IndyCar's New Universal Aero Kit Receives High Marks In First Test
A new era for the Verizon IndyCar Series began Tuesday morning, when two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya and 17-year IndyCar veteran Oriol Servia took to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to test the new universal aero kit for the 2018 season.
The new design of the Dallara DW12 chassis comes in the wake of manufacturer-designed aero kits that have graced the IndyCar circuit the past three years. The original purpose of the manufacturer kits was to allow for innovation without sacrificing safety and speed. Chevrolet and Honda were designing their own cars to best assist their engines, putting some of what originally made the 500 great back into the hands of innovation.
However, due to rising costs associated with the development of the kits, IndyCar announced their intention to return to a universal aero kit for the 2018 season.
Concept drawings and renderings were released to the public earlier this year; however, Tuesday saw the first real-life appearance of the new design.
Jay Frye, president of competition and operations for IndyCar, was in attendance for the test session. The selection of Montoya and Servia as drivers for the test was an important step for Frye and his team.
“We set a criteria for drivers as guys who were current, but not full-time. And they’re very current,” said Frye after the session. “We needed guys who could relay data well, and the feedback they gave was excellent.”
The new Dallara-engineered kit serves as a bit of a throwback. The car now sports a much smaller rear wing, intended to lower the downforce on the cars significantly. Also noticeably absent from this new kit are the rear-wheel guards that had become commonplace.
Servia, who ran 104 laps in a Honda engine, was glad to see the removal of the rear-wheel guards.
“We were never, as drivers, fans of the rear bumpers,” said Servia after his test session. “They didn’t really accomplish what they were trying to do, and they took out a lot of visibility from the rear of the car.”
In addition to the removal of those guards, the overall design of the car has been overhauled completely. The rear engine cover has been lowered to give it the look of a ’90s ChampCar. The roll hoop that sits above the head of the driver is now just that—a roll hoop. The air box previously used to force air into the engine during the years that IndyCar ran naturally aspirated engines is now a thing of the past. The 2.2 L V6 Turbocharged engines, used since 2012, remain for 2018, and with turbocharged engines, the need for the air box is negated.
The car is aesthetically pleasing. Fans from the CART era of American open-wheel racing will love the new look. However, the main question remains—will IndyCar continue to produce exciting side-by-side racing with plenty of drafting?
“I think the racing will be really good,” said Montoya after his test. “I think you’re going to have issues with the downforce underneath the car when you get close to someone, but overall, I think it will be very good.”
The test session went on without many issues. No accidents, tire failures, or engine failures occurred throughout the nine-hour session. There was a brief hiccup for Montoya’s Chevrolet engine early in the day, but the issue was soon fixed, and Montoya ran laps without incident.
Frye considered the test a success.
“We came with a plan, and we came with a test matrix, and we got through the test matrix fine. It could always be better, but I’d grade it about a B-plus,” said Frye.
There is still much to learn about this new bodywork. The car has not seen a specific qualifying or race setup, nor did the cars run close together. However, there is certain promise following the test, which will hopefully lead to an exciting and safe Indianapolis 500 in 2018.