DETROIT: IndyCar is trying to bring sexy back — along with some additional safety — in the “universal aero kit” that will be used in the series in 2018-20.
Jay Frye, IndyCar president of competition and operations, on Thursday (Friday in Manila) gave reporters at the North American International Auto Show at the Cobo Center the first peek at artist renderings of the new race car. The drawings give an idea of the bodywork that will cover the Dallara IR-12 chassis.
Frye said that the car will have a retro feel “to make it look like what an IndyCar is supposed to look like.”
New Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden said the first thing that stood out to him was how cool the car looked.
“Everything that Jay is saying is everything we’ve always been looking for,” Newgarden said. “They’re really doing a great job of listening to what we want, what the team wants and what’s going to work for the series and manufacturers. It’s exciting.”
One significant difference between the 2018 car and the current aero kit is from where the downforce originates. Frye said most of the downforce comes from the top of the current car. But “the new car, most all of the downforce will be generated from the bottom of the car,” Frye said. “I think these guys will like that.”
Alexander Rossi, winner of the 2015 Indianapolis 500, agreed.
“I like how prominent the floor is because that means, like they’ve discussed, the bottom-side downforce will be a priority. And for those of you that don’t understand the significance of that, it’s when we’re trying to follow closely, and you get to this point where the racing kind of seems stagnant because nobody is really getting closer,” Rossi said. “It’s because the car behind us is so affected because they are going over the top of it. It’s what we call ‘dirty,’ meaning it’s moving, and it’s not a flat surface, which is what the car was designed in. When you’re relying on coming from the bottom, you’re not affected by turbulence or dirty air because it’s irrelevant, the state that the air is in when it hits the floor. So that part is massively encouraging.”
Rossi said the 2018 drawings “look like a race car.”
“I think all of us, as race car guys, we want a sexy-looking race car,” Newgarden said.
Drivers like the new cars
He said drivers want fans to be wowed by the cars.
“The cool thing about IndyCars and open-wheel race cars, in general, is you can’t see these things anywhere else,” Newgarden said. “It’s not like a production car. I mean, it’s kind of like a fantasy, almost, which is what makes IndyCars so cool.”
“The sexy element, making them bad-ass-looking, that’s really, really critical. And we’re going to tie the performance into that, too, so it’s just encouraging to hear all those points that they’re trying to hit from the IndyCar side,” he added.
Frye added that they are looking into a halo or windscreen application for the 2018 car. There could be a halo at road courses and a screen at ovals.
“I’m excited to go racing in 2017 in an IndyCar,” Newgarden said. “We’re going to be able to find a solution, at some point, that keeps within the spirit of open-wheel racing and open-cockpit cars and advance the safety of that. So what’s that going to look like? I think we’re working on it right now, and that’s exactly what Jay said. I think that’s coming down the pike, and I’m comfortable with that. I think we’re going to find something. Formula 1 is doing the same thing. You don’t see them throwing something on the car right away.”
Rossi agreed that it’s important not to rush to a decision.
“There’s much smarter people than racing drivers doing the research on that,” Rossi said.
The same kits used by Chevrolet and Honda in 2016 will be used this season. There will be some changes with the cars, though, because Frye said some parts were “deregulated.”
For the 2018 car, Frye said IndyCar looked at things it liked in cars over the last 20 years. And while they aren’t trying to make slower cars, Frye acknowledged that the Indy 500 qualifying record that Arie Luyendyk set in 1986 (237.476 mph) probably is safe for the next couple of years.
“It’s a ways off for something like that to happen again,” Frye said. “You’ve got to do it safe.”
The Verizon IndyCar Series season begins March 12 at the Firestone Grand Prix of Saint Petersburg in Florida. The Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix is June 2-4.