The NTT IndyCar Series has finalized most of its plans for testing the new Red Bull Advanced Technologies aeroscreen in the coming weeks, and not every team is pleased with the selection process.
On October 2, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon (Honda) and Team Penske’s Will Power (Chevy) will provide feedback for RBAT and the series on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.
The process moves to Alabama’s Barber Motorsports Park on October 7 as part of a Firestone tire test where Power will hand over to his Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud, who will share the track with Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay (Honda) on a road course. Aeroscreen testing concludes at another Firestone venue as CGR’s Dixon and either an Andretti or Penske driver visits the short oval in Richmond, Virginia, which rejoins the calendar in 2020.
With IndyCar’s ‘Big 3’ chosen to conduct the series’ aeroscreen testing, some of their rivals have privately stated their disappointment at the selection process. According to IndyCar president Jay Frye, the methodology used to pick teams had two criteria.
“It’s basically been done on who’s leading towards the end of the season in points,” he told RACER. “That’s the Penske and Andretti part of it. And the other is [CGR’s] Scott Dixon has been part of the whole aeroscreen process, going back to last year with the first one we tried. We want him to be part of this entire process, and the other deciding factor was points.”
Unlike the non-RBAT aeroscreen IndyCar created and tested in 2018 that was attached to the Dallara DW12 chassis with bolts, the new RBAT design requires permanent bonding of the carbonfiber frame that holds the see-through screen directly to the top of the chassis.
“It’s not just a case of bolting it on to anybody’s car who shows up,” Frye said. “This is actually a dedicated tub modification where the frame has been bonded to the tubs, so these are being done while the teams’ other cars are racing this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Right now, there’s two cars right now that have it done, and the third’s getting done.”
Concerns have been expressed over Andretti, Ganassi, and Penske receiving an unfair advantage by getting a head start on working with the 50-pound aeroscreen next month. Due to the aeroscreen’s heft and high forward location, chassis setups from 2019 are expected to be largely unusable, meaning the October chassis data captured by the Big 3 in testing could leave their rivals well behind when the aeroscreens are mass-produced and distributed in December.
Due to testing blackout windows, teams are not expected to turn their first laps with the aeroscreen installed until January.
“We’re going to go about this the same way we did with the [new-for-2018 universal] aero kits,” Frye explained. “And with the data piece of it, again, all teams will be invited to come to the tests, come and observe, and then we as IndyCar will collect data off the cars, and then we are going to distribute it to Chevy and Honda, who will then will distribute to the teams, which is the identical way we did it with the aero kits.”
Other than Dixon, Frye says the roster among the other aeroscreen test drivers could change towards the end of the validation project.
“We need Dixon to go through the entire process; he started at Phoenix for us in 2018; he’s done a halo test in the simulator; he’s done our frame in the simulator; he’s been part of the entire program, so he’s our constant,” he noted. “So there’s other drivers involved throughout the whole process, which is important, Indy 500 winners and champions.
“And there’ll probably be maybe another driver or two involved, even though it might be the same car, so it’s a Ganassi car or it’s a Penske car or an Andretti car, and we might get more drivers in the seat of one if we can.
“So, really think of it as a sign-off test. That’s we’re trying to do. You’ve got the Speedway, you got a road course and you’ve got a short oval. Data doesn’t drive, drivers drive. So we want to get the driver’s input and then if everything’s a go, then we’ll just press the button and we’ll start production.”