Ilmor, founded by
Mario Illienand Paul Morgan in 1984, is a British independent high-performance autosport engineering company. With manufacturing based in Brixworth, Northamptonshire, and maintenance offices in Plymouth, Michigan, the company supplies engines and consultancy to the IndyCar Series, Formula One, and MotoGP.
After originally developing
IndyCarengines, the company built a partnership with Mercedes-Benzto power F1 cars for both the Sauberand McLarenteams. After the death of Paul Morgan in a vintage aeroplane crash in 2001, Mercedes increased its stake until it owned the entire company, and renamed it Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines Ltd.
In 2005, Mario Illien concluded a deal to purchase the Special Projects part of the company in partnership with
Roger Penske, which had been contracted to supply Hondawith IndyCar engines. Ilmor Engineering developed the Ilmor X3for the 2007 MotoGPWorld Motorcycle Championship, which they entered in one race before withdrawing and effectively shutting down the race team, due to funding problems.
Ilmor is formed from the names of the two founders - Mario Illien and Paul Morgan.
The 265 V8
Both engineers were working at Cosworth on the
Cosworth DFXturbocharged engine for the CART Indy Car World Series; differences of opinion over the direction in which DFX development should go (Cosworth were inherently conservative as they had a near monopoly) led them to break away from their parent company to pursue their own ideas. There was some acrimony in their split from Cosworth, their former employer claiming that the Ilmor engine was little different to their planned modifications to the DFX. [Graham Robson, "Cosworth: The Search For Power"]
Founded as an independent British engine manufacturer in 1983, it started building engines for Indycars with the money of team owner and chassis manufacturer Roger Penske. The Ilmor-
Chevrolet265A debuted at the 1986 Indianapolis 500with Team Penske driver Al Unser. In 1987, the engine program expanded to all three Team Penske drivers ( Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan, and Unser), Patrick Racing, and Newman/Haas Racing. Mario Andretti, driving for Newman/Haas, won the Long Beach Grand Prix, the engine's first IndyCar victory. He also won the pole position for the 1987 Indianapolis 500. A year later, the engine was rebadged as the Chevy Indy V-8, and Rick Mearswon the 1988 Indianapolis 500, the engine's first win at Indy. The engine went on to have a stellar record in CART. From 1987-1991, the engine won 64 of 78 races.
In 1991 Ilmor entered Formula 1 with a V10 engine as exclusive supplier to the ambitious Leyton House team (formerly March). After some troubles Leyton House returned to racing as March again in 1992, still using Ilmor engines. Ilmor also supplied engines to the Tyrrell team, starting from 1992. Powered by the Ilmor V10, Tyrrell scored 8 points through
Andrea de Cesarisand March another 3 through Karl Wendlinger.
Ilmor were gaining a reasonable reputation in F1, and so the Sauber sportscar team and Mercedes-Benz, who were planning their Formula One entry together, signed a deal with Ilmor after scrapping plans for a Mercedes engine. It should be noted that Sauber driver Karl Wendlinger had extensive experience of the Ilmor engine from his Leyton House/March career. In order to protect their image, Mercedes took on an observational role in the project and the cars had "Concept by Mercedes-Benz" written in the engine cover. The engine was officially called Sauber V10.
After an unexpectedly competitive performance in 1993 (12 points, and it could have been more but for many reliability problems and incidents) Mercedes finally entered officially in 1994, and now "Powered by Mercedes-Benz" was seen on the Sauber engine-cover. Coincidentally, in 1993 Mercedes-Benz acquired
Chevrolet's 25% share of Ilmor.
In 1994 Ilmor also supplied the new Pacific GP team of Keith Wiggins with the old 1993 spec engines. Pacific had much trouble with qualifiyng the cars, in 32 attempts they only made it seven times, although the engine was not implicated in this poor display.
Racing in the USA
The "Chevrolet" 265A V8s ran briefly as Ilmor units in 1994.
But there was another extraordinary engine from Ilmor in 1994 - the Mercedes-Benz 500I (although work on this started long before the Mercedes takeover as a private project between Ilmor and Penske). The 500I exploited a loophole in the engine rules at the
Indianapolis 500(which was run under slightly different rules to other CART races). Originally stock-block engines based on production units, fitted with two pushrodand rocker arm actuated valves per cylinder, were permitted to run at increased cubic capacity (3.43 litres vs 2.65 litres) and significantly greater turbo boost than the pure racing engines. For several years BuickV6 units had been extremely fast but fragile; the restrictions were relaxed with the intent of permitting Buick-like engines to use stronger but still production-like blocks - the Menard engine based on the Buick took this approach, as did the unsuccessful Greenfield V8.
Ilmor realised that this provided scope for a completely new pure-bred racing engine - it would need to retain pushrods, but could be designed specifically for the requirements of the Indianapolis 500, and in strict secrecy schemed a completely new V8 engine which was approximately 200bhp more powerful than the Cosworth DFS and Ilmor 265A opposition. Team Penske's cars were by far the fastest at the 1994 Indianapolis 500, and
Al Unser, Jr.won the race, with Emerson Fittipaldialso figuring strongly until an accident on lap 184. The loophole was closed for 1995, and Penske, a year behind on development for Indy, failed to qualify their 265A-powered cars for that year's 500.
For 1995 the 265A V8s were rebadged Mercedes and continued to be highly competitive, but after the CART-IRL split, Mercedes gradually lost interest in American racing.
Ilmor continued working in America on the
OldsmobileAurora V8 for the IRL, and later designed the HondaIRL engine.
Mercedes-Benz in Formula One
Back in F1, for 1995 Mercedes had set its sights on higher goals and went looking for an engine supply deal with a more competitive team. Sauber had the opportunity to become a customer team, but Peter refused and signed a deal with
Ford. From now on Ilmor built the Mercedes-Benz engines exclusively for McLaren.
The Ilmor engines went on to be hugely successful with McLaren, scoring several podiums in both 1995 and 1996, leading to three wins in 1997 and back to back drivers championship in 1998 and 1999, as well as the constructor's championship in 98. Although they have not won another championship since, the Ilmor-Mercedes engines have won several races.
In 2001 Paul Morgan was killed whilst landing his vintage airplane at
Sywell Aerodrome, Northamptonshire. In 2002 DaimlerChryslerincreased its share to 55% and renamed the company Mercedes-Ilmor. In 2005 Daimler-Chrysler became the sole owner of Ilmor and renamed the company Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines Ltd.
In 2005, Mario Illien and Roger Penske concluded a deal to purchase the small Special Projects part of the company, which since 2003 had been contracted to design and build
Honda's IndyCar Seriesengines, and split away to become a separate company.
This new company, which is totally independent of Mercedes, is once again known as [http://www.ilmor.co.uk Ilmor Engineering Ltd] . The new Ilmor continues to support Honda's involvement in the IRL as sole engine supplier.
In 2006, Ilmor announced that they would enter a two-bike team in the
MotoGPmotorcycle racing series and would enter a single rider team as a wildcard entry in the final two races of the 2006 season. For the 2007 Motogp season, engine capacity was to be reduced to 800cc from 900cc so Ilmor's wildcard entries in 2006 would be the first appearance of an 800cc Motogp motorcycle at a race meeting. [ [http://www.crash.net/news_view.asp?cid=6&id=136092 MOTOGP: EXCLUSIVE: Ilmor explain MotoGP plans ] ] .
Former 500 cc race winner
Garry McCoywas confirmed as the rider for the Michelin-shod bike in its 2006 appearances, scoring points both in the 2006 Portuguese Grand Prix at the Autódromo do Estoriland the 2006 Grand Premio De La Comunitat Valenciana. [ [http://www.crash.net/news_view~t~Ilmor-confirms-McCoy--Michelin-~cid~6~id~137521.htm MOTOGP: Ilmor confirms McCoy, Michelin., motorsport news, results, features, teams, drivers, updates ] ] becoming the first rider to score points on an 800cc Motogp machine.
18 December, 2006, Ilmor Engineering confirmed via their website that Jeremy McWilliamsand Andrew Pitt had been selected as riders for the 2007 season. [http://www.ilmor.co.uk/pdf/AN979.pdf Ilmor Announce 2007 Riders] official Ilmor press release, accessed 18 December2006] . On 15 March, 2007after one race, the team announced that they were taking a break from Moto GP as a result of funding issues. [http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/57335 Ilmor pull out of MotoGP temporarily] autosport.com, accessed 15/03/2007] On 30 Aprilthey announced that they would run a "slimmed-down" set-up focused purely on engine development, releasing all unnecessary personnel but keeping under contract riders McWilliams and Pitt. [ [http://www.motogp.com/en/motogp/motogp_news.htm?menu=news&news_id=19543&championship_id=3§ion=1 The Official MotoGP Website ] ] They have yet to return to the MotoGP paddock as of the 2008 season.
Formula One statistics
* [http://www.ilmor.co.uk Ilmor Engineering Ltd]
* [http://www.ilmorgp.com Ilmor GP Official Website]
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