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Bespoke aero kits postponed until 2013

14 August 2011

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard confirmed Sunday that the planned introduction of bespoke aero kits for the new Dallara-built IndyCar Safety Cell has been delayed by a year.

For the first year of the new chassis, all teams will instead use the same "default" aero kits (one for ovals, one for road courses) shipped by Dallara as part of the initial car purchase.

"The most important thing we can do as a series is look at what is in the best interest of both our long and short term," said Bernard at a press conference at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "It is important that we maintain a high car count next year by ensuring we have cost containment for our teams. We must listen to our team owners and try to help."

A meeting of IndyCar team owners at Sao Paulo in May was reported to have voted unanimously to call for a delay in the introduction of the bespoke aero kits until 2013 on cost grounds. Each kit is priced at up to $75,000 but with different sets, spare parts and multiple cars to provide for, the cost could quickly add up to half a million dollars for a fair-size team. However, some felt that the delay was being requested by Chevrolet and Lotus, who were said to be concerned that Honda had too much of a head start on them by virtue of their position as current sole engine suppliers this year.

At the time of the team owner vote, Bernard had said that "I'll listen to our owners. I want and respect their opinions," but still seemed minded to press ahead, saying "Having different looking cars is something that has been true and blue to IndyCar."

But at New Hampshire, Bernard conceded defeat on the issue. "I'm the biggest advocate of the areo kit and I feel this is by far the best decision for our series," he said.

"We've got new engines and a new car next year so we can have another new story for 2013," added Michael Andretti, owner of Andretti Autosport.

The aero kits are the add-on elements of the car not built directly into the chassis, and will enable teams to experiment with different aerodynamic settings throughout the season and from oval races to road courses in a way that has not been possible with the existing ageing chassis introduced in 2003.

While the cars come with the default oval and road course aero kits from Dallara, the series' engine manufacturers - Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus - had been due to design, build and sell their own bespoke variation kits to teams. IndyCar produced a display of two cars at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500, showing just how much variation there could be with different aero kits.

The decision won't be universally welcome. In May, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing general manager Mike Hull was reported as saying that he wanted the kits "because I'm tired of racing [identical-]spec cars," adding: "I want bodywork kits. I don't care what it takes." The decision announced at New Hampshire means that he - and the fans - will have to wait another year for them after all.

Dallara may well have to reconsider their own plans about the "default" aero kit and their current testing program, being led by Dan Wheldon and Bryan Herta Autosport. While supplying a 'default' aero kit with which to ship the car is one thing, it's quite another matter altogether if it were to be seen on every car for a full season rather than just one alternative among many. The prototype aero components were recently finalised through wind tunnel testing at the company's headquarters in Parma, Italy.

IndyCar vice president of technology Will Phillips said that they were "extremely pleased" with the first test of the new chassis at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last week. "Everything performed as we expected in this initial shakedown. All systems were sorted and checked, and we look forward to our next test."

Fifteen further texts are due before Dallara deliver the first early chassis builds to the engine manufacturers Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus in early October, with teams receiving their new cars in December.


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