Juan Pablo Montoya Penske IndyCar NOLA 2015

Aero kits to shake up IndyCar competition in 2015

2015 IndyCar season preview

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Juan Pablo Montoya Penske IndyCar NOLA 2015For the first time in almost a decade, in 2015 the IndyCar field is not made up of identical cars.

Aerodynamic development has been opened up for the new season, though unusually it is the engine developers who have been allowed to take the lead rather than the teams themselves. Chevrolet and Honda have produced the kits and it’s up to the teams to decide which parts they will use.

So while the add-ons are a mixed bag from an aesthetic point of view, the possibility of different cars using different parts of their aero kits will introduce a new element of variety to the championship at least in terms of how the cars look.

But what effect will they have on the competition, if any? A major attraction of IndyCar since the current chassis was introduced three years ago is how closing the racing has been. A different champion has been crowned every year and the 52 races with the Dallara DW12 have seen 17 different winners – more than twice as many as F1 has managed over the same period.

Encouragingly the first test with the new aero kit indicated the field remains close. The top 17 were covered by one second in the final test at Barber Motorsports Park.

The cars are visibly faster both on the camera – see the onboard video below – and on the stopwatch: reigning champion Will Power beat his pole position time from last year’s race at the Alabama track by a full second. This is despite other changes to the cars intended to control speeds and prevent them launching in the event of a high-speed spin.

IndyCar, Barber Motorsports Park, 2014That leaves one concern: will the racing still be close? Testing suggested Chevrolet may start the season with a performance advantage over Honda.

What’s more, some believe IndyCar’s power-to-grip ratio needed to be swung in the opposite direction, and adding downforce instead of horsepower was the wrong way to go. We’ll start to discover how successful they’ve been when the racing resumes next week.

And what a long wait it has been for racing to resume. IndyCar’s off-season began at the end of August last year, and the cancellation of the planned season opening race in Brazil by its promoter has delayed the beginning of the new season by another three weeks. It has, however, ensured the new aero kits will be in place for the first race of the year.

Despite the loss of Brasilia there is still one new venue on the calendar. NOLA Motorsports Park in Louisiana, which opened four years ago, will host the second round of the championship and its first IndyCar race:

After months of inaction the season will pass in a blur. The traditional visit to Long Beach marks the mid-point of races on three consecutive weekends in April. May means Indianapolis, and for the second year in a row the month-long festivities kick off with a race on a much-improved version of the old F1 road course, although the standing start has been scrapped at this and other rounds where it was used last year.

It serves as a teaser for the high point of the calendar: the Indianapolis 500, where the cars will race the speedway versions of their aero kits for the first time.

Soon afterwards the cars will be back in street configuration for the only double-header race of the year in Detroit. IndyCar’s experiment with holding two races on one weekend has in truth largely served to prove you can have too much of a good thing. But the increased physical demand of driving these quicker cars will mean tough work for any driver who completes both these races, held within seven days of the flag falling at Indianapolis.

2014 Indianapolis 500There are races on the next two weekends too: on an oval in Texas and at Toronto’s street course, the latter having reverted to holding a single race after last year’s event was badly disrupted by rain.

Although the season still ends in California it will not be at Fontana, whose 500-mile race has been moved forward two months to June when the heat will be a little less ferocious. Milwaukee, Iowa and Pocono follow this earlier event as IndyCar takes in a diverse selection of America’s many ovals, with only a trip to the undulating Mid-Ohio course giving the drivers a chance to turn right in this run of five races.

For the first time in the history of the championship which began life in 1996 as the ‘breakaway’ IndyCar series, a road course will host the season finale. But depressingly IndyCar has seen fit to mimic the double points finale F1 experimented with last year then dropped having been the subject season-long derision.

IndyCar already offers double points for the three rounds which are more or less double distance – the 500-mile races at Indianapolis, Fontana and Pocono – but there’s no justification for doing so at Sonoma beyond a desperate wish to keep the title contest alive until the final round. Why this should suddenly seem so important when every IndyCar championship since 2006 has been decided at the last race is beyond understanding. As with F1 last year, hopefully it will have no major consequences and then be quickly dropped.

2015 IndyCar drivers and teams

#DriverTeamNotes
1Will PowerPenskeFinally claimed the crown last year having been runner-up three times in a row.
2Juan Pabo MontoyaPenskeWill expect more from the second year of his IndyCar return having taken victory at Pocono last season.
3Helio CastronevesPenskePart of the furniture at Penske where he’s starting his 17th season in a row after two title near-misses.
4Stefano ColettiKVLed GP2 comfortably at mid-season in 2013 with Rapax, then collapsed in second half and ended the year fifth.
5James HinchcliffeSchmidtDropped by Andretti after a win-less 2014, he could work wonders with Sam Schmidt’s team.
7James JakesSchmidtReturns to IndyCar after a year’s absence from racing last season.
8Sage KaramGanassiWon the Indy Lights title in 2013, in the top ten finish in his first Indy 500 last year, had a big crash in testing.
9Scott DixonGanassiTwice a champion since reunification, ended last season with two wins, a second and fourth.
10Tony KanaanGanassiKanaan’s first year at Ganassi culminated in a breakthrough win and he began 2015 with victory in the Daytona 24 Hours.
11Sebastien BourdaisKVMultiple Champ Car champion took his first win since returning to IndyCars last year, and two pole positions.
14Takuma SatoFoytAlso took two pole positions last year but there were no podium finishes for the veteran Honda campaigner.
15Graham RahalRLLSecond place in Detroit was the only memorable moment from an otherwise indifferent 2014 campaign.
18Carlos HuertasCoyneThe Formula Renault 3.5 graduate took a fluke win on the streets of Houston last year but otherwise never figured.
19Francesco DraconeDale CoyneLittle is expected from the rookie who has moved up from Auto GP. Ran old aerodynamics in testing.
20Ed CarpenterCFHShared a car with Mike Conway last year, scoring enough combined points for eighth in the drivers’ championship.
20Luca FilippiCFHTakes over from Conway driving the road and street courses while Carpenter continues to do the oval races.
22Simon PagenaudPenskeRemained in content for the title until the final race with Schmidt last year, should be a major force with Penske.
26Carlos MunozAndrettiTends to go well on the big ovals but had massive fluctuations in form last year.
27Marco AndrettiAndrettiLike Rahal, another new generation driver who’s been short on success and looks increasingly long in the tooth.
28Ryan Hunter-ReayAndrettiLast year was a mix of fine wins – such as Indy – and woeful moments – such as Long Beach – for the 2012 champion.
29Simona de SilvestroAndrettiBack at Andretti for the first race at least after testing for Sauber but failing to land a Formula One seat.
41Jack HawksworthFoytNot the rookie champion last year but surely the most impressive newcomer. Led most laps of Indy GP.
67Josef NewgardenCFHStarted the last four races from the top five in a steadily improving campaign.
83Charlie KimballGanassiDidn’t manage to improve on his 2013 campaign last year, slipping to a win-less 14th.
98Gabby ChavesBryan HertaThe reigning Indy Lights champion makes his IndyCar debut in St Petersburg.

2015 IndyCar spotters’ guide

NB. De Silvestro’s drive was confirmed too late for her to run in testing.

2015 IndyCar calendar

IndyCar on F1 Fanatic

F1 Fanatic Live will be running during every round of the IndyCar series. You can also join the IndyCar group here:

Videos

Onboard lap of Barber Motorsports Park with James Hinchcliffe

Nick Wirth on the Honda aero kit

Honda’s aero kit was designed Nick Wirth, formerly of Virgin and Simtek’s F1 programmes.

NOLA Motorsports Park

Over to you

Will you be watching the IndyCar championship this year? What effect do you expect the new aero kits to have?

Have your say in the comments.

IndyCar

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 42 comments on “Aero kits to shake up IndyCar competition in 2015”

    1. I find those aero kits quite ugly… But if the competition is good, it’s fine!

    2. How many ex-F1 drivers on the grid. I saw Montoya there… Who else?

      1. Seabass and Sato.

      2. There are about 14 ex-F1 drivers in Formula E.

      3. Montoya, Bourdais, Takuma Sato and Justin Wilson.

    3. im not fond of how the current indycars look, but i like the competition and the great race tracks in indycar. the mix of road courses, street courses and ovals is a great dimension. im also a big Power and Montoya fan, and think De Silvestro is the best female driver and would win in a winning car. i wish the races were free to air in Australia, like they were back in champcar days. it is a shame indycar had the big rift in mid 90s and split to 2 series, now it is back to one, but if there was no split, i wonder how far reaching the sport would have gone worldwide… it was massive, i remember the australian surfers paradise race was as big as the adelaide/melbourne gps here in australia – huge crowds, with the same amount of TV coverage. i remember 16,000rpm engines on ovals doing 250mph top speed – very exciting! a great series, that seams to be bouncing back to its best. the engines are also v6 turbo like f1, but are louder and better sounding overall.

    4. Come on these aero kits are an early April fool?!

      Mixed bag aesthetically?! only if the bag is from Lidl.

      1. I guess you weren’t watching F1 in 2008. The FIA regulated a lot of the aero away in 2009, essentially.

        1. been watching since 78 dude. I remember the 2008 cars very well. LH won a WDC an I watched him “win” at Spa. In hindsight they are bad but the aero was better engineered than these plastic pigs.

        2. Te pre-2009 cars were fine with me. (OK, except for those multi-horned Earthdreams horrors.). From a racing-fan point of view, a car carefully designed from scratch to rules can be appreciated, even if not loved, horns and all. But a car designed one way and then simply festooned with a separately conceived “kit” is a bit of a joke.

    5. Francesco Dracone replacing Justin Wilson may be the least fair trade in IndyCar.

    6. I’ve said before over the past few weeks that I think the new aero kits are just plain ugly, I hate all the stupid flaps & winglets just as much as I did when they were all over the Pre 2009 F1 cars.

      I’ve also seen several quotes from top indycar engineer’s talking about how they expect the racing to be worse this year, On the ovals especially because these new aero kits produce a significant amount of “Aero Wash” which is there term for Dirty air.
      I’ve also seen at least 1 driver talk about finding it impossible to get anywhere near another car during testing because of that & that braking zones are a lot smaller this year which he expert’s will also hamper overtaking opportunities.

      To be perfectly honest I find the look of the cars to be so ugly that if the racing is bad I won’t be watching past the 1st few races.

      1. While it is good to have some innovation and variations in design between the teams there are concerns as you mentioned. If the overtaking is more difficult due to higher amounts of dirty air from the aero kits then they become a detriment, not an enhancement. We’ll see how it goes in actual racing conditions.

        I find the table winglets to be particularly displeasing from an aesthetic point of view. Not a fan of forever cascading wings on front wings either, but at least they flow up from the wing and follow some form. As opposed to being just a flat table sticking up in the air as if waiting for a starbux coffee to land upon it.

        Looking forward to the season and hoping for good racing. Hope JPM has an even better season now that he has a season back in the seat in Indy Car. Mostly would like to see good racing and a variety of inners. Did I mention that those table winglets are ugly? ;-)

        1. uhm, variety of “winners“…

    7. Double points (BOO! HISS!) will only be at the Indy 500 and at Sonoma.

      I’m really excited for the season anyhow. The aero kits look horrid but they’re gradually growing on me. If they will make the series even more exciting (despite not doing that in theory) then all the better. With six open-wheel American champions in the field, we are not short in talent (Dracone aside) also.

    8. Thank you @keithcollantine for this article! I follow IndyCar as closely as F1, I wish there was an IndyCar Fanatic site!

      The cars’ looks grow on you, lots of people didn’t like the looks of the old Dallara chassis but I think they look (and sound!) like proper race cars. As long as the cars are fast and the racing is close, I don’t really care how they look anyway.

      Have to say I’m pretty disappointed in the double points finale. As you say in the article, there’s really no need since the points championship has always gone down to the final race anyway!

      Anyway, I’m really looking forward to this season. The physical demands that are upon these drivers during the season is crazy, especially the double in Detroit. A lot of the tracks are really bumpy and there is no power steering. Loving too that they are opening up the aero restrictions, can’t wait to see how it plays out!

    9. You had me freaking out like “wait, kanaan won the Daytona 500? How did I miss this and when did he start driving NASCAR??” Then it hit me you meant the Daytona 24 Hours. Might want to correct that ;)

    10. If you thought these aero kits couldn’t look any more ridiculous, Honda tried this at the final day:
      http://www.hostingbytes.us/images/3/5181864.png

      1. I guess we will have to see how it races. Nothing is prettier than a winner…..

    11. Joey Logano won the Daytona 500. Kanaan & Dixon were part of the winning Daytona 24 team.

      Toronto lost a race because they lost their spot on the calander because of the Pan-Am games. The entire race weekend was almost lost for a year.

    12. The rise of these aero kits reminds me of how IndyCar, after replacing CART with a spec series, was eventually supposed to bring back a variety of chassis and designs, restoring the mixture of competition and innovation CART had. Now it’s getting on to be TWENTY years after the split and the first whiff of plurality in design is in the form of these gross “aero kits.” I was looking back at the beautiful designs from Lola, Reynard, Swift, Penske. Even Porsche and Ferrari had a look in with their own chassis programs, such was the technological vibrancy of the series.

      1. Totally, totally agree – @dmw . I rue the day Tony George won the Indy Car vs. CART war. He may have won, but the fans have lost out ever since. I almost completely stopped watching for a few years except for following a few of my favorite drivers. Those were some beautiful race cars back in the day and some of the most lovely open wheel racers ever.

        1. He may have won, but the fans have lost out ever since.

          I disagree in that I think we have seen some of the best racing in American open wheel history over the past few years on every different type of circuit.

          If you just talking about the cars then i’d agree the CART cars looked better, But then as I say I think the 2012-2014 Dallara produced way better racing far more consistently.

          1. I would agree the racing has improved the last few years in the IndyCar single seater series. However, this was after enduring years of promises of more road courses and less ovals in IndyCar. If I recall correctly there was nothing but ovals in IndyCar the first few years after the split. Tony Grant won the war mostly because he had the Indy 500 and CART did not.

            The thing that bothers me most is that the split never needed to happen and for years after the racing was a lot worse for the fans as a result. I thought the racing in CART before the split was really good most of the time. Different cars and teams competing on a great mix of ovals, short tracks. road and street courses. It has taken almost 20 years to come close to what CART had. Mostly due to the greed of one man. It didn’t need to happen.

            Am I still bitter about the split 20 years later? Obviously. LOL :-) I admit to still watching the Indy 500 most every year. I’m very glad IndyCar racing is rebounding. It is the concept of what we had in CART that I appreciate much more. It was more similar to F1 in concept, it was still open wheel and the racing was good. The cars did look better, but that is not the most important thing over all.

            1. Tony George

          2. I disagree in that I think we have seen some of the best racing in American open wheel history over the past few years on every different type of circuit.

            I’m in the process of watching the 1996 CART championship races in full for the first time (and have just watched the 1995 championship) and I have to say by every measure – quality of drivers, quality of racing, quality of tracks – that championship 20 years ago was far better in pretty much every respect. I still like IndyCar very much but what we have today is very much a pale shadow of what it once was, and I’m afraid the blame for that belongs with the person who originated the split. It was devastating for open-wheel racing in America.

            I truly hope they can find the way back and that permitting some aerodynamic development will help attract a new generation of fans by showing it’s more than just another single-specification series. But there’s a very long way to go and with the best will in the world I don’t see it happening in the short or medium-term.

            1. Jimmy Vasser was a better driver than Will Power or Scott Dixon? Sorry but that’s plain rose-tinted specs. I can understand saying some of the cars or tracks were better, but Vasser and Zanardi winning the championship made the rest of the CART field look laughable (even factoring in the Ganassi equipment advantage).

            2. @jb001 You’ve reduced my point about the ‘quality of drivers, racing and tracks’ in IndyCar two decades ago to being about just two drivers in a single season. Point well and truly missed, I’m afraid.

    13. Dixon is a three time champ, not two! This kiwi can’t let that go unnoticed.

      1. @roodda I meant post-reunification, have cleared that up.

        1. Would you care to explain what your point was then, Keith? All I saw was yet another sweeping statement about CART being uber alles and how evil Tony George was. Talk about reducing points…

          1. @jb001 – I was the one who specifically mentioned Tony George by name and also made the point that I thought the open wheel racing series was much better before the split than most of the time since. While I wouldn’t say Tony George was evil (your word) I would say his greed shortchanged the the fans and lowered the quality of racing since the split. Just recently, the last couple of seasons, the single seater series (no longer open wheel) has improved in quality of racing compared to the previous many years.

            My point is that the split did not need to happen and was bad for the fans of open wheel racing. It was mostly due to the greed of one person and it did not need to happen. Do you think the split was beneficial to open wheel race fans?

            My point of view comes as a fan who has watched USAC, CART, IRL, CCWS and IndyCar racing since the mid 1960s. As recently as 2004 the IRL had no street or road courses on their schedule even though they were promised to fans from the start. Tony George tried to suffocate CART out of business by any means possible. Especially by using the Indy 500 as a weapon against CART and keeping their teams and drivers out of the biggest open wheel race of the year. Is that a good move for the fans? To keep some of the best drivers out of the biggest race of the year?

            The open wheel series in its various forms has been one of my favorites for most of my life. The CART years had some great drivers and produced some fantastic racing for many years. For you to put down an entire era because of your low opinion of two drivers seems rather myopic at best.

            CART was never perfect, no series is (look at F1, lol) and Tony George was not the first to try to effect major changes to the way it was run. He was the one who used his power, greed and family’s racetrack against CART at the expense of the fans. Single seater racing in the US is just now showing signs of recovery. That is the point.

          2. Oh, and one more thing – @jb001

            Say what you will about Zanardi, he still pulled of one of the more spectacular passes in open wheel racing in the corkscrew on the last lap at Laguna Seca in 1996.
            Enjoy!

            http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xs3hax_cart-laguna-seca-1996-final-lap-zanardi-pass-herta-in-corkscrew_sport

    14. Racerdude7730
      24th March 2015, 3:23

      I didn’t read over every comment but when it comes to the front wings looking the way they do a lot of that has to do with the rules they had to work with. I think they could have been more elegant but they were only aloud to bolt parts into the holes that were already on the main plane of the wing. So I think if they could have bolted and mounted where they wanted things wouldn’t look so big and weird the way they do. I find it was a dumb rule and should be changed so they could mount things in a more elegant way

    15. Great article.
      Minor point – Dixon is a three time champion.
      What happened to Justin Wilson and what is he going to do? Some of his Indycar seasons were very good, would merit a place with a top team!

      1. Think I read something about teams opting for a pay driver rather than Justin Wilson. A travesty and all too familiar to F1 fans.

    16. Very interesting and helpful article.
      Schmidt Peterson seems to be attributed to two different teams (his name appears under two different pics). Is that correct – will he do some races for one team and some for another?

      1. Stupid! I didn’t realise that was the name of the team. Doh!

    17. After years of being formula honda with pretty much same cars with very much same engines Indy Car may be returning to the glory days of CART when we had some real racing………….. Thanks, Norris

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