IndyCar fans have heard plenty about the bodywork changes for 2018 that are designed to reduce turbulence coming off the cars in order to make passing easier, and as more tests are completed, deeper insights come forth from inside the cockpit.
Strapped inside a Dallara DW12 with the new UAK18 bodywork at tracks ranging from Sebring to Texas to Indianapolis, four-time champion Scott Dixon says changes to the physical experience of following cars in 2017 and 2018 aero trim have been remarkable.
“The biggest difference driving it is it’s more consistent when you’re behind a car,” the Chip Ganassi Racing driver told RACER. “Driving in the wake of another car is much better and there’s a lot less buffeting.”
IndyCar’s call to move a significant amount of the DW12’s downforce production from the top of the car with drag-producing wings to the underside of the car has created the favorable experience Dixon describes.
“How the 2017 car was, there was a lot of buffeting, a ton of air moving around, and that’s been greatly improved,” he said. “Like at Texas, it felt like you could pull up and get a pass done on the same straight instead of pulling out at the end right as you’re about to turn in together. It was significantly better when you’re in the tow. It’s more predictable, and the air itself has settled down.
“The changes to the car have done a lot to the consistency of the air you’re hitting when you follow a car. With the old aero kits, it was hitting you at all kinds of angles and moved the car around a good bit; it wasn’t just buffeting your head, but the front of the car as a whole moved, which could make it nervous when you got close and wanted to try a pass. The way it is now, the front of the car is more settled when you’re behind someone and there isn’t that worry about losing it if you get too close.”
It’s also worth noting the drag improvements test drivers have reported is only part of the equation. The ability to attempt more passes comes as a result of increased chassis stability and a vacuum phenomenon that pulls cars forward.
“It felt like the way the car sucked up was bigger than what we had in the past, but we’ll need to get more cars with the 2018 bodywork together on track to see how much change there is,” Dixon continued.
“Only following one car, which has been the situation so far, isn’t enough to tell you exactly what it will be like. But it did feel like it accelerated a lot quicker when you’re in the wake of a car. It’s pretty cool, man. The challenges we’ve had up to now were because of aero limitations. I think we’ve gotten rid of a lot of them with his universal kit, and that’s only going to help the racing.”