The Verizon IndyCar Series has completed a test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to assess the various configurations of the Chevrolet and Honda superspeedway aerodynamic bodywork kits.
With more than 500 laps turned by 15 drivers on the 2.5-mile oval despite having to dodge intermittent rain on a blustery day, reams of valuable data were gathered in preparation for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 next month. Marco Andretti's # 27 Andretti Autosport Honda posted the fastest lap of the day at 223.427mph.
"We ran through quite a bit of different combinations as part of the aero kit configuration test," said Bill Pappas, IndyCar vice-president of competition, race engineering. "The conditions weren't ideal, but we did get a lot of information to go over and look through over the next couple of days to get ready for the month of May."
All the cars testing were fitted with domed skid plates for the undercarriage of the Dallara IR-12 chassis, a safety initiative mandated on superspeedways this year by IndyCar. The plates add approximately six times the amount of downforce compared to the 2015 configuration when a car spins, which slows the car prior to any potential contact. The domed skids also raise the speed at which a car would have to be travelling to become airborne.
"On the safety standpoint of the domed skid, it's a big improvement, especially in the 90-degree yaw," said reigning series champion Scott Dixon, who ran just 30 laps in the morning session in the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. "We've got to look at safety before anything. Yes, it's going to make the car maybe a little more difficult [to drive], but every car has a pedal and we have more downforce to put on to compensate for the loss."
Andretti's overall fast lap was set in the morning session. His Andretti Autosport teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay, was fastest in the afternoon in the #28 Honda, and second quick for the day at 222.047mph. Current points leader Simon Pagenaud, in the #22 Team Penske Chevrolet, was third fastest at 221.293mph.
Chevrolet conducted a private test at IMS for its teams on 5 April, so the Ganassi and Penske teams opted not to run in the windy afternoon session halted several times for light rain. Honda teams used as much track time as they could.
"It's going to be interesting with these skids, for sure," said Graham Rahal, who turned 48 laps in the #15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda with a best lap of 218.619mph. "It's going to take some work to get them to where we need them to be to be raceable."
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver James Hinchcliffe applauded the efforts of the two manufacturers and IndyCar working together at the test to develop a car that checks all the boxes when Indianapolis 500 practice begins on 16 May.
"The good news is we all seem to be working toward the same thing," Hinchcliffe, said, "We are all genuinely trying to make a safer car but a car that still races well. I think there is a way to appease both sides of that argument. Hopefully, by the time we show up here for practice week, we've found that compromise and everybody can be relatively happy."