Why Indycar’s New Aero Kit Matters
After just over five years of bitching and moaning by fans, Jay Frye, Mark Miles and head honchos in Indiana decided it was time for a change. But before we dive into that, lets back track a bit and look at what got us to this point.
Indycar had been running the same chassis/car for 3 years, the IR-05, from 2007 to 2011. The DW12, which was developed with the help of the late Dan Wheldon, debuted in 2012. It started out much like it’s going to be now, single spec bodywork/aero kit. But Indycar and manufactures designed the kit with the possibility of manufacture-specific aero kits at a future date. In 2015 that reality came to be. Honda and Chevy introduced their own aero kits and to much of the paddock, it was a bust.
You see, if you’re not aware already, Indycar has established itself as arguably the best “on-track product” in the world. The racing is fast, close, unpredictable and entertaining, to say the least. But one thing it wasn’t: was pretty. Not only were the new aero kits aesthetically lacking but they were grossly more expensive than anticipated. Not to mention the fact that Chevy had found a clear advantage in performance. Honda, to it’s credit, found its deficiencies and improved their product by mid 2016. Led by Graham Rahal, a single car outfit, Honda found it’s competitor to run with. Unfortunately, Rahal’s team shit the bed on the season finale at Sonoma, handing the “Ice Man” Scott Dixon the title.
In the midst of all this, Indycar heard the cries of fans and media alike. Opinions varied of course, but the overwhelming majority were calling for a return of late 90’s/early 2000’s Champ Car style cars. Teams wanted lower costs. But everyone could agree on one thing: don’t fuck this up. Without question Indycar, Dallara, Chevy and Honda had their hands full. Figuring out how to unfuck this, not spend too much money, not piss off owners, not piss off fans, not destroy the quality of the product, maybe even save some money, oh and by the way try to attract a third or fourth manufacture to join the party, was no easy task. But folks, I think the racing Gods have smiled down on thee because the outcome seems to check nearly all of those boxes.
I’m no engineer. Hell, I’m not even mechanic. I’m a dude with a passion for motorsport and a special affliction for Indycar. But, by all accounts, after initial tests the aero kits not only look amazing but are cheaper, sleeker, and has everyone with a shit eating grin on their face. Interviews with the test drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Orial Servia further proves this point by them being able to be flat out at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) by lap 2! Mind you, this test wasn’t about speed. And no, they didn’t run nose to tail. But anything “new” going around IMS flat out on its second lap has to be pretty well-sorted. The car looks like a proper Indycar. It looks like something that’s mean. That’s scary fast. That, at speed in passing, literally sucks the air from the lungs of those standing too close by. With airflow being directed from the top of the car as with the previous aero package, air is now pulled under the car. Making for a much “cleaner” top side. Reducing turbulent air, allowing for cars to draft (or slipstream for our friends across the pond) easier and closer. With the subtraction of the rear wheel guards, Orial Servia mentioned the fact that the weight feels more mid/front of the car. Not so much on the back side. A tail happy car going 230mph is like riding a bike on a tight rope, while trying to make a sandwich, with that rope on fire. Ask James Hinchcliffe and Sebastien Bourdais what happens when the back end decides it wants to try to be at the front. Now, the rear wheel guards, at least to my knowledge, had NOTHING to do with either of those incidents but anything reducing weight and “feel” of weight on the back end has to be a welcome addition.
Speaking of Hinch and Seb, this kit is also safer. With some changes to the chassis and monococ-shell it’ll provide a safer car for the drivers if/when the time comes for things to start breaking. So why does this all matter? Because Indycar for the last three years made significant strides to return to its former glory. I implore you to YouTube Indycar races from the 90’s and 2000’s (Here, I did it for you https://youtu.be/Nnbxyqh5lUk). It looked like NASCAR races do today. Every sponsor you could imagine had their company on the sidepods of cars. Budweiser, Visa, Dominoes, McDonalds, Rockstar, Walmart, Target, Miller, Coors, Valvoline, the list goes on. Am I saying that a new aero kit is going to bring back those days? No. But with attendance up, TV ratings up, streaming views, and now something pretty to look at, it’s for damn sure a step in the right direction. Jay Frye has already said that talks are on going with a third European manufacture, that was later revealed to be Lamborghini. Fernando Alonso was so impressed by the Indy 500 and is so sick of McLaren/Honda’s issues that he’s considering coming to the US full time. And McLaren has said it has serious interest in making a return to Indy full time as well, after they get their F1 program out of the shitter. Guys, it’s growth. Slow, steady, step-by-step, weekend by weekend, growth. No, Indycar is not doing NASCAR numbers ratings wise. But those with an open mind and who understand motorsport know, it’s the best product on asphalt right now. Aero kits can be the big boost Indycar needed to get back into the American racing fans front-of-mind. Lets just hope the American racing fan is willing enough to allow it.
Thanks for reading guys. You may notice this is my first blog entry. Please leave comments, questions concerns. I’ll say now, I’m just a fan with an opinion. I’m not affiliated, contracted or working for anyone. Just a dude with some spare time and laptop. Thanks again for your time.