IndyCar Outlines Long-Term Competition Plans

IndyCar has announced a revamped championship system for the Verizon IndyCar Series that includes added emphasis on the three 500-mile events on the schedule. (IndyCar Photo)
IndyCar today released its long-term IZOD Indycar Series competition strategy. (IndyCar Photo)

DETROIT – Change is coming to the competitive structure of IndyCar although it will be implemented in a careful, thought-out schedule between 2013 and 2021, IndyCar President of competition Derrick Walker announced Sunday.

IndyCar and Dallara will first attempt to reduce the surface area of the underbody of the current chassis to reduce the potential for lift next season. Once that is addressed, the series will then prepare for the addition of various aerodynamic configurations – or “Aero Kits” – in 2015.

The Aero Kits will be introduced and utilized for all races on the 2015 schedule with different specifications for superspeedway and the road/street/short oval configuration on the cars.

“As has been said, some of you may say today, ‘why screw with aero kits, we’re racing?’” Walker said, referring to the current formula that produced a record 68 lead changes among a record 14 different leaders in last Sunday’s 97th Indianapolis 500. “Hopefully where you see where we ended up, you’ll get an idea where we are doing what we’re going to do, which is obviously introduce some modifications to the car over time.

“It’s easy to pass a rule and say, it’s aero kits next year, knock yourself out. Since we’ve got such good foundation in the car and competition now, we need to think about this carefully. The more we thought about it, the more we had to look out long-term. We went as far out as could imagine. What is the lifespan of this car realistically, the main components? What could we do that would maintain stability of that package? Also we had to look at the manufacturer’s participation, what they were looking for? We listened to the fans because the fans are a big component of this. The fans, whether you get it or not, we do, they want some kind of change. They like what they want, but they’re still crying out for some other things, good old days, bring it back.”

Rather than open up the rules completely, Walker and IndyCar vice president of technology Will Phillips are going to make the changes over time. Those include:

– 2014 – Engine upgrades as part of the current homologation process; downforce adjustments to enhance racing, overtaking as well as safety at various racetrack configurations, as needed.

– 2015 – Aero configuration components introduced for the full IZOD IndyCar Series season in conjunction with potential enhancements to the underbody.

– 2016 – Opportunity for tire development, if needed, with Firestone, as well as engine power enhancements as required.

– 2017 – Possible aero configuration kits and engine upgrades. Potential for areas on car to be opened for team development.

– 2018 – Competition enhancements made based on performance of 2017 package.

– 2019 – Potential introduction of new body style and engine formula.

– 2020 – Competition enhancements made based on performance of 2019 package.

– 2021 – Possible aero configuration upgrade.

“We had a series of objectives,” Walker said. “We looked out as long-term as we can. What we’re trying to do is introduce change; I’ll come back to why we need to introduce change. We need to do it in a fiscally responsible way because change costs money as we all know. We had to do it in a way that we listened to the people who are going to probably spend the most money on this thing, the manufacturers. We had two manufacturers who had interest in doing aero kits, and a deeper participation in IndyCar. We wanted to listen to them because they’re a big part of this component.”

Walker would like to see Arie Luyendyk’s Indianapolis 500 track record lap of 237.498 miles per hour and four-lap average of 236.986 mph set in 1996 broken by 2016, which would be the 100th Indianapolis 500.

“Safety came up on the radar,” Walker said. “One component of this car is the capability of lift. It has a huge flat bottom. We know it needs that perfect storm to create lift with these cars. We said we have to address lift. We’re going to look at that aspect. Open-wheel cars in general, even NASCAR, all have had to deal with that. In the good old days when I started racing, they didn’t have flat bottoms like now. It wasn’t an issue. You’d probably roll over before you take off. Nowadays the component of downforce and the larger area underneath the car, we have a lift component.

“We said, wait a minute, if we’re going to do these aero kits, change the bottom, what sense does that make? The manufacturers are going to waste all their money. We said safety is number one. We need to get that floor situation under control.

“Aero kits in 2015 – you’ll see a significant jump in speed at Indianapolis. The rules to that are currently being scripted. We had them pretty well 80% done until we finalized this outline. The manufacturers within a couple weeks will have the written rules as to how they can compete, what they can and can’t do.

“That takes you to 2016. 2016 happens to be, of course, as you all well know, the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. So an important team and ceremonial event. When you look at the speed increases, the improvements in the car, you can realistically expect that we will possibly break that record unless we make major changes to backtrack, we’re probably going to crack the record. It’s not a must do. It would be a nice do, but it’s not a must do. When you take a look at the changes in the car configuration, it’s logical to think we’re going to get a rise in speeds.”