23 January 2015
INDYCAR: Aero kit homologation leaves door open for updates
Both Honda and Chevrolet have submitted their aero kit designs in time for the homologation deadline, although further change is still possible.
Honda and Chevrolet are both confident that their respective designs for the introduction of aero kit bodywork components into the Verizon IndyCar Series will lead to success for their teams in the 2015 season.
Both engine manufacturers submitted their designs for the new aerodynamic add-ons for both street/road courses and oval circuits that will be used in competition for the first time this season. Until now, all cars have used the same standard aero kit parts designed and manufactured by Dallara, which builds and supplies the DW-12 chassis.
The deadline for submission of the designs was January 18. However, teams that have already placed purchased orders won't receive their new aero kits for another month, and the first race of the season in Brazil on March 8 will go ahead with the old aero kits. Teams will finally get to run the new parts during testing at Barber Motorsports Park on March 16-17, ahead of their race debut at St Petersburg on March 29.
Instead of providing actual fabricated exemplars of the units against which future components can be physically compared, for the first time Honda and Chevrolet were able to submit computer design (CAD) files of the aero kits to the IndyCar officials for homologation, the process by which the design of new technical parts is inspected and authorised for competition.
"Because this is the first time for bodywork kits, IndyCar altered the regulation last year to allow the manufacturers some time to supply the parts after they presented us with the CAD," explained the Series' director of aerodynamic development Tino Belli, who is in charge of the initial inspection and confirmation of the components.
"What we didn't want was for them to produce parts only for us to ask them to modify those parts because they didn't meet regulations," he explained. "That is why there is a gap between the presentations of the CAD to actually receiving the parts.
"We'll give them feedback, but we won't ultimately sign off on all the parts until measurements of the actual parts are completed. We'll check the weight of each part and by regulation every single bodywork component has to be able to fit the car all at the same time."
The big question is how the introduction of bespoke aerodynamic bodywork will affect the level of competition between those teams using Honda engines and aero kits auch as Andretti Autosport, and their counterparts in the Chevrolet stable that include both Penske and Ganassi.
"The amount of change permitted by IndyCar is much broader than many fans may realise," said Honda Performance Development vice president and COO Steve Eriksen. "The testing process has also been extensive, with our team working extremely hard to produce representative prototypes and gather as much information as possible over the six days of testing permitted by the series.
"We feel we've developed a very competitive Honda package for our teams, and we're looking forward getting on track and going head-to-head against Chevrolet in March," he added. "Our testing results, on both ovals and road courses, have been very promising and have backed up the performance predicted through CFD [computational fluid dynamics] and our other development tools."
"It sort of felt like a three-year pregnancy and we're interested in moving past that and putting these babies on the track," contributed Chevrolet Racing's IndyCar program manager Chris Berube. "We've passed a couple of important milestones - the track testing phase, which was sort of the culmination of all the aero, wind tunnel and analysis phases - and homologation, which we submitted a couple of days early.
"We're hot into the production side, which is an increasingly important step as well with some serious deadlines to meet," Berube continued. "Teams are all waiting with baited breath to receive their first kits and it's all going to come together quickly.
Even though the designs have been submitted for homologation, there will still be opportunities for Honda and Chevrolet to make some further changes to new aero kits over the coming year if required, in order to ensure that on-track competition isn't adversely affected during the introductory period.
"From a performance point of view, except for the sidepod and engine cover that have to remain fixed for two years, all of the other components are up for being upgraded," Belli explained. "But they only are allowed to upgrade three legality boxes total in a two-year period.
"Currently, they can choose to homologate a new component in one of the three boxes any time from the beginning of the 2015 season to the end of the 2016 season," he went on. "If one manufacturer feels it is behind in a particular configuration, it can bring forward a box to try to catch up earlier, pending IndyCar approval.
"If you're feeling confident or comfortable, you'll want to delay upgrades until after you see how 2015 pans out with all the different racetrack configurations we go to," Belli pointed out. "When components get changed the old components are grandfathered, so that way teams can still continue to use them, or use them as spares."
Teams will also have multiple component options available to them, allowing them to add or remove parts to suit the car's set-up and driver based on the diverse set of tracks on the schedule.
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