The NTT IndyCar Series will provide its teams with more options to generate downforce at its superspeedway events in Indianapolis, Pocono, and Dallas-Fort Worth.
The change in philosophy comes after consulting IndyCar’s drivers and race engineers on the best way to create more dynamic racing at the Indianapolis 500 and the Pocono 500, in particular, with its new-for-2018 universal aero kit.
Both marquee events fell short of expectations after teams complied with rules calling for reduced downforce; a narrow range of aerodynamic tuning options, especially at the back of the cars with strict limits on rear wing angles, made it difficult to achieve an aero balance that met each driver’s needs.
The new solution offered by IndyCar is to provide more aero tuning freedom in superspeedway trim, specifically through downforce-adding Gurney flaps atop the spec rear wing element at the rear of the Chevy- and Honda-powered Dallara DW12s.
Three 3/8-inch tall flaps, which are optional, have been approved for use that vary in width and downforce production. The first, 13.2 inches wide, adds 50 pounds of downforce. The second, at 24.5 inches wide, provides a 100-pound increase in downforce. And the third, which spans the full width of the wing, offers 200 pounds of downforce.
IndyCar has approved the 50- and 100-pound flaps for Indy, and all three for Pocono. The pieces are not permitted at Texas Motor Speedway.
“They give pretty substantial amounts of downforce because the rear wing is so small,” Simon Pagenaud’s Team Penske Chevy engineer Ben Bretzman told RACER. “This is in response to how we’re going to make the racing better, and I think some of that will also be achieved by the tires Firestone is bringing. I know IndyCar is trying to get to a downforce level where we can have more overall downforce and grip, and this gives us more options to make the cars handle better — especially in traffic.”
Extreme heat at the Indy 500 exacerbated the problem. Teams piled on all the downforce allowed in the rules, and yet, with the hot air serving to reduce overall downforce, all manner of handling imbalances — and numerous crashes — were seen. Bretzman believes the options to add rear downforce, which can be balanced by adding more front wing angle, should improve the situation without giving teams the ability to run excessive downforce.
“It was so hot in the race, and we were maxed out on downforce, so there were things that made it challenging to cope,” he said. “It was very tough to run behind people, and this solution comes from everyone working on it to help improve the show. We’ve had a lot of downforce levels we’ve run at Indy with the DW12, and we have an idea of what we need to put on that good racing, which IndyCar is aiming to hit with the UAK18 kit and these changes.”