Are the new IndyCar aero-kits really necessary? And if so, what teams have them in 2015?

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Ok It’s “Feedback Monday” And I have a question for all of you out there, on this cold rainy day here in California? “Are the new Aero-Kits Really Necessary? And if so, what teams have them in 2015?”

If I remember correctly outside sources could come in, and design their own aero-kit’s (No one took the bait) Just Chevy, and Honda!
• No entrant may use more than two aero-kits during a season. The 2012 Dallara aero kit is approved as one of the aero-kits.
• Dallara will continue to supply a number of standard components that affect aerodynamic performance.

Are Aero Kits Really Necessary? And if so, why didn’t IndyCar just tell teams to configure their own cars aero-kits, within the imaginary boxes set before them? Teams would still be limited to the boxed in area’s ok’d by the IndyCar management. But teams could also add parts using an old-fashioned method once used in years past, called brain’s, engineering, and imagination!

Why not have Honda, and Chevy help with the CAD, and wind tunnel cost, etc.. But leave it up to teams to spend what they want, where they want, and strap on bit’s and pieces as they deem necessary? It’s my belief anyways that some teams will not have the $75,000 budget per car to add-on aero-kits in the first place, leaving them at a huge disadvantage during the season. You have to also figure in the equation that when you crash a car now, you still will need to come up with an extra $75,000 possibly to replace aero-kit parts.

*There is also the option to stay with the current Dallara package, although the expected performance increases in the manufacturer versions mean that there will be little benefit to doing so aside from cost. Not much has been mentioned about Indycar teams this year, who chose not to go with the new Chevy, or Honda aero-kits! So how will engine, and down-force level’s be determined for road, street, and oval’s sans new aero-kits? Sounds to me “If you choose not to decide, your team still has made a choice!”

We fans were first enamored with the idea of aero-kits in the summer of 2010. It was used to prove going with Dallara as the sole chassis provider for the next generation car, as chosen by the ICONIC committee was the correct route to go. (Bringing Italy, to Indianapolis most likely had much to do with it as well!) Personally I liked the Swift and Lola, and was hoping that two design’s would be accepted. I liked their ideas and design. Swift had some really creative ideas and it was a great looking car. Lola proposed the same tub to be interchangeable between IndyCar and Indy Lights.

Ultimately, Dallara was chosen with the idea that they would provide a full car themselves, but that teams had the option to purchase aero-kits from third-party designers. (As mentioned above, no one took the bait) Some of the designers tossed out where Lola, Lockheed Martin and Boeing. And if race teams were to come up with their own design, such as an Andretti aero-kit, it would have to be made available to other teams. Teams would have the option to buy as many as two competing kits out of the many that would be available for purchase.

Lola didn’t win the bid, and they had no interest in building parts to strap onto a Dallara. The aerospace companies showed little or no interest in coming up with aero- kits for race cars. And Andretti, or Penske is not in the business of designing, and the developing parts to help other teams win. Quickly the light went on to just use engine manufacturers; Honda, Chevy and Lotus – Well Lotus is gone, and that as they say “Is the end of that story”!

I’ve been critical of IndyCar CEO Mark Miles in a lot of areas, but he and Derrick Walker have made sure that aero-kits happen. Credit them for seeing this through. Although, I must admit I still believe Randy Bernard should have been given more time to see his brain child to fruition.

What was proposed nearly 5 years ago is far from the intent of multiple third-party designers developing aero-kits – The fact remains, were going to have two very different aero-kits for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season. (Can’t wait to see what Honda has brought to the table) Many question whether this is worth the cost and trouble and if there will be any benefit from having aero-kits. And should we have just waited until 2018? I have come to the conclusion, you can’t please everyone, all of the time. And that surly goes for this writer.

I put this question to all of you? As long as Dallara is our only chassis provider, is their really any incentive for them to build a faster race car, if they would only being beating themselves? Now, teams can try different things that they think will put their driver out front. Or quite possibly way behind. How great would it have been to have Honda, Chevy, Lotus, Swift, Lola, and other engine manufactures, and design teams competing?

Penske has missed the mark in the past, he is not bullet proof. Ganassi struggled most of the 2014 season, while Andretti kind of floats along on an even keel every season. But remember I wrote this “In 2015 missing the mark could mean your season is over before we enter the month of May” Staying with the old DW12 could be a stroke of genius! Or it could mean you sound like a New York Jets coach at the end of each season. All will not be equal in 2015, and we all got what we have been asking for, for many season’s. Non-spec racing! I know, I know,  the engines are basically the same for everyone. But it is my hope that these baby step’s, lead to giant leap’s and bounds. And in reality, isn’t that what we all have been waiting for?

Now lets take a look back at what was said:

Dated Dec 13, 2013:The series intends that the new aero bodywork components will boost the performance and top line speed of the Dallara chassis while give the cars a new and distinctive appearance in line with their manufacturers’ own brand styles.

Side-pods, engine covers and oval front wing main plane and end plates are all areas open for customization within the series’ technical regulations, and alterations to the car’s under-tray are also under consideration in an effort to advance safety.

“Aero-kits will improve the diversity of the fan experience and renew technical engagement, while providing a controlled cost structure,” said Derrick Walker, president of competition and operations, IndyCar.

Currently, all teams use the same aero-kit provided by Dallara as part of the basic car package they buy, but from 2015 they will also be able to buy more aero-kits each with separate specifications for ovals and for road/street circuits.

The rules state that no entrant may use more than two aero-kits during a season, with the 2012 Dallara aero-kit approved as one of the aero-kits that will continue to be available to teams. While teams will typically only be able to use one aero-kit at any given event, the exception is the Indianapolis 500 where drivers will be allowed to use more than one aero-kit during practice sessions, although the aero-kit used in qualifying must then be used in the race itself.

While 2015 will see only Chevrolet and Honda supplying aero-kits, the following year will be open to additional engine manufacturers and/or third-party vendors will be eligible to be an IndyCar approved supplier of aero-kits as well. The series has set a ceiling of $75,000 for the new 2015 kits with upgrades in subsequent years priced at no more than $15,000.

Team owners have been resistant to the idea of introducing separate aero-kits, partly on cost grounds. However the series’ technical road-map for the development of the championship over the next decade promotes the introduction of aero-kits as a way of extending the service life of the Dallara chassis itself before a new specification is required, thereby making the teams’ investment in the basic car more economical.

Testing Note: Andretti, and Penske have been chosen as aero-kit test drive dummies, and will have a clear advantage over other teams.

The regulations apply from Aug. 31 through Sept. 20, 2015. A team is permitted a total of 14 test days, composed of engine manufacturer tests, team tests, Open Tests and full-size wind tunnel tests. Full-season entrants are allocated a maximum of 10,000 total miles for use in all on-track activity from the first race or Open Test of 2015 to the end of the race season.

“The reason for changing the testing regulations is about trying to contain the costs and fit into our new schedule,” INDYCAR president of competition Derrick Walker said. “Competition drives teams to test as much as they can because they’re trying to win races, but combined with the schedule it’s hard on the team members.

“Now we’re making provisions for race events to have promoter day tests, where the cars will be on the track and hopefully the promoter sees that as an opportunity to open up the stands for fans and sell race tickets.”

August 2014:

Steve Eriksen, vice president and COO at Honda Performance Development, said that he expects the extent of differentiation to create a lot of interest.

“When you see what the aero-kits look like in person, you’re going to be surprised how open the rules are,” he said.

“The target of having distinction between a Chevy car and a Honda car is going to be achieved because it’s so open on the rules that you’re going to see a bit of variation between the cars.

“I think you’ll end up in a sportscar situation where people are going to be looking at all the little details on the car, and it’s going to generate a bit of interest.”

Eriksen said that Honda has already completed extensive wind-tunnel testing of its kit with “very good” correlation to the virtual design work and performance targets.

Under the current rules, the homologous version of the kits will be frozen for 2015, with manufacturers allowed to make limited changes ahead of 2016.

“If the rules stay the same as they are now, you’ll see a 2015 car, then you’ll see an updated 2016 car,” Eriksen said.

“As long as a team stays with the same manufacturer, the base components would stay the same. Then whatever you chose to update, you’d just buy those new parts.”

Teams planning to use Honda’s aero-kit in 2015 must have their orders placed by November 1 in order to receive their kits on March 1 next year, meaning that manufacturer alliances will need to be finalized relatively early.

January 5, 2015 – IndyCar aerodynamic development chief Tino Belli says there will be “many differences” between rival aero-kits produced for the 2015 season.

Chevrolet and Honda are manufacturing and supplying kits – to be fitted to the standard Dallara chassis – for speedways and road and street course/short oval events.

One road and street course/short oval kit is due to be delivered to each entrant by March 1, with the speedway kit following on April 1.

“Differences between the 2014 Dallara chassis and the 2015 aero-kits and between the Chevy and Honda aero-kits will be quite easily spotted by an interested fan,” explained Belli.

“Especially to someone who is interested in technology, they’ll see many differences between the cars. At speed and with different color schemes, it might be more difficult to see the differences.

“It’s certainly not going to be a spec car, and it’s not spec even within the Chevrolet or Honda environments.

“The Chevy might not always run in exactly the same configuration between a Penske and Ganassi car, and the same with Honda between, say, an Andretti and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car because teams will have options.”

Note : It is also an option to stay with the current Dallara package, although the expected performance increases in the manufacturer versions mean that there will be little benefit to doing so aside from cost.

So, are aero-kits really necessary in 2015, and who has them? You tell me?

Tony Tellez

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