My take on the new “car” (most likely) Pt. 1

The 2012 Dallara, Indy “Safety Cell” made its on-track debut the Monday following the coma enducing Mid Ohio weekend at the same track. The “test” was super double secret, only a select few media peoples attended and the two days of driving were more of a systems check. Cooling at speed, power steering, turbo piping, suspension pickup strength and a laundry list of other minor, but hugely important items need to be checked off the list before true speed runs are attempted. This shakedown period will be the foundation to how smoothly the new car some to life. It looks like a mixed oval road package was used for this initial test. Road wings and the oval hips from the displays at Indy. The next six to seven months will be an exciting time for the indycar community and, hopefully, will attract some new and old fans. I don’t have another post planned, per say, but I am sure I will want to pontificate on the IR 12 (!) more than twice before St. Pete 2012.

 Airbox Standardized Turbo Inlet – The reasons for inclusion far outweigh the roll hoop style of engine cover so many people are wanting. Tony Cotman was on Trackside last week to give an update, post Mid Ohio test. He defended the airbox or, standard turbo inlet, saying it was a standardized piece in the aerokit rules, a common place for all manufacturers to draw air for the engine. TC defended this saying it would help keep engine development in check. The teams and engine manufacturers will have no reason to attempt exotic turbo placement and trick pipe placement under the cover. The engine manufacturers will be able to insure repeatable performance across all teams, without fear that some crazy turbo setup will blow an engine prematurely or inversely gain huge amounts of power over the field.

Standard turbo – INDYCAR has also homologated the turbo chargers. Borg-Warner is supplying the field until 2016. Engines running a twin turbo setup, Chevy and Lotus, will feature smaller units compared to the single turbo driven Honda engine. Actual sizes will be chosen based on location and track configuration. The specs on these things look impressive, but honestly anytime I see titanium and ceramic when describing an engine piece, you know it’s a mean component. These standardized turbos, along with the standard intake, standard intercooler and associated plumbing, should make the engine rebuild window of 2000 miles a few steps closer. These are all things that could add astronomically expensive development bills, with the only outcome of blown engines and horsepower domination.

Car Width – Pontiac’s tagline form the 90’s was “wider is better” and it seems we are still heading down that same design road with the new chassis. The tires are actually 76 inches apart or slightly skinnier than the current car , but there is an inch and a half of bodywork overhang past the tires. This is an attempt to lessen the chances of catastrophic wheel to wheel contact. This is a good idea; anything to lessen the chances of a flying car is good. I have always felt that lessening the car width by three to six inches would greatly improve passing opportunities, but the new car will end up being about half an inch wider than the IR 07. I just don’t think that wider is better.

One reason I can see for the same wide style chassis is to increase the chances of recovering a sideways car. We have all seen that once the current chassis gets slightly out of shape, it is nearly impossible not to complete the spin. A wider track undoubtedly helps prevent a guaranteed spin with the onset of more than mild yaw. But, these problems, in my eyes, have been solved by the…

Updated Aerodynamics – The new chassis has an honest to goodness diffuser surrounding the gearbox and a ground effects style undertray. The current car was designed to slice through the air while racing on high speed ovals. When the IRL whet road racing, more downforce was needed, hence the addition of the massive front and back wings. These wings lose huge amounts of efficiency when the car starts to slide sideways, leading to the predestined spin we are all familiar with. Add a trick undertray to the equation and high yaw angles are achievable. This also means teams can take huge amounts of wing off, making the new chassis very slippery through the air, while gaining downforce over the current chassis.

There are many things I am excited about with the new car. Yes, the look is a bit odd. Some kind of DP-01 and IR 03 love child, but the thing should move. I could see reaching that elusive 190 MHP top speed on many of the road courses. Formula 1 touches 200 on a few tracks they visit, so if the new chassis can reach 190 on a road course, that is a huge win. I have always looked at indycar racing as the western counterpart to F1, this kind of speed could really legitimize the road racing component in the eyes of the rest of the world. Could the new chassis be the thing that opens Europe to indycar? I hope not, I want to keep our racing close. In the coming weeks we will see many more spy photos, surely we will start to see some differentiation between the road and oval package. Even with the “delay” of aerokits until “2013,” the new chassis alone is enough to keep me interested in the series for another year, add three new turbo engines and things are looking real hot for next year.

I will continue my musings on the new chassis, and engines as information, pictures, videos, and hopefully some engine noise on and off until I can’t talk about it anymore. As a self proclaimed technology nerd, and raised in car culture America, I cannot wait to see these things circulate IMS next May.

Eric Hall

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