Page 1 of 3 Next >> Even when he was still driving himself, Roger Penske always carefully searched through the rulebooks for loopholes in a quest to gain what is now famously known as the 'Unfair Advantage'. There are examples abundant like his single-seater Zerex Special sports car, the Trans-Am Javelins with Porsche 917 brakes or the all-conquering Porsche 917/30. His finest hour, however, came at the 1994 Indy 500 for which Penske equipped his cars with an engine that bent the rules very close to the breaking point.
At that time, the Indy 500 was not part of the CART Championship and sanctioned by the United States Auto Club (USAC). The regulations were very similar, so the teams could field the same cars but there were some small differences in the engine compartment. With an eye on attracting more American manufacturers the traditional 'stock-block' was slightly favoured by allowing push-rod engines to run with a larger displacement and at higher turbo boost levels. This often allowed the Buick-engined cars to steal the thunder during qualifying but they rarely managed to complete all 200 laps.
What was omitted in the regulations was the requirement that this push-rod engine actually had to be based on a stock-block. The rule makers had probably figured that no team or manufacturer could spend the vast resources required to purpose build an engine using a principle that had long been considered outdated in racing circles. With Roger Penske around, they perhaps should have known better. 'The Captain' had recognised the opportunity to gain his 'Unfair Advantage' and in absolute secrecy commissioned the development of the new engine.
For several years Team Penske had sourced their engines from the part-owned British engineering firm Ilmor. Up until 1994 these V8 engines were labelled Chevrolet but as the American company dropped its support, they were simply known as Ilmors during the regular season. One of Ilmor's other customers was Mercedes-Benz, for which they designed and constructed the V10 F1 engine. Penske and Ilmor proposed the idea of the special Indy engine to Mercedes-Benz and they were very keen to get a piece of the Indy cake despite the huge costs involved. Page 1 of 3 Next >>