Chassis Battle Is On In IndyCar

| , RacinToday.com Wednesday, March 11 2015

Honda unveiled its IndyCar aero kit this week.

With the unveiling of American Honda’s long-awaited aero-kit, sanctioning body INDYCAR officially can boast a bona fide chassis competition for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Honda’s aero kit was introduced Monday evening in Culver City, Calif., during a reception attended by principals from Honda Performance Development, American Honda and INDYCAR. Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, who completed the bulk of on-track development, joined Honda executives in showcasing the base road/street course and short-oval aero kit.

Corporate rival Chevrolet introduced its base road/street course and short-oval body package _ a departure from the 2014 Dallara DW12 _ on Feb. 17 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Steve Eriksen, vice-president /COO of Honda Performance Development, said introduction of aero kits by the long-time engine suppliers will mark an intriguing era in the country’s premier open-wheel series.

“It’s been an interesting journey to get here and we’re really pleased with the results we’ve been able to achieve,” Eriksen said in a statement. “The Verizon IndyCar Series has such an amazing array of tracks and you really want to fine-tune to each of those tracks, and (the aero kits) allow you to do that. Time will tell if we have the best kit out there and we did everything we could have done _and I mean everything.”

HPD collaborated with Wirth Research on a kit that will give Honda’s chassis a silhouette similar to current Formula One cars. “We were allowed six days total of testing your prototype components,” Eriksen said. “We could select what tracks to go to, and we had (Andretti Autosport’s) Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz handle the track testing for us.”

INDYCAR’s aero kit program was initiated to improve on-track performance, including advancements in speed, innovation and safety, in addition to visually differentiating the cars on-track. Regulations were announced in July 2013, with manufacturer on-track testing beginning in October 2014.

“It’s getting back to the roots of INDYCAR where you have development,” Eriksen said. “Now you’ll have the visual differences across the cars. It’s a huge uphill battle because of several factors; one is you know there is so much performance potential. If you look at the rate of gain of an aero kit versus an engine, it’s drastic for the aero kit. That’s part of the pressure you feel.”

Chevy’s aero kit is distinguished from the previous chassis via new front wing elements, sculpted side pods and a new rear wing. Chevrolet engineers claim the manufacturer’s road-course configuration delivers greater aerodynamic performance than the base Dallara DW12.

“This new aero kit provides Chevrolet drivers the capability to enter and exit corners faster, while maintaining high speeds on the straights,” said Chris Berube, Chevrolet IndyCar program manager. “We took a clean-sheet approach to the aero kit, delivering an optimized and efficient design that should really give our Chevrolet teams an edge.”

The timeline for development of Chevrolet’s aero package consisted of nine key phases:

_ Conducted baseline analysis of the DW12 race car aerodynamics

_ Established clear design goals for the new aero kit, which included making the most of downforce, drag and engine performance

_ Developed design concepts using computer-aided design (CAD)

_ Analyzed structural properties, using finite element analysis (FEA)

_ Simulated aerodynamic properties using computational fluid dynamics (CFD)

_ Produced test parts using rapid prototyping processes, such as 3D printing

_ Conducted testing of a 50 percent scale model in a rolling–road wind tunnel

_ Conducted testing of a full-scale race car in a rolling-road wind tunnel

_ Conducted track testing of prototype aero kit on selected racetracks, including Homestead-Miami Speedway; Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas; Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and Phoenix International Raceway in Chandler, Ariz.

Chevrolet’s road-course configuration includes a number of changes over the 2014 DW12 aero package including a front wing that features new pedestal-mounted “front uppers” toward the outer edges; new sculpted “wheel wedges” in front of the rear tires; an engine cover and side pods that have more compact shapes, achieved through a revised turbocharger and exhaust system layout; new larger rear bumper pods and a multi-element upper rear wing, along with louvered end plates.

“This is an important milestone in Chevrolet’s involvement in IndyCar racing,” said Jim Campbell, General Motors U.S. vice-president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “We focused on developing an aerodynamic package that delivers an optimal balance of downforce and drag, along with integrated engine performance. It’s a total performance package.”

Speedway configurations for both aero kits are scheduled to be delivered to Honda and Chevrolet teams by April 1 as a prelude to a competitive debut on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval in May.

Initial aero kit costs are locked-in at $75,000 for 2015. Kit updates will be allowed for 2016, with those pieces limited to a maximum of $15,000.

Aero kit testing opens Friday, with all teams scheduled to convene Monday and Tuesday, March 16-17, at Barber Motorsports Park for an official INDYCAR test. The season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 29 will mark the first point-paying competition between the manufacturer body kits.

| , RacinToday.com Wednesday, March 11 2015
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  • Jeff Jones says:

    Hope the rules committee doesn’t start trying to Balance the competition during the trial phase of these new designS.