The Verizon IndyCar Series, which has had some of the most competitive races in its history since the introduction of the DW12 Dallara spec chassis in 2012, has opted to get away from its three years of manufacturer designed and constructed aero kits to revert to a universal aero kit for the 2018 season and beyond.
This new universal aero kit is the result of more than two years discussion, design, simulation and testing, the series said. While making its first public appearance at Detroit’s NAIAS auto show, the car has been tested extensively since last summer, initially by Juan Pablo Montoya for Chevrolet and by Honda’s driver rep, Oriol Servia. The new aero kit removes that part of competition between manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda and puts the two combatants back into powertrain battles on the track.
INDYCAR’S 2017 champion, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, was on-hand to introduce the new car at Detroit, doing a walk-around and discussing what he felt were the pertinent points of a racecar he’s been testing in anticipation of the season. He’s excited about the potential for close racing and the opportunity of drivers to attack and pass other cars.
“To me,” Newgarden said, “it looks more like an Indy car should. You think about the ‘80s and ‘90s, the heyday of Indy car racing; this is what you want to see from the product. We believe it’s going to be faster; we believe it’s going to be safer. It’s going to provide better racing.”
While the entire car has been changed, there’s a subtlety to it that begins with lowering the center of the chassis from its previous incarnation. In the past, the DW12 relied on the front and rear wings and their extensions to gain downforce, and that part of the car has been re-contoured and reshaped, as have all adjustable areas of the car’s body.
With lowering of the engine cowling, decreasing the wing area, removal of the endless winglets and other upper aerodynamic fixtures, the new IR-12, as INDYCAR now calls this chassis/body combination, should be more effective in every aspect of Indy car racing: street tracks, road courses, short ovals and super speedways.
As Newgarden posited: “The kind of common theme is powering the floor of this car. We want the floor to be the most powerful thing on it, so we rely on that downforce and less on the wing. It’s got a great Coke bottle shape, improved airflow to help that performance of the floor in all configurations.”
As the ideology for the new universal aero kit came to fruition, Dallara’s team fixated on sleekness and good looks to go along with improved racing capabilities. Team Penske owner Roger Penske, on hand for the announcement, lauded the opportunity to showcase drivers. “Because the downforce was so high on the existing cars in 2017 and before, this will give us a great opportunity. I know all the drivers who have tested it are giving us great reviews. From a cost perspective, a competitive perspective, I think it’s going to be a home run.”
It was at this point during the presentation that 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti chimed in: “Kudos to INDYCAR for really taking a big, big step forward. We all know that, since the inception of ground effects and the sophistication of aerodynamics, aero is always a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because you get the downforce that all the drivers love, because you go quicker around the corners.
“The curse is that you’re creating turbulence; you’re paying the price. And there’s always been this question of how do we get a balance? It’s been a forever argument as long as I know, and I think from what was learned in the past few years, in the previous car, I think a big step is made now to achieve what all the drivers have been complaining about: ‘I just can’t get close to the guy in front of me’,” Andretti explained.
“I think,” the 1978 Formula 1 champ continued, “this is the best way to achieve it. This thing is beautiful as it is; it’s just going back to what the pure open-wheel, single-seater should be. By having more ground effect downforce and reducing the surface aerodynamics, it is a huge step forward. I think, from here, we really have something to work with. And the beautiful part is also that more of a level playing field.”
The 17-race Verizon IndyCar Series gets underway in Fla. on March 11, with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and moves from there to the short oval in Phoenix, followed by the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, giving fans the opportunity to see the new cars in different venues for its first three races.