In separate wind tunnel testing work over at the Windshear facility in North Carolina, IndyCar officials were optimistic that the teething problems with the DW12's performance on ovals were close to being ironed out.
Last May, the old chassis had achieved speeds of over 227mph in qualifying trim at Indianapolis Motor Speedway; but tests of the new car at the 2.5-mile venue in November achieved an average lap speed of 215.6mph and exposed problems with both the weight distribution and the aerodynamics of the DW12 prototype on ovals.
"We then compared the production car [in the wind tunnel], which is slightly different from the prototype in terms of different mirrors, different rear wheel fairings, subtle differences in chassis construction and better integration of the Zylon [side intrusion] panels," explained IndyCar's vice president of technology Will Phillips. "Basically, by optimizing the aero set-up, re-balancing the car and then putting on some aero development parts, it showed that using a nominal assumed horsepower of 575 the car is capable of 225mph.
“Same test at same venue using an '11 car and '12 car, and that's the only data we're using to compare,” added Phillips. “It's about as clean as we can make it for a two-day test.”
Phillips pointed out that the production car was "more slippery" though the air than the prototype and that bespoke aero kits due to be phased in for 2013 will likely improve the car's speed still further given time.
"But it's not always about aerodynamics," he insisted. "You have to mechanically set the car up to drive it, so it's always a balance. Aerodynamically, we've proven that it can happen but we haven't proven mechanically that we can set the car up to go that speed yet.”
Back in Florida, the two days of road course testing at Sebring had also been distinguished by the first time that a Lotus-powered car had lined up on track alongside their Honda and Chevrolet counterparts, with Simona de Silvestro at the wheel of the HVM Racing car.
Having completed a two-day shakedown in private testing at Palm Beach International Raceway the previous week, HVM notched up a total distance of 870 miles over the combined four days of running in all. Unlike the Honda and Chevrolet teams, HVM is still primarily in engine development mode this week as a result of Lotus being the last engine manufacturer to sign up to enter IndyCar.
"I think it was really a good four days," said de Silvestro. "We ran a lot of miles. We did a lot of laps. I've never spent so much time in a race car."
HVM team boss Keith Wiggins appeared delighted with the progress that the team and engine supplier had made in the last week. “The engine ran flawlessly the whole time and it was everything you'd hope would happen for a first test. We're not up to full power and full boost, as you can understand. The engine went back to Lotus right after the test, they'll inspect it and then we'll get it back to test."