IndyCar’s efforts to improve the racing at the Indianapolis 500 by allowing teams to run more downforce haven’t worked, drivers have said following the first two days of practice for the race.
IndyCar has enjoyed some success in counteracting this by increasing the aerodynamic set-up options on the specification Dallara DW12 chassis used in the series. Drivers praised the changes following a competitive race at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this year.
Some of the parts teams were allowed to use at that race have been made available for the series’ blue riband event. Drivers and teams have been allowed to run a steeper rear wing angle and use extra downforce-producing parts at the front and rear of their floors if they choose.
However McLaren’s Pato O’Ward, who finished the last three Indy 500s in the top six, said the changes haven’t made a significant difference. “We’re not quite there,” he told NBC. “The aero bits seem to have done nothing for racing.
“Obviously it’s not ideal for when you’re running 10th or 11th in a pack, you can’t do anything, even when you’re sixth, seventh you can’t do anything. Only the first two lead cars can be kind of overtaking each other, maybe a third car can join the party. But other than that it’s pretty much a follow-the-leader situation.”
O’Ward said the racing is unlikely to improve significant compared to what was seen in recent seasons.
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“If you pull out of the bubble, you’re going to get a freight-trained,” he explained. “And the guys in front of you are getting towed, so you’re not able to suck up to ’em like if you were sucking up to a lead car.
“Obviously I would have love to have seen just a step in that because I feel like even if you’ve got one of the best cars or a solid car, if you’re stuck in a train it doesn’t matter. If the two cars in front of you are lead cars but if there’s 10 lappers for instance in a race, you can’t do anything. So [there’s] no change from what ’21 and ’22 have been.”
Simon Pagenaud, who won the last Indy 500 before the Aeroscreen was introduced, is also concerned the changes have not had the desired effect.
“I feel like we have a good range of downforce level, parts that we can use to make the car behave a certain way,” he said.
“IndyCar allowed us to have a bigger [range] and I feel like it’s better for racing. But it doesn’t stop the fact that when you are fifth in line, it’s still very difficult. The car ahead of you is still drafting, going same speed as you. Even if you’re good there doesn’t mean you’re going to pass.
“It’s still going to be first, second trading every single lap, similar. But we have a better range to work with, and that’s enjoyable.”
Their concerns were shared by Conor Daly. “In traffic it still is a challenge I would say<" said the Ed Carpenter driver after practice yesterday. "If you're deep in the pack, it didn't matter what car it was, it was rare to see people making progress unless people were letting people by. "The first two cars, boy, it looked like they were having a heck of a race. So I don't know if that's the case. I don't think it brings us closer. I think the entire field is just closer because everyone is really good, and the teams are really good." [leaderboard3]
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