Report: Aero kits finally set for IndyCar debut in 2014

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After a long wait that’s been punctuated by multiple delays, the IZOD IndyCar Series will see the debut of aero kits in a limited role next season.

Marshall Pruett and NBC Sports Network’s Robin Miller are reporting on that the new aero kits, which will be fashioned by Wirth Research and Honda Performance Development for Honda and Pratt & Miller and GM Racing for Chevrolet, will only appear in the Triple Crown events in 2014: The Indianapolis 500, the Pocono 400, and MAV TV 500 at Fontana. Every other track on the IndyCar circuit will see the regular Dallara DW12 chassis.

According to Pruett and Miller, it is believed that the Honda camp wanted a limited schedule while Chevrolet wanted to use the kits everywhere; in addition, a meeting on the matter last week in Indianapolis that was to involve both manufacturers did not see representatives from GM attend.

Naturally, there are mixed reactions to the decision to use the kits at just three events, with HPD’s Roger Griffiths saying that “it’s the right step” and Chevy-powered Panther Racing team owner John Barnes admitting to being “befuddled” by the call.

The IndyCar aero kit saga has been a drawn-out affair — almost annoyingly so, at times.

As the debut of the Dallara DW12 approached in 2012, fan interest was high on seeing kits to help create different looks on the spec chassis. However, with the entire paddock experiencing the effects of the new car coming in over-budget, the team owners opted for a one-year delay on the plan in 2011. Then early in 2012, the owners chose to delay the kits once again with cost containment still a priority and the emergence of a strong racing product without the kits also coming into play.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.