IndyCar to Open Way for Innovation In Speed, Safety …

Posted: May 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

INDIANAPOLIS — In what many IndyCar racing fans will surely see as very positive news, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles and INDYCAR President of Operations and Competition Derrick Walker announced today that INDYCAR will open the door to increased technical innovation in its cars, along with continuing its longstanding effort to improve safety in open-wheel racing.

Why is this good news? Simply put, the powers to be are putting INDY back in IndyCar.  For several years the sanctioning body had allowed the series to evolve into a “spec” series. One that had a sole engine supplier (Honda), a sole tire supplier (Firestone) and virtually a sole chassis supplier (Dallara).

That began to change in 2012, when IndyCar introduced the Dallara DW12 chassis. Although Dallara remains the sole supplier of chassis equipment, the racing has never been better with the new car’s design. Then a new engine supplier, Chevrolet was added to the mix and again the competition ratcheted-up. Firestone still remains the sole tire supplier, but it appears the technology has never been better.  No “competition yellow flag” debacles have occurred due to tires in IndyCar, as they have in NASCAR.

New aero-kits are also on the horizon for 2014 with their use initially set for the three “Triple Crown” events, those being run at Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana.

With those changes ensuing, Derrick Walker will now be responsible (beginning May 27th) for identifying specific technology improvements and guiding their implementation, with the goal of managed increases in … wait for it … speed.

“In the short term, we’ll look for incremental changes to our cars through components such as aerodynamics, horsepower and tires,” Walker said. “In a way, we’re going back to the future. Indy cars have always been about innovation and speed, and our goal is to open the door for that again. We’ll start with our current car platform and give our teams and suppliers more ability to affect how they race. We always have to be mindful of costs, but that doesn’t mean we can’t manage improvements to create more exciting racing and at the same time do it safely.”

Miles said “There have been many breakthroughs in Indy car speeds over the decades, but it has been 17 years since Arie Luyendyk set the last record at Indianapolis.”

Many may remember that Luyendyk, known as the “Flying Dutchman” not only recorded the fastest average speed for the 500 mile race of 185.981 mph in the 1990, which still stands, but also owns the one lap qualifying record of 237.498 mph and the four-lap qualifying average of 236.986 mph, both set in 1996.

“We’ve achieved a great car platform, so now we can move forward to explore what’s next,” Miles said. “By managing improvements in certain components, speeds will gradually increase, and we could break the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track record by our 100th running in 2016.”

“We already race the fastest closed-circuit cars in the world, and we continue to strive for further innovation that ultimately results in increased speed and safety,” said 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay. “This is an opportunity for us to go back to our roots. Indy car is all about the progression of speed and pushing the performance barrier, and I strongly feel that this needs to be a big part of the future of our sport. The sooner we can get going, the sooner we can have a shot at Arie’s record. It’s been standing for far too long.”

Walker and Miles made the announcement against a backdrop of IMS historical innovations in speed & safety: the roadster Parnelli Jones used to break the 150 mph barrier in 1962, Tom Sneva’s 1984 March/Cosworth that first broke 210 mph at IMS; Luyendyk’s Reynard/Ford Cosworth he set the one-lap track record of 237.498 mph in 1996 and the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series-winning car driven by Hunter-Reay. Also present were a section of the SAFER Barrier, a revolutionary track safety development initiated by INDYCAR & IMS, and fire suits, which drivers at IMS were among the first to use. 

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Walker said the technical staff at INDYCAR, teams & suppliers — with support from members of the newly formed Competition Committee — will be engaged in the measured innovation efforts. Walker said the first substantive announcement, likely about aero kits, will be made soon.

Potential safety innovations could come in the form of new types of track fencing to protect drivers and fans, more precautions on pit lane and continued driver compartment safety enhancements.

In March, INDYCAR announced the formation of an advisory Competition Committee to formalize communications among industry stakeholders on competition and technical matters. The committee, which met earlier today, will advise INDYCAR on competition-related matters such as rules, technical specifications and safety initiatives.

Members of the INDYCAR Competition Committee for 2013 have been finalized. They are:

  • Derrick Walker (chair), incoming INDYCAR President, Operations and Competition
  • Roger Griffiths, Honda Performance Development Technical Division Director
  • Chris Berube, Chevrolet Program Manager, IZOD IndyCar Series
  • Andrea Toso, Dallara Head of R&D and U.S. Racing Business Leader
  • Dale Harrigle, Firestone Senior Project Engineer, Race Tire Development
  • Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Driver (Honda)
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Driver (Chevrolet)
  • Tim Cindric, Penske Racing President (Chevrolet team)
  • Bryan Herta, Bryan Herta Autosport Owner (Honda team)
  • Brian Barnhart, INDYCAR Senior Vice President of Operations
  • Will Phillips, INDYCAR Vice President of Technology   
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