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Owners want further delay to aero kits

5 June 2012

IZOD IndyCar Series team owners have unanimously called for another year's moratorium in introducing bespoke aerodynamic kits to the cars.

The original plan for the technical upgrade of the series - which this year saw the introduction of the new DW12 chassis from Dallara and the new specification 2.2-litre V6 turbocharged engines from multiple manufacturers - included owners being able to purchase different sets of add-on aerodynamic components for the basic chassis, to make the series less of a single-specification championship.

The aero kits - which would be designed, built and sold by Dallara and the teams' individual engine suppliers - were originally intended to be introduced at the start of 2012, but the IndyCar Series organisers backed down and delayed them after car owners unanimously voted against them coming in this season.

Among the owners' concerns were the cost of purchasing the aero kits - estimated at around $75,000 per kit - and also adding another layer of unpredictability at the same time as the new chassis and engines were being introduced. Teams would need separate kits for each car, with one design for street and road courses and a different one for oval tracks: for a four-car team like Ganassi, that would be an outlay of over half a million for just the initial aero kits alone.

Owners now at least have much greater experience of the new hardware, but with it has come a nasty surprise for them about the cost of the equipment. Scarcity of engine deals has driven up license costs of power plants, while the DW12 chassis was meant to cost around $385,000 but in practice has come in at nearer $600,000.

Moreover, the new series rules dictate that teams must buy replacement components for the cars only from Dallara and cannot use unofficial third-party suppliers, which has driven up the ongoing cost of repairs to damaged cars as Dallara are still trying to recoup the initial investment of the original design of the car. One team owner suggested that costs were a quarter higher year-on-year than the old specification cars.

The rising prices were said to be one of the main factors behind the alleged 'conspiracy' to oust IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard from his job during May. Bernard has promised to look into how the series can cut costs for the car owners moving forward.

"We do have issues, and part of my job is trying to work with them on cost control and bringing costs down," Bernard admitted at the weekend when he spoke to the press at Detroit Belle Isle.

Team owners seem to hope that by cancelling the aero kit requirement for 2013, they can ask for reduced costs from the engine manufacturers: "I'd like to see the engine manufacturers take the money they were going to spend on those kits and take a little more off the engine lease," AJ Foyt is reported as telling SPEED.com.

But Chevrolet and Honda have already invested heavily in starting to develop the aero kits - Honda signed former F1 car design company Wirth Research last September to help develop their aero kits - and it's unlikely there would be any savings from postponing the programme by a year. Of course, it's more likely that the owners are actually eyeing the outright cancellation of the aero kits from the series.

In the meantime, the teams are using the default kits from Dallara that come with the purchased DW12 chassis - and as team owner Dennis Reinbold points out, the standard-issue kits seem to be doing very nicely already, thank you very much.

“We've got a really good race car right now and the competition level is good so it's just an extra expense we don't need," Reinbold told SPEED.com.

Fans might have other thoughts on the matter, however, and even IndyCar team members have not been fully in-line with the owners' cost-centric thoughts on the matter. In May 2011, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing general manager Mike Hull was reported as saying that he wanted the kits "because I'm tired of racing spec cars," adding: "I want bodywork kits. I don't care what it takes."

Coming so soon after the 'conspiracy' talk about the owners wanting to eject Bernard from his job, this latest potential rift also runs the risk of looking like the internal divisions within the series merely being continued under a different guise.


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