As the sole tire provider for the Verizon IndyCar Series, Firestone has the task of working on a new tire that both they and IndyCar hope will mesh well with the new universal aero kits to be introduced in 2018.
The main challenge for the two parties is handling the reduction of downforce that the new aero kit has brought.
“The challenge for all the teams is that with a heavy reduction in aero downforce, they will be looking to increase mechanical grip, and that’s where we come in,” Cara Adams, Firestone’s chief engineer and manager of race tire development, explained in an interview with Motorsport.com’s David Malsher.
Adams also emphasized the need for an appropriate amount of drop-off, stating “we (Firestone) need to come up with a tire that is softer in both construction and compound appropriate for out new car.”
After post-season testing in Phoenix with multiple tire compounds, Adams stated that Firestone had come up with a tire that will be used in February testing and during the race weekend in April, and that neither engine manufacturer is completely aware of that situation.
As for developing a tire for all other tracks on the schedule, Adams said that there will be some relatively minor changes on both road and street courses because of the lowered downforce, but the bigger differences will be noticed on the oval tracks.
Another takeaway from the interview was how driver feedback can still have a high degree of variance despite the universal aero kit. Adams related this to different driving styles, which could cause different reactions to tire settings.
Recently, tire discussions have shifted towards keeping a noticeable difference between the primary black tires and alternate red tires used on road and street courses.
One thing that Firestone was trying to work on was the speed differential on tracks like Detroit and Toronto, where more concrete was used. Traditionally, the red alternate tires were significantly faster, but wore off much quicker than the primary black tires.
Adams expressed that the gap had not been as significant and changes were in the works.
Additionally, Firestone has begun work on a new rain tire for the 2018 season. “We’re working on our wet weather tires, coming up with a redesign of our tread pattern as well as compound changes,” she proclaimed.
“We won’t see that until Detroit at the very earliest, but it’s a really neat project that we’ve been able to work on with engineers and scientists from our entire engineering group and our pattern engineering group.”
Adams also expressed hope that the tires would be in action during the doubleheader weekend in Detroit, because of the frequency of rain to debut what Adams described as “a pretty awesome program”.
The doubleheader weekend at Detroit in June is often one of the most stressful for teams. Following that is a Texas race that has become known as tire strategy contest. Firestone will have their work cut out for them all season with the new aero kit, and even more so after Indianapolis as new tires are unveiled and the championship heats up.
Images courtesy of IndyCar and special thanks to Motorsport.com for quotes.