Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
June 2, 2013
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started. Thank you for joining us this morning for a special announcement.
IndyCar announced it will open the door for increased technical innovation in its cars in open-wheel racing. Right now I'd like to introduce Derrick Walker, president of competition and operations for IndyCar, to discuss our long-term competition strategy and timeline.
DERRICK WALKER: Thank you. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. First of all, as is no secret, I've now joined IndyCar. Crossed over to the dark side, as I like to say. I took this job because I wanted to and it was offered to me and it represented a huge challenge, a huge opportunity for me. I'm more than happy to be here.
We're here to talk about one of the many favorite topics of conversation over the last year or so: the infamous aero kits.
When we started thinking about aero kits, Will Phillips to my left here, we started hunkering down on how do we go forward. We had a lot of input, talked to the manufacturers, the teams, Firestone, Dallara. Will had done a considerable amount before I joined on.
It was coming in and laying it all out on the table, what does it mean, how do we do it, what's the best thing for the series.
As has been said, some of you may say today, why screw with aero kits, we're racing. Hopefully where you see where we ended up, you'll get an idea where we are doing what we're going to do, which is obviously introduce some modifications to the car over time.
We started looking at it, how is it best to do it. We kept getting drawn into the concept, where is it going to go. It's easy to pass a rule and say, it's aero kits next year, knock yourself out. What does it really mean, where is it going to go. Since we've got such good foundation in the car and competition now, we need to think about this carefully.
The more we thought about it, the more we had to look out long-term. We went as far out as could imagine. What is the lifespan of this car realistically, the main components. What could we do that would maintain stability of that package.
Also we had to look at the manufacturer's participation, what they were looking for. We listened to the fans because the fans are a big component of this. The fans, whether you get it or not, we do, they want some kind of change. They like what they want, but they're still crying out for some other things, good old days, bring it back. We had a series of objectives. We looked out as long-term as we can.
When you see this chart we're going to show you it covers a lot of different aspects of that puzzle. What we're trying to do is introduce change, I'll come back to why we need to introduce change. We need to do it in a fiscally responsible way because change costs money as we all know. We had to do it in a way that we listened to the people who are going to probably spend the most money on this thing, the manufacturers. We had two manufacturers who had interest in doing aero kits, and a deeper participation in IndyCar. We wanted to listen to them because they're a big part of this component.
When we looked at it, we developed this chart. I'm going to walk you through it. I'm sure you'll have lots of questions. If I can ask you to hold that to the end and we'll come back to your questions when we're done.
Here is the chart. I'll start at the top and work down. If you look at the top row of numbers, which is the official track record numbers. In 2012 was a pole position time. You can see increases in speed as you go through. Some of those have already been done and some of them potentially could be targets depending on how we could reconfigure our car. Depending on which side of the equation you sit, it's our belief that speed does count. Speed is a differential that IndyCar has. They are the fastest cars in the world, in the closed circuit competition, if we want them to be. They have been and they still have some considerable records.
So when you look at that qualifying speed, you're looking at Indianapolis only. You're taking a snapshot of Indianapolis and saying if speed is a component, what do we do and what's the effect. These are just calculations. Don't get hung up on the numbers.
As you step through it, we introduced the current car in 2012, we're halfway through 2013. Here is where we really started to look at it very carefully and say, what do we need to do. What we need to do and are going to do is we needed to look to, first, safety. If we're going to ramp up the speed, as we make these changes, as the team get more familiar with the car, as the engine manufacturers continue to invest money into the series, we're going to have to go quicker.
What's out there we really need to think about. Safety came up on the radar. One component of this car is the capability of lift. It has a huge flat bottom. We know it needs that perfect storm to create lift with these cars. We said we have to address lift. We're going to look at that aspect. Open-wheel cars in general, even NASCAR, all have had to deal with that. In the good old days when I started racing, they didn't have flat bottoms like now. It wasn't an issue. You'd probably roll over before you take off. Nowadays the component of downforce and the larger area underneath the car, we have a lift component.
We said, wait a minute, if we're going to do these aero kits, change the bottom, what sense does that make? The manufacturers are going to waste all their money. We said safety is number one. We need to get that floor situation under control.
So we said let's look at it from multiple angles. Do we reduce it, put trap doors in it. We haven't got the answer today. All I can tell you, we, IndyCar, are going to spend a bit of money researching a floor as soon as we can that reduces the lift potential of this car. If we're going to have a speed potential, you're going to increase the lift four times every mile an hour, whatever it is. We're going to start a development program. We're going to get with Dallara and engine manufacturers, our advisory committee. A lot of people with a lot of ideas.
We're going to start working on a revised floor. Hopefully it will be done for the manufacturers to build into their aero kits. 2014, there is no change in aero kits. The engines will be modified, already planned. As it says on my little box there, we're going to have a reduction in downforce. We're going to have to continue to modify that balance of the amount of downforce for the avoidance of wide-open racing.
Also when you look at that component, we're talking super speedways here. But there's also another component, a street race. What we need at a street race isn't necessarily what we need at a superspeedway. We're not trying to keep moving the goalposts with cost. Don't be anybody surprised if Will isn't doing some juggling with the downforce to improve the show.
You get into 2015. In 2015, providing our manufacturers are still motivated to stay in our series, we're going to introduce these aero configurations. They're aero changes in the car. That change is going to be across road courses and ovals. You're going to hopefully have a Honda and a Chevrolet version. If there's some other manufacturer comes along, it all fits and can be done in an organized manner, the door is open for others.
Aero kits in 2015. You'll see a significant jump in speed at Indianapolis. The rules to that are currently being scripted. We had them pretty well 80% done until we finalized this outline. The manufacturers within a couple weeks will have the written rules as to how they can compete, what they can and can't do.
That takes you to 2016. 2016 happens to be, of course, as you all well know, the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. So an important team and ceremonial event. When you look at the speed increases, the improvements in the car, you can realistically expect that we will possibly break that record unless we make major changes to backtrack, we're probably going to crack the record.
It's not a must do. It would be a nice do, but it's not a must do. When you take a look at the changes in the car configuration, it's logical to think we're going to get a rise in speeds.
In that, as the car develops, we're working with our partner Firestone to develop the best kind of tires for our cars. Everybody would have to agree to date we've had super support from them, a lot of great, safe racing. They know how a build a car for 240, 250 miles an hour, if you can go that fast. The capacity is there.
When they see this plan, they've got something to work to. We're not sitting there saying maybe, maybe, we're going to do that. A big part of that is working with our Firestone partners and adapt the car to what it needs to be.
In addition, engine power increase. For qualifying, the qualifying situation at Indy, anywhere else for that matter, we have the ability to turn up the boost, to give more power if that is needed. It's just saying there's a potential. Not saying a must do. At the end of the day, the longer we turn up the boost, the more the engine needs to be rebuilt and the more it costs teams. It's a difference between going crazy and going fast.
Take you out to '17. You can see aero upgrades. The process of racing, IndyCar racing, like all racing series, is a continual change. Nothing ever stays forever in racing, nor should it. We can realistically expect there could be some upgrades in the future in 2017 to continue to grow because we'll learn what our aero kit does and how to optimize it. You can expect some changes there. Again, working with our partners, not decisions made in a vacuum. An engine upgrade, again, the cycle of (indiscernible), the engine manufacturers can make a bigger change in their engine configuration in 2017.
Here is a new one, team development. We're going to open up areas of the cars, and we're going to try to get back to a little bit more of a variation in our competition. In a controlled way, because all the teams want to see us monitor the show, make sure there's no cheating going on, no bending of the rules, when we open up areas, we're losing a lot of control in a sense because we're allowing the teams to do non-Dallara parts or modified parts. We need to keep the competition fair for everybody. So team development in 2017.
You'll see the speeds drop down after 2016. I think that's just a speculation and it's also a possibility if it's required. I'm not sure that we as IndyCar need to be doing the sound barrier all the time every year, we don't need to break that barrier. I think you will see changes in specifications to the car that will influence speed. The quest to be quick is certainly an objective.
Then taking it out to 2018, a very important year, because the current car, with aero kits, 2018, it's probably the end of its current form in competition - or could be. We're saying it probably is, or is rather, not probably. If you look at the current platform of the pieces we've got, even with the aero kits thrown in there, the basic package has been on the shelf for quite a long time at that point. There will be a lot of other ideas coming along, safety ideas, all kinds of things that come along, that will say that we need do some bigger changes.
2018 you're probably looking at the end of era of this current car. Then we're really faced with a situation, if we were so lucky, going into 2019 by saying, do we go with another new car, get the latest technology, or do we find another way.
We're proposing, and we think it's probably what's going to happen, because of the economic environment we're in, we're probably going to extend the life of that car another three or so years. How we're going to do that is take the basic spine, chassis, gearbox, other key components of the chassis, the rolling chassis, and say let's not do a kit, let's do a complete facelift, a complete body styling, which would give you several things.
It would build in more safety, build you a car for the future to extend that car's life. It would help the teams by not making everything obsolete. More fans, more sponsors coming in, ultimately being able to afford to look at other variations.
For the time being, we're looking at a lean, mean economy out there, so we're going to keep some longevity in our path.
It would give you a different look, a different performance. It should be about the car of the future. It should be a car - probably heard that word before - but a car that looks like a modern racing car. When you look at it, you will say, that's an IndyCar. We can build a complete wing package, under floor, look like a completely different car. Whether we run into some safety issues, we'll have to reverse that.
The process to do 2019, it's going to be coming round the corner here soon. We're going to work over a few years to this point, start with some basic concepts, again, not in a vacuum, including as many parts of our community as we can.
In 2019, we're saying it has to be a major improvement in the car, a different styling, performance.
Then when we come to the engine formula. We will have run in formula right through 2019. There's nothing says we can't look at other engine formulas along the way, but obviously we haven't said that in this chart. We've not intimated that. Any new formula change in the engines we're going to get with our current partners, Chevrolet and Honda, say that we have a potential to do this, how do you feel about it. We don't want to alienate anybody. But certainly 2019, I think it's far enough out to say we look at other technologies, other engine sizes, other whatever.
What we're saying here is obviously we want to build a car that's not only fast, not only IndyCar, but we want to build a car that's got a green element to it, a variation in the formula that adds more variety, brings more people into the sport, enhances the competition.
We're putting that out there. Why it's very useful to have that as a statement as where we're going to go, as we talk to other manufacturers, interested parties, we can say, here is our plan, if you want to come in with your different technologies, 2019, we can go back to our current partners, introduce it sensibly sooner, I don't think it's likely, we can do that.
All the changes up to '19 are all a combination of working together. It's not us making decisions in a vacuum.
Then '19 through to '21, we parted those years out. I think these old dogs by '21 will be old dogs and we'll be changing them. How do we make this thing last longer, save money for the teams and build in some longevity.
That's our plan.
We have one more chart here to show you, then I'll take questions.
On the right hand top corner, my left hand, you've got the speedway configuration. All the components in red are components, two current engine manufacturers, can make their own body panels, own styling, to individualize that car and compete in 2015.
There is a note. As you can see the arrows to the wings, if you don't make any changes, currently right now these wings that we run at the superspeedways are getting some weird angles to achieve the lap times we want. If we didn't change anything else, we'd probably come back and change the wings, make them operate in the traditional way they work, get the balance better for the teams.
But if we're changing before, there's a good chance that wing configuration is something that we're looking at. May be the same wings. We're not saying these components are automatic. Once we have some floor data, have a better idea, we'll be telling the manufacturers whether they are a component or not a component of the aero kit. We're trying to keep as many things consistent and not just change for change's sake.
Then you go to the bottom right corner. That is the road course configuration. You can take everything you have there up in the left, with the exception of the wing main plate, you can fit them on your road course car and knock yourself out.
So that in simplistic terms is the plan. There's a lot of work to go with that. Will has already started on a lot of the writing of this thing and we'll be closing out as soon as we can and then we'll be looking for the manufacturers to tell us where we are.
If one manufacturer of our current group decides it's not what they want to do, doesn't want to participate, or if the majority of the teams say they don't want it, forget it, we're not coming, we're not doing it, then either of those situations we'd say, forget it, we'll take it off the table. It is a rule going forward, it is going to happen, but it's with consent of our partners. Without them buying into it, what are we doing, we're dreaming up rules that don't go anywhere.
Once we get the manufacturers committing to it, we'll announce who is onboard with what we're doing.
A bit of a rush through, a lot of words. I'll take questions if anybody has any.
Q. We've announced aero kits, I think this is the third time now. We've had the owners basically reject the concept on financial grounds. How much building of relationships have you done in your short time already to get a feel for whether we're going to have a third rejection?
DERRICK WALKER: Believe it or not, up until yesterday, the manufacturers didn't know anything what we were going to propose. We did a meeting yesterday.
They were the first partners with IndyCar that actually had a chance to see this. Up until then it was Will and I and Mark, standing at the back of the room, were the only people who knew what IndyCar was going to do.
There were a few more boards that addressed cost from our standpoint in our presentation. We didn't think it was right to bring it out here because it wasn't relevant to this meeting. Met with the drivers, gave them the same sort of presentation. We met with the manufacturers. We're here with you today.
We tried to get to everybody as soon as we could because we wanted that feedback.
So far there are suggestions on how we should think about this, think about that. I haven't had anybody come up and say, no way. I've only seen one owner that wanted to go out there and get his name in a paper and say other ways should be better, which is his right.
In that meeting, it was constructive. I think we got general support, at least right now.
Q. Once they introduce the changes in red, how often can they change those pieces or is it locked in once they introduce them? Will there be price caps on it as to how much they can charge the teams for these kits?
DERRICK WALKER: Good questions.
Once you've made 'em, you own 'em, they're yours. The league always looks at the competition and looks for inequalities in the rules. There's no guarantee every manufacturer, every team, engine is going to come out and be even. Some of it is very challenging from a league perspective, to be able to manage that, get that balance, 'cause there's nobody wants to see half the teams be totally disenfranchised because they have an aero package that can go wrong.
We'd step in and would be trying to offer some help to allow that manufacturer to make some additional changes to try to rectify if he has a big problem. That's not going to be day one. We're going to take a long time to look at it. We know how you can play that game. We're not going to be sucked into changing the rules every time somebody says it doesn't work.
The second part, my answer would be, I hope so. We're going to put forward a group of recommendations to the manufacturers of what we want to do. We do want to put realistic caps on it.
When we look at the car components, the manufacturer is making small quantities. He's going to make quality pieces, small quantities. He's not in there to sell a bunch of these, make a bunch of money. He can't afford to probably give that away. He probably doesn't want to because he already spent a lot of money on developing the stuff. We will be meeting with the manufacturers and giving our final rules package, which will specify what costs and whatnot, what won't be cost.
The last thing we want to do is increase the inflation to the teams. So we definitely have to try to manage that. We want our partners to understand that and help us with it.
Q. At the moment, how are you proposing the lap speed is generated to get a record lap at Indy while you're also trying to take away downforce? At the moment they're virtually flat out, especially in qualifying, which is what you're trying to prevent where driver talent plays a greater part.
WILL PHILLIPS: (No microphone.)
DERRICK WALKER: I'd add to that, just because we bring in aero kits doesn't mean it's going to go slower. The killer is the drag. When you make those aero kits, you're going to potentially lose a lot of drag. It's a go-faster pill.
Q. When this new car first came along, the big story was maybe this would get the cottage industry going. Will any of this be available for cottage guys to build things? Will it still be a closed shop? When you get to 2017, would you encourage competition from a chassis manufacturer or just have one chassis?
DERRICK WALKER: I think to the cottage industry question, I think we'd all like to see that come back. I think when the team development areas open up, we've yet to totally define what those are, we can think of them and have a short list, but we have to knuckle down and do the due diligence, that will produce some capability to be farmed out locally.
If you look at where we currently are, the current car as is, our supplier, we have a partnership with Dallara and we need them to get through to a period in time which in this case is going to be 2017 before we start opening up in a careful way.
The cottage industry issue will be addressed as we gradually open up. But everybody thinks that's a panacea to everything good, when you open it up. Our partnership with Dallara, everybody says it's great racing, and it is, very competitive, very close. Actually, just remember the Dallara component in there has helped create some of that very close racing. So there's some good to that.
We've just got to manage it over time.
To the other point, I think we'd all love to have more competition from different chassis manufacturers. Again, longer term, when the windows open up for that consideration, we wouldn't turn anybody down. We'd obviously look at it and see if it's viable and the best thing in the interests of IndyCar. If it was, we would.
That's a bit further out. Right now we're partnered with Dallara, and that's where it's going to be for the next few years.
Q. With your experience in ALMS, you know how the green racing side of that brought in fans. Could you sort of pull back from the technical side and talk about how you think all of this package will maybe pull in more fans.
DERRICK WALKER: Well, from a big picture view, racing, it's hard to see racing as a development platform sometimes for green. We're using a lot of resources to do what we do.
The one thing about racing, it helps you develop those products quicker. It's a fast track to develop those products, fluids, whatever. I think we need to be on that page a lot more than we are.
We're not like so clear on what that needs to be, but it needs to be a component in the future. Again, we build it in over time, because it takes time, but we have to be going that route.
Whether the fans attach to that or not, I would think they would think it's good. We're responsible for what we do. But really the fans, we need to wake 'em up in more than different ways than just the green, although the green is a good thing. We need to let them know there's some good stuff going over here and we need to find a way to reignite them and get them background. Without them we're just doing a technical exercise here.
Q. How much room is there really to move within these parameters? Are they really going to look that much different, much variation involved in terms of the appearance?
DERRICK WALKER: They will look different to start with. Like monkey see, monkey do, whatever has the best package, they're going to migrate that way. Because of the restrictions they have in the rules, how many panels, it may lead them all to a similar place. It may.
But they're going to spend a lot of time trying to be different, trying to be better. We may get some surprises there. I think we will for the introduction of these aero kits. When you look at what we have to do, how we do it, this is one of the easier ones in terms of beginning the process to change our cars and our specifications.
I think it's one of the more cost-effective ways to do it.
Q. Isn't there an opportunity here to take particularly the Indy 500 back to its roots?
DERRICK WALKER: It's certainly a valid question and a position to take.
I don't think we in IndyCar can really afford to do that. I don't mean just in a money sense. It would take several years to build that back up where it became a show, became an event. You would see a heck of a lot less people up there winning the races. You would see the big-budget teams, the big players being the winners because they have the resources, they always do.
It's a balance between what do you want, close racing or a disparity across the field. I think what we've got it pretty good. We need to continue to be ahead of that curve and try to further enhance it.
But I don't think we can realistically jump that far back. I just don't see it being the right thing for IndyCar at the moment. I'd love to be able to try that and if it didn't work come back to where we are, but they won't let me do that.
Q. My estimation is the technical interest from the average fan about IndyCar today is probably as low as it's ever been. With everything proposed here, I love the ideas and sound of it, but I think most of these things that excite folks that already care, which doesn't add everybody to the party. What elements of promoting these things, new technical innovations are coming, will excite folks?
DERRICK WALKER: We didn't get here overnight. We evolved here. Where we go from here will also be a process of evolution. If we're going to go to a completely different place ultimately, we'll take time to do that.
I don't care who comes in and takes this job and has the challenge of moving the sport one way or another, it's always going to take a lot of time. It always comes down to resources and time.
When you look at the aero kit, which I almost hate the words, it has an impression of being some sort of body bit you put on there and you've got a different car but it's really the same. These will be major design changes. This is a deal changer. There's a lot of things this is going to affect, by going away from the traditional running car.
If you look at the aero kit, branding is a big component. When you look at promoting, I'm sure Chevrolet and Honda, because they're going to have their own image, their own car design, albeit under the spine of the running chassis we have. So there's a promotion element. They're going to promote that. Why else would they do it?
There's also a speed element. It will certainly change the game when it comes to speed. It will also affect the road courses which we don't need a huge increase in speed, we need more overtaking and a car that is on the limit to drive, the guys are learning take a little bit longer. We have cars that are fairly easy. We have a power range which is fairly low. The balance of grip and power is maybe not where we want it to be. These aero kits will allow some of those things to be addressed over time.
The fans want to see some differentiation. As much as I would like to turn the clock back, I'm not so sure back to the future is the best way to do that. I think we need to keep stability, keep rubbing on it. So this is a very conservative step, for sure. This is not earth-shattering. But there is some newness in it. It's going to look a little different. It's going to introduce an aero race with the two manufacturers, which they want. It's going to give some differentiation for the teams and their cars, and the fans hopefully will recognize that.
It's not the magic bullet that's going to fix IndyCar. I just don't think you can see that realistically happen in that sort of time. You have to think further out.
If you want to get adventurous around 2019, 2021, possibly. We have a plan here moving in that direction. We're working on what is the next step, all part of an evolution.
Q. Will, was any consideration given to allowing the teams and manufacturers relocate the radiators?
WILL PHILLIPS: (No microphone.)
DERRICK WALKER: If I can just finish that one off.
It would be a considerable advantage if we said radiators are free, whatever. Change costs money. New components. Also, if you did away with the duct, you're doing away with a large component, which is a safety item stuck out there.
It would be nice to remove the duct and let the manufacturers go. There's no guarantee as the side pod design ends up, how much driver protection you're maybe taking away. For us to go back and relook at every manufacturer's kit, think about the crash structure there, how it performs, we thought for cost reasons and for those reasons, we'd leave those, maybe something in the future, but not right now.
Q. I wanted to confirm basically the team owners, even the ones that aren't in the big league, they have said this is a gradual enough process for them to be able to afford it. When Mark Miles took charge, he said that we need technical innovation but don't want to blow a fuse. Even the guys that won yesterday, they are actually okay with this step-by-step process and feel they can afford it.
DERRICK WALKER: Yeah, I mean, no team likes to spend money. What we're doing is we're spending it over time to give them time to work into it. We're doing the least impact on their budget we can do.
Change is going to cost money. Also if we're not going to change, then we can save a lot of money. I guess the question comes, do we need to change. In my opinion, we do.
If you look at the current car, nobody wanted to buy that, at least at the time most of them didn't. They hunkered down, made it happen. It was a tough pill to swallow, the cost of reinvesting in a car.
Now we're at a better place. We're looking a bit further out saying, where do we go from here. We're not throwing the whole car away. Our engine partners are willing to carry the brunt there. The team owners are going to pay their fair share.
If we don't feel we need to develop IndyCar in this direction, obviously we don't need to be doing this. The league thinks we do. We've gone to great lengths to explain why we think that's necessary and we're going to move forward with that plan.
If the team owners disagree with it, there's not a majority there that keeps it going, we'll drop it. We won't ram it down their throat. We need everybody in the game, we need everybody to bring into this and make it happen.
Q. You mentioned the need for the manufacturers and team owners to buy into that. What is the timeframe for that before you have to move forward?
DERRICK WALKER: Mark came from Chevrolet. I'm going to say Monday, of course (laughter).
We need to give them time to digest the rules. We're going to try to get these things finalized in at least two to three weeks. The manufacturer will have something ASAP. We're going to ask them basically. We want it ASAP. If they have a process internally, they have to go through and consider these things, obviously we're going to say, what is your timeline for making your decision. We'll try to get them both on the same page to release it. As the clock ticks, we're going to be developing this underbody. We'll be doing this.
We have to do something on the floor area, reduce that. There's other things incidentally on the safety aspect. We're going to do a lot more of safety, period. That's not just the driver. It's the pit crews, the fans in the stands. You probably all know that Indianapolis, working on a current plan to make significant changes at that place, not just safety, but safety included. There's a big initiative on trying to be fiscally responsible with not only how do we spend our money but how do with we add protection as we try to ramp up and be the series we want to be.
Q. What about Audi, Dodge, Ford? Have they indicated there's an engine they would be interested in in two or three years?
DERRICK WALKER: I know the league two years ago went out looking, knocking on doors to see who were interested. At that time they weren't. With a more long-range plan, the door is open for other engine configurations, not immediately, but if any manufacturer said, I like this idea, let's go do it, they're going to have a two- to three-year buildup plan. Not something that is going to happen overnight.
The door is open for competition. We're grateful with the current manufacturers because they provided great competition between them, great engines. They fit the bill, they work. I'm sure they would like, too, more competition. If the formula can change in the future that doesn't disenfranchise anybody, works for the better good of what we're trying to achieve here, I'm sure they'd welcome the competition as much as anybody.
The door is open. Once we level off here with this job, it's going to be one of the things that Mark and I are going to be doing, out there banging, knocking on doors. We should have three manufacturers at least, we lost one, and we need to replace that one. That's job number one. We'll all be better off all around if we had a better manufacturer there.
Long-term that technology door, that green door, could be open relatively soon provided it's within the framework of what everybody is doing now. We can't disenfranchise anybody because we're whacking off on some exercise of whatever.
THE MODERATOR: We'll conclude today's media availability. Thank you.
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