Is the new IndyCar superspeedway wing a weird boomerang, an ineffective showpiece, or an actual downforce-producing device?
“Yeah, it’s an actual wing,” said Tino Belli, IndyCar’s director of aerodynamic research.
Questions on the topic have come in from fans since the device was unveiled last year, and with its unique shape, featuring a swept profile and anhedral wing tips, the new one-piece unit was patterned after Honda’s speedway wing from last year’s manufacturer aero kit.
“The rear wing, the span, we tweaked the span a little bit wider, and surprisingly, those wing tips work really, really well,” Belli added. “They just make the wing think it is a larger span wing, just like on your [Boeing] 767s.”
Teams are expected to run at or near the limit of maximum downforce allowed by the series for Sunday’s Indy 500. With a specified usage range of negative nine degrees at its lowest downforce race and two degrees positive to give the most downforce, staying in the positive will be key if the forecast for temperatures above 90 degrees are accurate.
With help from IndyCar and the Auto Research Center in Indianapolis that helps with aero simulation for the series, some interesting numbers have been produced.
Adjusting the wing to negative nine degrees — a nose-up condition, it makes just 33 pounds of downforce on its own (pictured below).
Wound all the way forward to two degrees positive — a nose-down condition (below), it delivers 232 pounds of downforce.
Considering how the air flowing above and below the rear wing influences the air beneath it coming out from the underwing’s diffuser, a wing angle change can raise or lower the amount of downforce made below the car.
With that in mind, the full range of negative and positive wing settings can deliver 402 pounds of downforce change at the back of the cars.
Yes, it’s a wing. And depending on the angles that are used, it will play a big part in the speed or struggles encountered by the field of 33 come Sunday.