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New Indy Cars Get Thumbs Up After Testing At IMS

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 27 2017

The new editions of Indy cars got good reviews from their test drivers.

Open-wheel veterans Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia turned more than 100 laps each around Indianapolis Motor Speedway in their respective 2018-spec Chevrolet- and Honda-powered Dallara IR-12s equipped with INDYCAR’s universal aerodynamic bodywork kit during the chassis’ pubic debut.

Afterward, approval of the new car’s “bolder, sleeker look” and performance in its superspeedway configuration was unanimous.

“From Lap 1, it just felt at home,” said Servia, who has driven Indy cars since 2000. “The car felt great. I was flat on it out of the pits, which just says how good the car felt right away. I think it’s going to be a fast, good racer.”

INDYCAR, sanctioning body for the Verizon IndyCar Series, announced in April 2016 its intent to move away from aero kit competition by Chevy and Honda to a universally supplied kit in 2018. Dallara, a series chassis supplier since 1997, was selected to produce and supply the universal kit in June.

“It’s exciting because, for the first time in the car, it drives really, really well,” said Montoya, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner. “I think they addressed a lot of the things and the car looks great. I think having one aero kit for everybody is great for the sport. The car looks good and it drives really good.”

Montoya’s car was prepared by Team Penske and Servia’s by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, though INDYCAR is retaining control of the cars until testing is completed in late September. INDYCAR officials watched with nervous excitement as the two cars took to the track for the first time shortly after 9 a.m. Tuesday and methodically worked through the test checklist. By 5 p.m., the checklist had been completed and a potential second day of testing Wednesday was deemed unnecessary.

“We were pleased,” said Bill Pappas, INDYCAR’s vice president of competition/race engineering who headed up the technical development of the universal kit. “It matched-up with our numbers that we predicted in the wind tunnel and CFD (computational fluid dynamics), so we were very happy for that.”

Pappas said the test list included short runs by each car to “ensure that there weren’t any surprises,” followed by longer runs around the famed 2.5-mile oval to check for durability issues.

“This is my first experience being part of a car being designed,” Pappas said. “Obviously, Dallara did a great job helping us, but you hold your breath until the first competitive laps are run.”

Additional tests for the two cars are scheduled for Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio (Aug. 1), Iowa Speedway in Newton (Aug. 10) and Sebring International Raceway in Florida (Sept. 26). But the fact the opening test was completed in half the allotted time was reason to celebrate.

“Everything we had planned to do in two days, we already accomplished in the first day,” Servia said. “We did lots of laps, long runs, and the car feels good. The car feels very benign. It just feels right and we’re not having any issues or moments out there. Very consistent. My second long run, I think, was one of my most consistent runs I’ve done at this track in all of my years.”

The project of outfitting the current Dallara IR-12 chassis developed by the late Dan Wheldon with a new aerodynamic kit began more than a year ago. Design support came from Dallara and Chris Beatty, a UK-based concept design and 3D animation consultant. Throughout the process, competitors contributed to the design.

The new design eliminates many of the add-on body panels _ most notably the rear wheel guards that make the current cars appear boxy. Safety-wise, INDYCAR and Dallara have six years of collective research and study with the IR-12 chassis to help understand the limits of control. This information has been included in the design of the new car.

Side impact protection has been improved in a variety of ways, including the sidepod leading edge and induct duct joined with two bulkheads to create a proper crushable structure ahead of the radiator. The unitary construction is designed to absorb loads from all directions, and the structure is eight-to-10 inches wider at the driver’s hips.

The top of the sidepod has been designed to exceed FIA side impact tests. The inlet duct, sidepod side and bottom have been constructed in hybrid carbon/dyneema fibers for improved penetration protection. Oil and water radiators have been moved forward, adding cushioning on the driver’s side.

A wider leading edge mitigates the chance of another car’s wheel climbing on top of the underwing.

Simulations show the new car meets all of INDYCAR’s targets for not going airborne in spins at 90, 135 or 180 degrees yaw. The rear wing and front wing main plane are smaller and the centerline wicker from the nose of the car to the cockpit is tapered to provide protection against the car lifting when it spins.

The front wings are noticeably smaller with fewer pieces, reducing the amount of potential debris.

Some elements added to fix previous instability issues (domed skids on the car’s undertray and a large tail fin) no longer are necessary. The stability and downforce provided by the domed skids on the 2017 car have been replaced by lateral domes attached to the underwings of the 2018 car.

The current 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged, direct-injection V-6 engines from Chevy and Honda will continue to be used. Modeling indicates oval-track qualifying speeds at IMS should be comparable to 2017 Indianapolis 500 speeds. Given the car will be lighter, higher speeds than previously seen at some venues are possible.

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season resumes this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Live race coverage will begin at 3 p.m. (EDT) Sunday on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, with an encore telecast at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Network.  

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 27 2017
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