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Montoya, Servia To Shake Down New IndyCar Chassis

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, July 15 2017

The next gen of Dallara IndyCar chassis will be tested by top drivers. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

RacinToday.com

Veteran Indy car drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia have been selected by INDYCAR to perform testing duties on the Dallara universal aero kit to be used by all Verizon IndyCar Series teams starting with the 2018 season.

Testing of the universal kit, which will be fitted to the current Dallara IR-12 chassis used by all teams, begins July 25-26 on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. Subsequent tests will take place on the natural terrain, 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio; the 0.894-mile Iowa Speedway in Newton and a street-course simulation at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.

Two test cars will represent the engine manufacturers currently competing in the series. Team Penske will provide the Chevrolet-powered Dallara chassis to be driven by Montoya. Servia will drive a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara fitted with a Honda engine.

While the teams are providing crews to service the cars, the testing regimen will be supervised by INDYCAR, sanctioning organization for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“If we can help in any small measure to have a great product in 2018, I’ll be honored,” said Servia, who has raced Indy cars since 2000 and reached his milestone 200th career start at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May. “It’s great that INDYCAR is doing it to make sure we have good racing. We want to help them accomplish what they want to accomplish.”

The 2018 universal aero kit marks the beginning of a new era for the series. Dallara was named last month to manufacture the kit following a year-long process at INDYCAR to establish the parameters for a sleeker, bolder bodywork kit whose look is inspired by past favorite chassis that competed in Indy car racing.

Chevrolet and Honda have been supplying aero kits to their contracted teams since 2015, but that will cease at the end of this season. The new universal kit is expected to be more cost-effective, with the intent to draw additional engine manufacturers into the series since they no longer need to supply aero kits as well.

“I think they did a really good job with it,” said Montoya, the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner who counts 15 race wins and the 1999 CART championship among his motorsports accomplishments. “I think going back to one aero kit for both (engine) manufacturers is good for the sport. It opens the door to other companies to get interested in INDYCAR again.”

INDYCAR will maintain control of the test chassis and data, so as not to provide either team a competitive advantage for the 2018 season. Data and results will be distributed to all teams once testing is complete.

The universal kit contains additional safety enhancements and is intended to deliver even greater on-track racing since most of the aerodynamic downforce will be generated from underneath the car. That will create less air turbulence for trailing cars, allowing for more overtaking opportunities.

Another component of the universal kit’s design is a weight redistribution to improve the car’s handling and balance.

“The new car will have more weight on the front,” said Tino Belli, INDYCAR’s director of aerodynamic development. “We’ve removed the (rear) wheel guards and the beam wing, which obviously is quite a bit of weight far back on the car. We’ve introduced side-impact structures beside the driver and moved the radiators forward a bit. We’re anticipating having about 1.6 percent more weight on the front axle, so that could require a small amount of front downforce.”

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden said the 2018 kit is an effort by INDYCAR to appease all parties.

You’ve got manufacturers, you’ve got teams, you’ve got costs, and then you’ve got the drivers that have their opinions, you have the fans that want to see something,” Newgarden said during a Team Penske media session Saturday at the Honda Indy Toronto. “So it’s not easy for them to find the right balance.

But I think IndyCar took a lot of input from the drivers. They did a lot of testing last year with different versions of body kits and the current kit even, just taking pieces off and understanding the way it works and what’s going help racing, what’s going to make racing worse. So yeah, I think there’s been a huge push to try and find what the drivers want _ and what drivers have been asking for is less downforce, more power, and more specifically more underside downforce, less topside downforce. That’s been the discussion for the last however many years.

I think everyone will tell you the same thing _ we’ve been looking for that. Specifically on ovals, we like to be able to follow closer with the cars without disturbing the air as much. We want it to be more in your hands. The more the driver can make the difference, the more we enjoy that. We want to be able to show our skill-sets and show our value inside the race cars.

But then you have to temper that with how are we going to create a good show and is this going to be a good show for fans? I think we’ve been trying to get a balance of that with INDYCAR, and I think hopefully with the package that’s come out, I think it’s going to bring a lot of that. And for racing’s sake, I think it’s going to be a lot better with the way the kit produces downforce. I think it’s going to be a lot easier to follow cars. I’m excited about it personally.”

Helio Castroneves, also of Team Penske, alluded to a massive, nine-car crash in Turn 3 at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway that prompted a red flag stoppage on Lap 152 of the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 night race on June 10. The cleanup took 30 minutes, 42 seconds. Only the top six cars completed the 248-lap distance in Fort Worth.

“You saw what happened in Texas, for example, where all of a sudden you had a lot of money wasted, to be honest, especially for the team-owners,” Castroneves said. “I estimate and they’re talking about $3 million just in damage with so many cars that crash. No team-owner wants to see that in the IndyCar Series, and as Josef mentioned, you’ve got to balance things out and the safety aspect also is a big part of it.

Now we have all these things, Push-to-Pass, everything to make it more overtaking, but if you can’t follow, you can’t apply and that’s becoming a little bit harder. Firestone is doing a phenomenal job with the degradation of the tires, meaning whoever puts new tires they’re going to have a little more advantage, or vice versa.

All of this at the beginning of the year, the IndyCar Series has been focused on to make better, safe and competitive and fun to not only us as competitors but also for the drivers at the moment with the 2018 car. That’s the goal.”

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway test will mark the public debut of the new car look. Computer-generated images of the universal kit were initially released in January and followed up with more detailed images in May. The response from Verizon IndyCar Series drivers has been overwhelmingly positive, as were the responses of Servia and Montoya to the invitation to be the first to test it.

“To be chosen as one of the guys to test it is exciting,” Montoya said. “It works out really well. Since I’m not running fulltime this year, it was a good fit.”

As with the current kits, the universal kit will come in two specifications _ one for superspeedways and the other for road-courses, street circuits and short ovals. Testing at all venues will be used to confirm the baseline standards for the package, starting with the superspeedway kit at Indianapolis.

“Once we’re sure the car is in the right window, we’ll move on to reliability testing,” Belli said. “We’ll put the car back to a race-level of downforce, fill it up with fuel and check that we don’t have issues with the exhaust heating the bodywork too much and establish the cooling levels for each engine.

“We’re not really trying to go a certain speed and we’re not trying to check how the car handles in traffic. Those things won’t be established until we’re able to work ‘in anger’ next year, but we just want to make sure that we haven’t missed on our aero targets specifically.”

After IMS, the rest of the test schedule is set for Aug. 1 at Mid-Ohio, Aug. 10 at Iowa and Sept. 26 at Sebring.

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, July 15 2017
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