The RACER Mailbag, February 2

The RACER Mailbag, February 2

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, February 2

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Q: So I have had this idea for a new generation of IndyCar. First off, IndyCar will have a standard tub/safety cell which all teams must use. Also, it will mandate the tire used in the series. Finally a maximum and minimum budget per car would be put in place and enforced! From there, teams are free to “race what they bring.” They can design everything around the safety tub. Engines, aero, dampers, springs, etc., are all on their own design, but for the year a team cannot exceed the max budget. Safety standards would have to be established.

I think this would be fun. You could have someone move the tub back to be over the rear wheels then stick a bi-turbo Porsche flat six in front and go. The team could elect to use wings and plates to generate downforce, they could design the undertray for it or they could stick a fan on the back and suck it down but so long as the budget is not busted.

Severe penalties would have to be in place for those who go over the budget limit. Penalties would range from dollar amounts to lose of wins to lose of championship.

For multiple car teams the budget for each additional care is reduced by $750,000 from the previous car’s budget. The development of the first car is the most expensive. Everything after that is built on the findings of the first one and would be cheaper to build.

I think that would bring creativity and ingenuity back to the series.

What do you think?

Steven Brewer

MP: It would bring creativity, ingenuity, acid-reflux, night sweats, hyperventilation, panic attacks, and fainting, Steve. And I love it.

Only problem here is, no joke, IndyCar teams have been using spec cars for so long, it isn’t like the old days where each team has a number of people on staff who know how to design bodywork, suspension, wings, engines, transmissions, etc. There are far too many crew members who, because of the timing of when they made it to IndyCar, have done nothing other than bolt spec parts on and off the cars.

The ingrained culture of creativity isn’t completely lost, but the days of mechanics, crew chiefs, and engineers knowing how to turn an idea into a prototype piece they’ve made by hand are largely in the past. No doubt this could be jump started and fixed with some new staffers hired from the various Formula SAE college programs.

Q: Longtime IndyCar fan here, but relatively new to the sports car endurance racing. I’m wondering at the Daytona 24 Hours, what do the teams do to balance the setup of the car, given the vast difference between the high-speed banked speedway section, then the flat, tight corners of the infield section?

Steve, MI

MP: All about compromise. At Daytona, most of the lap is spent on the banking and straights, so reducing downforce and drag is where most teams focus their setups. You’ll find a few who prefer to go with a bit more downforce to help their drivers under braking and in the faster corners, but that’s rarely the winning move. Since the start/finish line is at the end of a long straight, and not the infield, the setup priority is clear. There’s also a fair amount of crashing hard over a few curbs, so teams will avoid going for super stiff suspension settings; that’s why we got to see a lot of wiggles and catching of oversteer coming out of the Bus Stop.

Rolex setup secrets: Get the car working well on these bits, and deal with the twisty stuff as best you can. Richard Dole/Motorsport Images

Q: I’ve just finished watching the end of the Rolex 24 from Daytona. A riveting finish and a good, full field, but I question the number of drivers per car and the number of classes racing. How many is too many? I’d think sharing a car with three others, driving perhaps six hours of the 24, standing watching for 18, would devalue the satisfaction. And are five confusing classes – three for prototypes which, from the stands and on television look pretty similar – necessary?

Anthony Jenkins, Canada

MP: The one thing almost every driver who competes in the Rolex 24 says afterwards is how exhausted they are and how they want to sleep for a week. At most IMSA races, they get an hour, maybe two, behind the wheel. There’s no dissatisfaction. Multi-class racing has been the norm in endurance racing forever. The weird thing is, I don’t recall a lot of complaints about having too many categories when IMSA’s four-class series (GTP, GTP Lights, GTO and GTU) was a raging success in the 1980s and early 1990s, or with the ALMS during its golden years during the 2000s with four classes.

Q: I’d say that IndyCar has the best-defined open-wheel racing ladder system, while Formula 1 has compensated with its F4-F3-F2-F1 ladder system. Where I get confused is, how does the U.S. Honda-powered F4 and FR Americas (F3) feeder series factor into American open-wheel racing? And were they supposed to lead to another OWR series like Formula Atlantic, or just be another option to get to Indy Lights?

And how does the U.S. Formula Juniors work in all of this? Is it intended to compete against U.S. Formula 4?

Also, the Mailbag reference to Foyt struggling to find staff for its third IndyCar entry makes me wonder where the third car will be based, since I believe the No. 14 is based in Houston and the second No. 4 entry is based in Indianapolis. And isn’t Foyt at a disadvantage by continuing to run out of two shops?

Also, as a blind racing fan who relies on screen readers, could you please post the second part of the Beth Paretta podcast on so I can access it? It seems to be hidden on the MP Podcast page with no accessible way for my screen reader to easily find and click the play button! I really enjoyed Part 1 and would like to listen to Part 2.

Tom Harader, Florence, OR

MP: The Honda-powered junior open-wheel series are creations of the SCCA Pro Racing division and are run by Parella Motorsports Holdings, the company behind Trans Am and the SVRA, and exist in isolation from Andersen Promotions’ Road to Indy Ladder and Penske Entertainment’s Indy Lights series. We’ve seen some quality crossover from the PMH series to RTI, with Linus Lundqvist, Benjamin Petersen, and Kyffin Simpson coming to mind. Honda’s advancement prize for winning in FRA is the reason for Simpson joining Indy Lights this year.

Andersen’s new USF Juniors series is indeed meant to rival F4 and give interested young drivers and their families no reason to go anywhere else but the RTI.

On the Foyt location question, I guess the easiest thing to say is if splitting a team into two separate locations was an advantage, every team would do it. So far, the Foyt team is the only one with this approach.

Glad you enjoyed the My Racing Life and Career visit with Beth. Here’s links to Part 1 and Part 2.