Ilmor Engineering Ltd. was founded by Mario Illien, Paul Morgan and Roger Penske in 1984, initially to design, develop and manufacture engines for the IndyCar series. With backing from General Motors under the Chevrolet banner it quickly became successful in Indy racing, taking its first race win at Long Beach in 1987 (Mario Andretti). In 1988 Ilmor achieved the milestones of its first Indianapolis 500 win (Rick Mears) and CART championship (Danny Sullivan). Since then Ilmor have gone on to win more than 260 IndyCar races including 17 Indy 500 wins.
1990 saw the Ilmor business expand to the USA with the establishment of Ilmor Engineering Inc. in Plymouth, Michigan to provide engine build and trackside support for the supply of IndyCar engines.
In 1994, with backing from Mercedes-Benz, Ilmor entered the Indy 500 with the now infamous 500I pushrod engine which was the first engine in history to achieve pole position and win the Indy 500 in its debut race. Raced by Al Unser Jr, it exceeded 1000bhp and had a top speed of 412 km/h.
In the early nineties Ilmor made the natural progression to Formula One, supplying Leyton House, March and Tyrrell. In 1993 Mercedes-Benz announced their collaboration with Ilmor, providing the financial backing for the V10 engine supply to Sauber.
Two years later the Mercedes return to F1 was complete, with the Ilmor V10 badged as a Mercedes-Benz and the start of the long-standing relationship with McLaren. In 1997 David Coulthard took the first Ilmor Formula 1 race win, then in 1998 and 1999 Mika Hakkinen raced the Ilmor engines to the Formula 1 World Championship.
In 1998, the decision was made to broaden the Ilmor business base and a separate offshoot began to grow, first around a project to produce components for Roger Penske’s NASCAR team, followed by successful projects for Triumph Motorcycles, Harley Davidson and a number of other clients.
In 2001, Ilmor began to develop the GM IRL engine, which led to a speculative engine design for the new 2003 IRL rules and the beginning of the relationship with Honda. The design, manufacture and joint development of this engine resulted in a further expansion into what became known as the Special Projects Group, forming a discrete business with its own dedicated resources, within the rest of the company. In late 2002, Mercedes-Benz elected to begin a phased buyout of Ilmor. The Special Projects Group found that this limited opportunities to expand its business portfolio and so Roger and Mario elected to buy Special Projects from Mercedes, along with the Ilmor name. This was accomplished by the end of June 2005 and a new Ilmor was born. Ilmor is now led by Steve Miller, an engineer with more than two decades of success in US racing.
Working in partnership with Honda Performance Development (HPD) in California, Ilmor created an engine that totally dominated the 2004 and 2005 IRL seasons. Between 2006 and 2011 Ilmor and HPD were responsible for the sole supply of engines to the IRL series and are proud to have achieved a 100% reliability record for all IRL race engines since the start of the 2007 season.
In 2012 Ilmor embarked on a new IndyCar partnership with GM, bringing the Chevrolet brand back to the IndyCar series, in competition with Honda and Lotus. The Ilmor designed Chevy V6 Twin Turbo Direct Injection engine was the engine to beat in 2012, taking 10 poles and 11 wins from 15 races and winning both the Driver and Manufacturer Championships in its debut season.