine as their solution, as they have during their dominant years at Le Mans. It would be easy enough to create equivalency formulas. The things the team owners decry as costs are the kind of things that create trickle-down technologies and given that Audi can't do their ultralight tricks on a Dallara chassis or add on Quattro, they'll likely want to do a diesel.
  • But, but it's a dying series.... no one cares.... Audi, one of the largest European luxury automakers thinks there is value, in fact what did he say? "Indycar which I think is still very popular and the Indy 500 is an outstanding race" let's see how you soon that. Honda may be getting their wish. It doesn't get much more competitive than Audi. Fyi, I believe I said Audi would make a run at Indy something like two years ago.
  • Spin
  • Chickens???
    Some seem to be thinking this is close to a done deal. Counting those chickens are we? Doesn't seem like there is any eggs yet, just speculation.
  • The Real Scoop
    Kia. You heard it here first.
  • Welcome With Caution
    Until an official announcement is made I will only count on Chevy and Honda. It would be great to have a European brand in the series, but most of those people seem to be burdened with the dated, obsolete 'cart was superior' handicapped mind set. They need to get past that before moving forward. Once that happens it would be great to have such a new partner.
    • If Audi execs are talking about it, it is more than speculation. The fact that they are talking about it is good for the series. Better than NASCAR where Dodge is dropping out. Audi may not come, but the talk is good for a series that some pretend is dying.
    • Beam me up Lotus..errr Audi
      Whatever...if the Audi stooges want to play to 0.18 audiences and a 3 year old (now) single chassis series with no bodykits (they were promised), have at it. I say it has FAILURE written all over it's face. Marketing is NOT the strong suit of 16th and Jonestown. Also remind AUDI that the IRL support series is made of 8 or 9 cars (on a good day). That brings in the spectators, right thar. IZOD, what have THEY even done for the series lately? Remember "Race to the Show"? Audi, that's how much effort is put into the Indycarz...ZILTCH.
    • Translation for Adults
      And now for some facts: 1. The current very racy DW12 chassis has raced for 1 season and 2 races thus far. 2. Aero kits will be available for the 2014 season. 3. Marketing is apparently good enough to hold the rapt attention of the IndyCar obsessed. 4. IMS is at 16th and Georgetown. Jonestown is located in northwestern Guyana, where in 1978 918 people were either killed or committed suicide. Not quite the same thing. 5. Perhaps an addition of Audi might enhance a support series. Food for thought anyway. 6. IZOD remains the title sponsor of the series, and is honoring the terms of their contract. Should Audi decide to join the fun (provided they lose the Euro-arrogance that clouds the noggins of that ilk) they are more than welcome. The more the merrier. The more the series bumps up against good news the more vulgar the handful of obsessed kiddies who follow the series more comprehensively than even the best actual fan become.
      • You have got to laugh at Chief and his folks. So three of the largest and most successful automakers do not know as much as he does. Really? Chief either has an incredibly high opinion of himself, or he just can't admit defeat. Has anyone noticed that the constant death of the series countdown clock has stopped ticking? Gone are the days when the haters would post this particular year or that particular year would be the last for Indycar. I guess being wrong year after year takes its toll. The other point is how insensitive the haters are. They have long shown a massive lack of decorum in almost openly hoping for death and destruction from Indycars, praying for maiming injuries and almost sounding jubliant when an injury did occur. That is not to mention the references to Jonestown which was a tremendous tragedy. Should we expect insensitive comments comparing Indy to the Boston Marathon or West, TX? Truly we can see the character or lack of in these haters. It is sad that they cannot get over a perceived slight from Indycar and get on with their lives.
      • Fixed it for ya, d
        And now for some facts: 1. The current DW12 chassis has raced for 1 season and 2 races, and thus far, ratings have dropped 27%. 2. Aero kits were supposed to be available for the 2012, 2013 and now again, supposedly for 2014 season. Good luck with all that... 3. pointing out the truth to place fans who think the .1rl is big time sports is the only thing fun left in AOWR, since the H/G clan destroyed it. 4. IMS is at 16th and Georgetown. Jonestown is located in northwestern Guyana, where in 1978 918 people were either killed or committed suicide. Both places are renown for the Kool-Aid drinking abilities of their disciple's... 5. Perhaps an addition of Leprechauns riding Unicorns might enhance a support series. Food for thought anyway. 6. IZOD remains the title sponsor of the series, and is honoring the terms of their contract that the .1rl breached last year, by not holding the required number of money losing events................ Lets see if this is deleted again.
      • Will the Pace Car have more Horsepower this year?
        The DW12 is the ugliest car on earth. I'm talking Pontiac Aztek ugly. So, you can see why I would favor IMS holding up to it's ICONIC mandate to change the ugly body panels that weren't supposed to be on the car in the first place. Second, bigger is better. The 2012 Indy 500 pacecar had more horsepower and two more cylinders. The lesser DW12 has 6 cylinders and less HP. To me, more is better, bigger is better and anything less sucks. The Indycar Series sucks because it garners 0.18 ratings, it has a less HP than a Corvette, and it has the ugliest body panels since the Aztek. They are taking down grandstands at IMS because it's not popular anymore. If they are taking down grandstands...why do they need $100 MILLION still? AUDI, stay away from this drek.
      • And while Chief is pondering the aesthetics of the Indycar, Zach Brown is pondering taking over leadership of IMS and Indycar. This is the same man who has been rumored to be the replacement for Bernie Ecclestone. Again, for a dying series, some racing heavyweights are very interested in it. Zach would be a tremendous asset for the series. If it were only his contacts with the major sponsors around the world, it would be great, but he is an amazing businessman who has created a monster marketing firm pretty much by himself. Mark Miles sure is pulling out all the stops. I hope Zach takes the position. So Chief, have you figured out what a race director is yet?
      • Zach Brown 4 .1rl something or another
        Z.B. can sell F1. From what I've heard, he can't sell jack in the .1rl. From Motorsport.....: IndyCar’s agreement with Long Beach expires next year and there are rumors that Bernie Ecclestone, Zak Brown and Long Beach founder Chris Pook are attempting to buy the contract. Ecclestone and Pook are known to have met a time or two last year to discuss the idea and Brown expressed his interest in the pages of last September’s Motor Sport. “There’s a lot of talk about a third [US F1] race on the West Coast,” Brown told our editor Damien Smith. “I’m an advocate of F1 buying the Long Beach GP. I think I can facilitate that and I’ve been having those conversations. You can make an argument that Long Beach would be a good investment. It’s got so much heritage. One race [in America] certainly isn’t enough.” Yes, indyman's supposed new savior of the .1rl wants to kick the sorry league off the streets of Long Beach and have it replaced by REAL RACE CARS AND DRIVERS, F1. :lol:
      • Pondering Aesthetics
        Great point Indyman. You and the other IMS lackeys and yes-men IGNORE the series aesthetics out of you blind love for the speedway. You could re-animate Tony Hulman and instill him as IMS god and it won't change the aesthetic of the series. As usual, IMS does OPPOSITE of what is required to change its image. 0.18 TV ratings...that's why aesthetics are important. If your series is perceived as junk, its junk. Zak Brown is meaningless because unless theres a big wad of cash he's bringing with himself, change of aesthetics is generational. The prior generation was messed up by IMS, the current generation is messed up by IMS and the future generations are messed up by IMS. Audi...stay away.
      • Jim, The US has had trouble supporting one F1 race. There are concerns about the financial health of COTA to survive on its own due to its poor its heavy reliance on State and local subsidies. Grand Prix of America was pushed back a year due to financing concerns. There is still concerns about its viability. The rumors running around the paddock is Bernie may buy the LBGP to replace the GP of A. Somehow I don't think NY will look kindly to LBGP taking its F1 date and I doubt the US can support 3 races and I am not sure there are enough dates to allow 3 American dates and 4 NA dates.
      • Chief, the fact you think a car is ugly is no more germane to the discussion than your innate need to get a personal apology. I have not heard anyone complain about the aesthetics of the cars....well no one but you. I have heard many praise the racing ability of the cars. As far as Zach, besides his personal fortune, he brings many large clients that listen closely to his advice. He single handedly brought hard alcohol to NASCAR with Crown Royal. He brings a huge amount of clout. If he takes the job, that will be another huge boost to Indycar. Even if he doesn't, the fact he is considering it is huge for Indycar.
      • Huge? LOL
        Why would Zak be HUGE just to be associated with Indycar? The series is desparate for any exposure, legitimacy and identity, aren't they? Pathetic...100+ years of legacy garnering 0.18 ratings. The look and feel of the series...the perception of the sport...not important. What happened to the Crown Royal sponsorship Dario had? Zak musta sold it to NASCAR, huh? Indy is a one trick pony....just the way you all want it. AUDI, run away!
      • If you don't think having one of the top auto racing businessmen considering taking over one of your series top jobs will bring positive attention from around racing, then you are rather partisan or clueless. We know you are the first. Positive things keep coming for the series you hate,I can understand that must be frustrating.
      • Another brick in the wall
        I know it tans your britches, but, top marketing men in ANY business know if your product sucks you ain't selling it. Indycar refuse to accept that no one is buying it. Sure, come on down Zak Brown! You're the next contestant on The Price is RIGHT (for failure)! I'm Chief and I strongly support Zak Brown as the next CEO failure of IMS (Hulman Racing) etc. We want Zak!
      • Chief, That must be why Audi is looking at spending millions of dollars to develop an engine for a dying series. That is why chevy and Honda have spent millions. That is why one of the top candidates for Bernies job is considering leading IndyCar. I guess none of these folks have the lucidity you do. Must be tough being more brilliant than the experts. I mean your support for cart/owrs/ccws shows your knack for picking a winner.
      • Zak Brown is nothing but a bilge pump
        I saw a YouTube clip of Long Beach practice...I will forward it immediately to Zak Brown so he can use it to land Audi. Also, dont put words in my mouth Indyman. I never said the Indycarz are dying... It's dead, to me. My suggestions are only provided to help resurrect it....most of which you refuse to acknowledge. So, someone get Zak on the phone...forget the cods Gill, this guys gonna need a sturgeon. Wet Dreams, Indyman. IMS and Indycar are Titantic of racing series....
      • Feeling it.
        Seems some are getting a bit full of themselves? Maybe they should ask the family what all they have won. They might have just a bit of a different take than the track fans that have no skin in the game and get all their pleasure taunting others over some perceived win. Win what? I do know what the CART/Champcar owners decided what not to lose. And to say Audi suffers from Euro-arrogance is more than just a bit of American arrogance of the Indy style. The second largest auto manufacturer in the world and if they choose not to involve themselves they are arrogant. Unbelievable.
      • Chief, you are really saying that you have never said IndyCar is dying? Really? I am glad to see you have changed your tune. Zak is at LB, so he is seeing first hand the anticipated record crowds. of course Zak has been following IndyCar for years so I am sure he doesn't need your help
      • uhhhuh
        Zak got an eye full of 10 Indy Lights carz and 5 gone before the halfway mark. And, the DW12 car is stupid looking, I even read this morning that Townsend Bell called the bumpers unnecessary and stupid during the broadcast of LB. If Zak is worth his weight, the first thing he should do is make the cars look SEXY. Heck, if I ran this series I'd have 2014 bodykit graphics advertised at every track I raced get folks excited for next year. OH, on a side note...I watched the LA Lakers play on Sunday afternoon on ABC. What is prominently displayed on the courtside table and viewable in every TV shot? Yes, thats right, NASCAR a basketball playoff game! Not IRL advertising, but NASCAR advertising. CHEAP IMS and great partner ABC even showed the ALMS race from long Beach in the 1-3PM timeslot. Not one mention of Indy or the 500. This is what Zak Brown needs to see disjointed the entire Indycar series is being run....regional SCCA autocross event get more publicity. So yeah, Zak needs to come in and ignore all the problems and collect the check....just like all the other who have come before him.
      • Don't take this personally Chief, but I doubt anyone on here wants to know what you think is sexy. First and foremost a race car needs to do just that, race. Second, it needs to be safe, for the drivers and the fans. I can see arguments that the order needs to be reversed, but those are the top two considerations. Next the cars need to have good styling. Your opinion not withstanding, I have not heard complaints that the cars are not cool. And as far as racing, Zak got a heck of a race with a Japanese driver winning for the first time in a Major American Series. That will go a long way to helping Zak and other marketers bring in Asian sponsors and fans. Don't doubt if you see NASCAR trying to bring in their own asian drivers. I had several of my NASCAR buddies text me that the NASCAR race was another yawner run before about a 60% full track. I told them to watch the LBGP. They texted me after that although not road race guys, that was a much more entertaining race that any NASCAR has put on this year. Something tells me that with Mile and hopefully Zak in charge, that high quality racing will start bringing more fans in.
      • How?
        This crap dont sell...hasnt since 2008. How will Zak and Miles do it?
      • Audi.CART
        Yes, those are the people we need in Indycar, the "CART was superior". This is the problem, CART worked for the most part, crowds tv ratings, does it now? No. CART was superior and everybody knows it except for the people in denial. A rich punk screwed everything up. We need bumperless sexy looking cars again with 900 hp turbo's. The people will come again!
      • Chief
        I like what Chief said! Spot on!
      • so how's Audi working out
        Every once and awhile it's fun to stroll through the history books to see how things turn out.......So Dipsicle how's that Audi engine doing? And wow! Those aero kits that debuted in 2014 are sooooo sexy!

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