Lost among the introduction of beautiful new bodywork, windscreen testing, and outfitting each Verizon IndyCar Series entry with updated electronics, the switch to Performance Friction Corporation brakes has also been a significant undertaking for teams entering 2018.
After an awkward introduction last season where the brand’s carbon discs and pads were used with the holdover Brembo calipers, PFC has taken full responsibility for all the braking products fitted to every Dallara DW12 chassis. It marks the first time PFC has been in that position since 2007 with Champ Car’s then-new Panoz DP01 model.
“The brakes are good,” said Graham Rahal, whose Honda-powered team has been among the fastest in pre-season testing. “What I like about them is they’re consistent. The set I’m using now I’ve used everywhere we’ve gone for testing – road course and oval – and you get a different feel from what we had before with Brembo. The PFCs don’t have as much bite, but they’re more consistent throughout the pedal range, which we didn’t have before.
“The old brakes were grabby and inconsistent through the range of temperatures we see. The PFC calipers, which are the newest component, seem to work well with their friction material, but the proof in the pudding will be when we get to St. Pete. You remember how bad it was last year with brake cooling, so let’s wait until we get rolling there.”
Ed Carpenter Racing rookie Jordan King, who comes to IndyCar straight from Europe’s Formula 2 series, is new to the PFC package and has worked with the team to find optimal temperature ranges to get the most out of their brakes.
“First time in the car at Sonoma, braking was a little bit unsteady, more to the sense of there was a lot to learn about the car because everything was different and the team was learning brake cooling – what works, and what doesn’t,” the Briton said of his Chevy-powered entry. “We’ve learned a lot, and since Sonoma, made a few procedural changes, a few little things mechanically, and with my second test at Sebring, I started to get pretty happy with braking and the performance.”
With significant differences in the Brembo and PFC products, IndyCar teams and drivers have zeroed in on the needs of the new brake components to deliver high performance entering and exiting the corners. Considering the limited number of test days at their disposal since the testing window opened in early January, the learning process, as Rahal alluded to, will continue into St. Pete and beyond.
“I always say that whatever happens first sets the rest of the corner up,” King added. “What you’re doing with braking is the first part of the process in many corners, and how you have them set up – whether it’s more bias to the rear, or the front – will determine the balance of the car, and you’ll need to adapt and change that to suit your style.
“It’s not just about how well the brakes slow the car down; it’s searching and finding the right bias, getting the cooling to where it’s needed, and keeping them in a temperature range that brings the most performance out. Every braking system has different characteristics, and it’s our responsibility – each team – to work out what they need to give you the best setup.”