The IZOD IndyCar Series chassis supplier Dallara is to provide a new set of rear wheel guards to teams free of charge for use on the new DW12 at two of the upcoming season's high speed oval events, it was announced this week.
The guards are the part of the bodywork developed to extend over and protect the rear wheels of the car. That will hopefully reduce the incidents of the tyres of two cars making direct contact and fusing together, a major cause of open-wheel race cars being launched into the air. The rear wheel guards should also protect the tyres from being sliced open by even minor contact with the front wing of a pursing car, which can lead to punctures and crashes especially on road courses.
However the real wheel guards have led to criticism from fans that they look like "bumpers", and there have also been concerns about their aerodynamic performance on high-speed ovals such as Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway.
The new guards are a slightly different shape, but more importantly are taller and lighter than the original components. The issue now is whether the new design will hold up under the rigours of full-speed punishment.
"Dallara worked hard to make sure it wouldn't vibrate and tested it on a rig," revealed IndyCar's vice president of technology Will Phillips, adding that the redesign had also been tested on scale models and on full-size cars in the wind tunnel at the Auto Research Center in North Carolina. "We have to run it on the track to make sure it performs as expected."
The original rear wheel guards will still be used on all road courses in 2012 - and also at Texas Motor Speedway, Phillips confirmed to IndyCar.com.
"The reason not to have the rear wing guards for Texas is it's a drag reduction and an increase in downforce," he explained. "As we're looking to setting a maximum downforce level at Texas we don't want to take it away and add more in some other fashion."
However, Philips still hopes to use the forthcoming test session in Texas for further testing of the new guards.
"We have to run it on the track to make sure it performs as expected," he agreed. "We're working to see when we could get some production prototypes, and if we're able to have them for the Texas Open Test we might ask a few teams to test them for us."
Phillips particularly commended Dallara's decision to provide the modification to teams without charge.
"With Dallara issuing this part free of charge to teams, they have addressed some of the criticism [of the car's initial handling on ovals]," he said. "Here's a good step on their behalf to give something back that aids the performance of the car. They want to live up to the expectations everyone, including themselves, have about the car."