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IndyCar Open Wheel

Breaking Down The NEXT Look for IndyCar

The Verizon IndyCar series will have an all new look in 2018. And their sexy, new car design could create a lot more passing, enhancing the thrill factor on track.

Last November, IndyCar’s President of Competition and Operations, Jay Frye, VP of Competition/Race Engineering, Bill Pappas, and Director of Aerodynamic Development, Tino Belli, met at Dallara in Italy to share their conceptual drawings, asking the chassis constructor to reverse engineer the car. Their illustrations were based on the popular open wheel cars of the 1990’s, requiring Dallara to adapt their 2012 tub to the new design.

IndyCar wanted their new chassis to be much sleeker and racier looking. The bumper pods, body work behind the rear tires that were incorporated into the DW12, have been eliminated. The wings are much smaller in profile, and even the sidepods have been brought in closer.

Back in 2012, IndyCar changed to a new Dallara chassis and a turbocharged, 2.2 L, V6 engine format that would attain 700 hp at 12,000 rpm. Then in 2015, IndyCar allowed both engine manufacturers to create body work known as aero kits (the front and rear wings, sidepods, and engine cover) as long as they fit within certain box-like dimensions. These kits made it possible for fans to distinguish a Chevy from the Honda package quickly. The additional surface area offered greater sponsor advertising.

For a new engine manufacturer to compete in IndyCar, however, it would not only build a racing engine but commit a significant budget for body work development. Recognizing that this would be cost prohibitive, IndyCar switched to the universal car for 2018.

The new 2018 body work and car floor will be bolted on to the 2012 Dallara tub, also known as the safety cell where the driver sits. Creation of the currently used aero kits added about 25% more downforce generated from the top of the car. To compensate, the undertray, or floor of the car, had to be modified (reduced in size) to generate less downforce. But the resulting turbulence made passing difficult. With the new car producing most of its downforce from the undertray, 66% of the total downforce, the drivers will have a lot less turbulence to deal with, which should allow for closer racing and more passing.   

At the initial test on July 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Juan Pablo Montoya drove the Chevy powered prototype for Team Penske, and Oriol Servia drove the Honda powered prototype prepared by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

“It’s exciting because the car drives really, really well,” said Montoya, two-time Indy 500 winner. “The car looks amazing. Having one aero kit for everybody will be great for the sport. For the engine manufacturers, it’s definitely a plus because it won’t be about the aero kits. When you talk about Chevrolet or Honda, it’s all about who is making the power.”

Both prototypes were converted to the road course configuration with different wings and body work and then tested at Mid-Ohio’s 2.258-mile road course on August 2nd

“It feels pretty good; it’s very different than the current aero kit,” said Montoya, a driver who quickly adapts to anything on wheels. “The car is a little more forgiving, but the level of downforce is a lot lighter, so you slide around a lot more. The chances of mistakes are higher, so it’s going to bring better racing.”

The new car will not only look leaner and more aggressive than the current car but has about 1/3 less downforce overall, separating the great drivers from the good ones.

“When you have a little less (downforce), and the cars move around, at least the fans can see that we’re doing something,” explained Servia, the 2005 title runner-up with over 200 Indy car starts. “It really was a lot better than this year’s car. At Detroit, where the speeds are a lot less, you couldn’t get close to anyone even in the slow corners because there was so much downforce (turbulence) and the rear got loose. With the new car, you lose a little bit of front (grip) but it stays very balanced.”

The actual cost to the teams may be less overall because there will be fewer parts to replace with the universal kits. The current price of a chassis, including the aero kit, is $385,000.

Building a safe race car is particularly challenging for the IndyCar series because of the different tracks it competes on: road and street courses, short ovals, and superspeedways. While it may have been cheaper to outsource the body work to other vendors, Dallara has proven its safety value.

The new car will have anti-intrusion panels with added padding at the driver’s hips. The cockpit is eight to 10 inches wider to prevent an injury like Sebastien Bourdais’ qualifying shunt at Indianapolis. They were able to accomplish this by bringing the radiators and sidepods forward, which brings the weight distribution forward, making the car more nimble.

With fewer parts to clean up from an incident on track, cautions should be shorter as well.  

Two more tests are scheduled, at Iowa Speedway on August 10 and then at Sebring International Raceway on September 26. Teams will receive their new car parts in November, and then the real testing will begin to see who can get the optimum performance out of the new car design.  

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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News Open Wheel

Servia, Montoya To Handle Testing Of 2018 IndyCar Kit

The first on-track appearance of the all-new universal Dallara aerodynamic kit will occur later this month.

After allowing engine manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda to provide their own chassis additions since 2015, everybody will have the same aero kit, which will be supplied by Dallara. Consequently, the noticeable differentiation between the power plant rivals will be eliminated.

The first test is set for July 25-26 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with two-time Indy 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya and race veteran Oriol Servia handling the driving duties. Team Penske will oversee the Chevrolet entry, while Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will provide the Honda machine. To prevent the two squads from gaining an advantage on the rest of the 2018 full-time fleet, IndyCar officials will controls the setting on the cars.

Three other venues will further aid the development of next year’s race vehicle with Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Iowa Speedway hosting the designs in August, and Sebring International Raceway’s short course being utilized in September.

With neither pilot among full-time competitors this season, the availability to participate was in play, similar to the scenario that allowed the late Dan Wheldon to test the original Dallara DW12 chassis in 2011. 

“If we can help in any small measure to have a great product in 2018, I’ll be honoured,” Servia said. “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.”

Montoya, who finished in the top ten at Indy this past May, feels the new car kit will not only lower costs, but could aid in the expansion of the full-time fleet. Currently, only 21 car-driver combinations have taken the green flag in every event contested in 2017.

“I think going back to one aero kit for both manufacturers is good for the sport.” explained the Colombian. “It opens the door to other companies to get interested in IndyCar again.”

On paper, the new design is expected to be lighter than the current 2017 version of the Dallara IndyCar chassis and provide additional downforce. The latter fact could further aid the series hopes to challenge the current track records at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which dates back to 1996.

The most noticeable change for fans will be the removal of the rear wheel guards at the back of the car, the first time they will not be on an IndyCar since the end of the 2011 season. Underneath the bodywork, the 2018 Dallara challenger will feature a heavier front half of the car, due to moving forward the radiators on the car and the addition of side-impact structures to further protect the driver.

It is unknown at this time when the new chassis will be delivered to teams for private testing in advance of the 2018 campaign.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

FANTASY HOT TIP: Indianapolis 500

As the Verizon IndyCar Series is primed for its cornerstone event the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 Presented By PennGrade Motor Oil, the Firestone Fantasy Challenge has gone super-sized.

The race budget has jumped from the standard one hundred dollars to five hundred bucks and instead of drafting only four drivers, one must take a colossal ten for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

While going for the superstar caliber pilots would make the most sense, the values for all drivers has increased likewise. For example, Verizon P1 Award winner Scott Dixon costs 75 dollars to play, while Buddy Lazier is among the least expensive options at only twenty bucks. Looking ahead to how Sunday’s race could play out, the 2015 edition is primarily influencing my selection pattern. On that afternoon, Chevrolet-powered cars had the advantage, and the Hondas failed to get among them. My gut tells me the 2017 running at the Brickyard will see a complete reversal of fortune.

To the above concern, I have totaled ignored the five bow-tie backed cars from Team Penske. I know Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, and Josef Newgarden each have impressive resumes at Indy. However, driving ability is negated if the car beneath one is not at an equal level. So far this month of May, the Captain’s vehicles have not been up to snuff.

Now I have not entirely abandoned the GM camp. Three chefs-de-race were worth drafting against the seven Honda chauffeurs yours truly completed his ten-man squad with. Two come from perhaps the strongest team in the 15-car Chevy roster: Ed Carpenter Racing. The team boss may draw the biggest cheers from the 250,000 strong crowd, and that may motivate a result out of the 36-year old hometown hero. Equally strong is his secondin-command J.R. Hildebrand. The Californian had a great effort at Phoenix last month and has hovered around the top-ten often at IMS. With Chevrolet possibly at a power shortage on the long straightaways, it may take bravery to mix it with the Hondas. One guy that meets that qualification is ex-high school wrestler Sage Karam. The Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has a reputation of overly reckless steering, but such a tactic could be a requirement.

Now onto the meat in my foot-long sandwich. I feel are three drivers who are the favorites entering race day. One is the Iceman mentioned above in Scott Dixon, the second is his partner-in-crime Tony Kanaan, and the third is the rabbit in last year’s event Ryan Hunter-Reay. With all three car-wranglers in the first four rows, none should have any issues getting to the point early. Using the same throw caution to the wind tag mentioned above with Karam, I am taking a chance on Takuma Sato. The Japanese driver has had trouble making the finish; however, he could be more willing to hold his fire with a stronger car and a better grid position.

A big pickup in time trials Sunday encouraged me to snap up Oriol Servia, a solid veteran who placed fourth in 2012. Spots nine and ten will be taken by two impressive rookies. Defending Indy Lights Presented By Cooper Tires champion Ed Jones takes one, while the aura of former World Driving Champion Fernando Alonso takes the final place. The Spaniard is having the kind of month that Nigel Mansell had in 1993 when he came within 15 laps of winning. He and his McLaren-Andretti Honda team have exceeded all expectations this month and should continue the trend to the point where a place on the train has my name on it.

Indeed one super team is missing in action, however as witnessed by my roster, two megagroups will fill the vacancy without issue.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: Phoenix

Indycar_Power_Rankings_logo

Throughout the season, POPULAR SPEED will rank the top-10 drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series following each event. Feel free to comment on the story at the POPULAR SPEED Facebook page.

Is Simon Pagenaud returning to his role as the rabbit of the Verizon IndyCar Series? Following his first win of 2017 at Phoenix, the Frenchman is headed toward recasting a sequel. However, coming into the fourth round sixth in the driver rankings, it is impossible to move all the way to the top.

Looking ahead to the 101st Indianapolis 500, POPULAR SPEED has extended our IndyCar team rankings to reflect those who will make their lone appearance at the Brickyard.

Team Rankings:

1. Team Penske (No Change)

Phoenix showed the remainder of the IndyCar grid what a five-car Team Penske could do when the transporters reach Gasoline Alley. Pagenaud won at Phoenix and any of his four teammates, including two-time Indy 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya, are capable of adding their face to the Borg-Warner Trophy on May 28th.

2. Chip Ganassi Racing (+1)

Honda’s failure to figure out Phoenix derailed Ganassi’s performance in Arizona; however, if the pace the Japanese manufacturer showed last year at Indy can be replicated, good finishes from Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, and Charlie Kimball are possible. It is probably too early to add Max Chilton as a serious challenger though.

3. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (+1)

12th was the best SPM could manage from James Hinchcliffe; but, Mikhail Aleshin’s elimination on the lap puts a question mark on the table. It is tough to move them ahead of DCR based on last weekend, but on potential looking ahead to Indy, Schmidt in the words of former Price is Right host Bob Barker, “is the bigger bargain.”

4. Dale Coyne Racing (-1)

Craig Hampson was right – DCR is not a serious contender on the ovals. Sebastien Bourdais was another victim of the lap one pileup but struggled for pace in practice. Ed Jones also failed to feature, managing an 11th-place finish based on attrition. Not the news Indy 500-only pilot Pippa Mann was hoping to hear.

5. Andretti Autosport (No Change)

Another quadruple retirement for Andretti at Phoenix. The good news is with six cars track side at IMS at least one car should make the finish in the 500. How the rest of the six-pack handles the attention that Fernando Alonso is guaranteed to get this month will guide them to their climax.

6. Ed Carpenter Racing (+1)

Ed Carpenter never made the impact that was hoped for at Phoenix, although J.R. Hildebrand certainly did. A solid qualifying run, coupled with a clean showing in the race netted a third-place finish for the Californian. While it is premature to tag the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Chevrolet as an Indy 500 favorite, the car and its occupant should not be overlooked.

7. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (-1)

Confidence is dropping fast at RLLR, and Graham Rahal is not hiding that things look bleak. A good Indy 500 finish may depend on Oriol Servia at this point.

8. A.J. Foyt Racing (No Change)

The offseason signings Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly continue to be mired among the rear guard. The addition of Zach Veach at the Indy 500 should help, but just when Foyt could not fall any further down the list, here comes the Indy-only invaders.

9. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (Unranked)

The combination of DRR and Sage Karam can cut it against the big boys. 31st to ninth in 2014 and a brief surge into the top-ten last year justifies their placement as the group most likely to rattle the full-timers club this month.

10. Harding Racing (Unranked)

Team boss Larry Curry is the perfect choice to lead a new operation, and you cannot do much better than hiring Gabby Chaves as the wheelman. Alliance with DRR means perhaps an equal level of performance.

Driver Rankings:

1. Scott Dixon (+1)

Four top-fives in four starts to open 2017. No doubt about it, the Iceman appears ready to challenge for a second Indianapolis 500 win.

2. Josef Newgarden (+1)

The Tennessee-native was not the best of the Penske bunch at Phoenix, but he should be effective when he sets foot at the corner of 16th and Georgetown in one week from now.

3. Sebastien Bourdais (-2)

Perhaps Dale Coyne Racing can salvage their month of May with a big push in the IndyCar Grand Prix. Once the scenery moves back to the 2.5-mile oval, the odds are not in the Frenchman’s favor.

4. Will Power (+1)

Power finally reached the finish of an 2017 IndyCar race without issue. A second-place finish behind Pagenaud was well earned and should make the Aussie a challenger in both May events.

5. Simon Pagenaud (+1)

Even without the yellow flag, Pagenaud was looming as a potential winner. Although a third IndyCar GP win in four tries is signficant; the 2016 IndyCar champion has made it clear that the Indy 500 is the one he wants the most.

6. James Hinchcliffe (-2)

Last year’s Indy 500 pole winner should bounce back to play a role in the drama on May 28; however, based on his Long Beach victory, his best shot at Brickyard glory could be in the IndyCar Grand Prix.

7. Helio Castroneves (+1)

Castroneves has been more effective in qualifying than on race day. The pressure to make history as a four-time Indy 500 champion exists, but expect the Brazilian to dig deep in his quest to get there.

8. Tony Kanaan (Unranked)

A quiet sixth-place last week sets the stage for TK’s best chances for victory this season. If Honda regains its muscle from 2016, watch out.

9. Alexander Rossi (-1)

Rossi and his Andretti teammates floundered at Phoenix, leaving their month of May prospects in doubt. Probably faces a higher mountain than any defending Indy 500 champion in history.

10. J.R. Hildebrand (Unranked)

Indy’s hard luck hero added his name to the contenders’ list with a podium finish at Phoenix. He was in the mix late in last year’s Indy 500 until he made contact with Helio Castroneves.

Dropped Out: Ryan Hunter-Reay (9th last week), Spencer Pigot (10th last week)

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

Servia To Rahal Confirmed For Indy; More On The Way?

The full story on Oriol Servia’s complete slate for 2017 is still in question. However, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has confirmed the Pais, Spain veteran will drive a second car for the team in 2017, for at least the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 next May. RLLR did add there are more races possibly for the schedule.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be back with Bobby, Mike and my second father Mr. Letterman for the 2017 Indy 500,” said Oriol Servia. “We’ve done it before and had some success but both the team and myself are only doing this because we feel we can contend for the win together. Since Day 1 in 2009, working with Graham as a teammate has been great and now at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, it just feels like a family. The team has been the best Honda entry the past two years and the objective would be to continue to make the team even better in order to fight the multi car teams at Indy and also hopefully for the entire season. We feel that together we can do that. I can’t wait to get started. We plan to go for the win at the Indy 500 and at as many other races as we can.”

The 2017 season will represent Servia’s fourth Indy 500 effort with RLLR, having driven for the Ohio-based operation in 2009, 2014, and 2015. Servia qualified for his eighth appearance in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing this past May, starting tenth and finishing 26th for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Servia has placed in the top ten at Indy twice in his career, with a best finish of fourth in 2012 after starting 27th.

“Oriol is a talented driver who brings value beyond what takes place on the race track,” said Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with CBS Late Show host David Letterman and Mi-Jack co-owner Mike Lanigan. “His race craft is that of a veteran obviously but more important than that is his ability to develop the race car and as a one car team fighting the multi-car teams the last few years, that is a big benefit. We have a great chemistry at our team and Oriol fits nicely into our program.”

With Servia confirmed, there are 21 car and driver combinations set for the 2017 Indianapolis 500, which currently features four former champions.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.