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May 11, 2011

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Jay Robinson

Sorry for the digression, but on the topic of equalization of the playing field, how about this: Narrower tires? I would think the results would be Less grip, more wear issues from bad/hard/Scheckter-like driving, less chance of a fuel strat race (sorry, Danica), and even - if you want to go all mechanical physics over it - less drag over the tops of the wheels of an open wheel car, which increases top speed going into the corner that you now have to slow down more for.

Sean

Jay - If they had narrower tires, then people would whine about how they go so much slower than they used to. You can not win with Indy Car fans. (We have people griping because Pennzoil doesn't sponsor a Penske anymore. Geez.) Pressdog is right on when he says IndyCar needs to be concentrating on figuring out what people who are race fans but don't watch IndyCar want.

The Speedgeek

@Jay Robinson
Good in theory, not necessarily good in practice. Slashing tire size vastly decreases mechanical grip, to the point where the cars would depend almost entirely on aero grip to be able to run side by side through a corner. It's an extremely delicate balancing act. F1 tried going with slightly narrower tires in '92 or so with no effect. Then, they went with grooved tires to achieve the same thing from '98 to '08 and then went back to slicks in '09 to increase mechanical grip. The point is that you could slash tire size, but you'd have to tweak the entire rest of the car to make sure you didn't wind up with a car that was unable to run within 6 car lengths of another.

As to the original post, good on you, 'Dog, for getting your head around the whole "concept" thing. This may sound like a backhanded compliment, but I did one of my twice-yearly trips to Track Forum and found about 2 dozen guys who just condemned the car with no further comment or acknowledgement of the fact that the final product may not look all that much like this or any acknowledgement that the racing that this car might produce could be just the thing to bring fans back and/or keep the current fans coming back.

The point of the car(s): look at the latitude the aero kit allows designers. Engine cover: open for interpretation. You want a dorsal fin? Put one on there. You want a low cover that hugs the cam cover? Do it. Your choice. Sidepods: open for interpretation. You want wheel flick ups? Pick how long and how tall you want 'em. Wheel ramps like the oval show car has? OK. Low 2011 McLaren-style sidepods that try to feed extra air to the rear wing? If you can make it work, feel free. Wings? Limited, as for the main plane, but outside of that, all the bits and bobs everywhere (second and third elements, the 2010/11 Red Bull-style endplates just ahead of the front wheel, rear wing endplates), all that stuff is open for interpretation.

I actually think that if we get the aero kits, there's enough flexibility in the 2012 platform that we'll get some very different looking bodywork. That is good for current fans. What it also means is that cars should perform differently, and if one of the non-Big 2 (or 3, if you want to include Andretti, since they've won already this year) can hit on just the right combo (like Ganassi did in '96 with Reynard/Honda/Firestone, a previously untried combo that turned out to be dominant and gave Chip his first title), we could see some very different teams up front. That is good for everybody. Well, except for Chip and Roger. Hence why Roger wants the kits delayed.

Oops. Sorry for the book. The 2012 car is a pet topic, I'm afraid...

Jay Robinson

I was hoping for an intelligent counter-point and got one. Thanks.

Here's another one that's been on my mind for a long time: An aero kit CFD-tested by fans via a volunteer computing project like SETI@home.

pressdog

The variable aero kits open up lots of interesting possibilities like the one you mention, Jay. The cost to develop said kits that have any chance to be used by team owners is a multi-million-dollar hurdle, but hurdles can be overcome with creative thinking. Plus, there's nothing preventing virtual development of kits that explore new aero ideas and maybe push the envelop.

Dylan

I kind of disagree Bill. I think having a good looking car that looks futuristic without being offensively ugly (No Trikes) is a good way to capture non fans attention. Also a good way to steal fans from NASCAR.

I can live with these cars and they are an improvement over the current car. The kits look like they might actually allow some real differences between them which is nice. Seriously... Penske and the other team owners, shut up and get in line!

pressdog

Interesting thought, Dylan. Beauty as a differentiator with NASCAR. I don't think I had given that enough weight. Of course the look of the car matters, how much is the debate. But the idea that it helps us be different from NASCAR and maybe attract fans who think those cars are bricks with wheels is a good one.

ThatGuy

Sorry to throw cold water on the Aero@Home idea, but Virgin Racing continues to prove that the era of formula-style race cars designed only via computational fluid dynamics is not here yet. I don't believe this is merely a computer "horsepower" problem (throwing bigger computers at the problem), but an algorithmic one.

Love all the caveats that got thrown around yesterday by all involved (neeneer, this is just a concept so any criticism is IRRELEVANT!). And isn't there a crowd of people they could have rented for the "unveiling". Just looks sad to see those car sitting all by themselves in pitlane. Anyhow, my biggest hope is that the LMP-ness of the rear bumper gets toned down about 100%.

Savage Henry

Exciting racing will keep new fans, but how is Indycar going to get new fans to show up in the first place? I think to attract new fan's imaginations (and their wallet and remote control) this new car is going to need to be 1980 Pennzoil Chapparal-like beautiful, significantly faster, or have some other distinguishing thing that makes it cool.

Part of the reason that I'm not that interested in NASCAR is that the cars aren't cool. There's nothing about them that interests me. They don't look like RACE CARS. F1 cars, on the other hand, are ugly as sin but they are cool because of the technology that goes into them. They are RACE CARS. Indycars used to be cool, but after 10 years of no innovation they aren't anymore. Even many NASCAR fans are disgruntled because they think the COT is uncool (even if they used to thing the previous cars were cool).

There needs to be something about this car that makes people say "I gotta see that". I hope that Indycar is able to come up with that thing. I think that the general appearance of the cars is going to be more or less set because of the car's big ass. So that leaves speed. This thing is going going to need to be really fast.

The Speedgeek

@ThatGuy
I think that rear tire fairing is here to stay. two reasons:

1) It's a hat tip to increased safety, i.e. an attempt to cut down on the chance for a Mike Conway-esque accident leading to a car getting up into and/or over the fence. If we had an accident like what I heard Tony Renna had at the Speedway in testing (a one car accident to boot, so a 2-car or more accident could be even worse), in these litigious times, we could see a lawsuit that could cripple the Speedway and the Series. That ain't good for anybody.

2) It's a way to cut down and/or manage the turbulence off of the rear wheels, and in effect, make it more possible for a trailing car to stay close through corners. That should hopefully result in closer (and better) racing. That's good for everybody.

Ken

IMHO, people dig NASCAR because they're cars they identify with. Of course we all know that Camry on the track is a Camry in name only, but people love the stickers. As for IndyCar, maybe engine brands will help attract more? Will Lotus? Not likely, but Chevy should. I personally like Honda, and their reliability has been unmatched in past years. But there are some who would rather not have the series be exclusive to a Japanese brand, even if the engine is American-made. If we could get Ford on board, that will be even better, whether you like Ford or not. Having different looking cars is great, but it's just dressing.

FTHurley

Not only do aesthetics not matter as much as people think, I'm not sure the raw speed matters outside of the ~300K already watching. I think the 3 million watching NASCAR instead of IndyCar like the unpredictable racing where a guy like Regan Smith can win a race, and where the lead changes as tires and handling go in an out based on team decisions and track temp. They like the big personalities and fan-friendly environment. They like stars who put themselves out there in a relate-able way. It ain't the cars, except insofar as the cars allow the other things to develop.

FTHurley

Actually, one tweak: I DO think the cars matter - you don't watch racing unless you think cars are cool - I just don't think that a car that is similar but slightly better looking (say the Swift instead of the Dallara) makes that big a difference. Though that Swift is pretty much every dirty thought a teenager has ever had, all bolted onto four wheels. I wonder what the aero kit concept would look like with the Swift's underpinnings. Ahh, well.

ThatGuy

@Speedgeek I fully support and understand the reason behind the bumper (I've always been suspicious of the "we'll never know" final answer out of the Renna crash), just hope the final version isn't quite so jarringly foreign to open wheel car design.

GeorgeK

One big problem with variable aero kits is that eventually (after considerable testing which means $$$$) one of them will prove to far and above better (faster) then the others and then what happens? Any team wanting to be competitive will buy that kit and everyone else goes home.

But they are great looking, the future is looking bright!

SkipinSC

Interestingly, the first comment I saw today on the first blog I read about the new prototype cars read something like, "Wow. Another ugly-ass Dallara."

Simona Fan

I was a Swift #23 fan myself. One idea they had was to have lights on the car that would tell the fans when the drivers were using the push to pass. I thought that was brilliant.

redcar

I basically like the cars. Looking forward to 3 engines in them. Look forward to aero kits whenever they arrive. Like the drivers. And most of the events. Really looking forward to Indy this year.

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