IndyCar officials announce preliminary details of return to innovation

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Set against a backdrop of the historic cars that have graced Indianapolis Motor Speedway for more than a century, at the IMS Museum, IndyCar’s new leaders described the preliminary plan for innovation to return to the series.

The key word here is “preliminary.” Specific details were hard to find in the formal remarks made Thursday by Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, head of IndyCar’s parent company, and IndyCar’s new President of Competition/Operations Derrick Walker, who will take his new post after the month of May concludes.

The official line from the sanctioning body is that IndyCar will open the door to increased technical innovation in its cars and safety, with Walker directly responsible for identifying specific improvements and guiding their implementation.

Miles wants to see big speeds return to the Speedway – pun intended. Arie Luyendyk has the four-lap track record (236.986 mph),  the single-lap record (237.498 mph) and unofficial practice lap record (239.260) at IMS, all set in 1996 with a previous-year Reynard-Ford Cosworth IndyCar.

“We want to step up our game,” Miles said. “We’ve achieved a great car platform, so now we can move forward to explore what’s next.”

Ways to do so, at least with the current Dallara DW12 chassis and the 2.2L V6 turbocharged engines from Honda and Chevrolet, include the long-discussed but not-yet-finalized introduction of aero kits, and the plea from drivers, teams and fans alike for – as “Top Gear’s” Jeremy Clarkson might say – more power.

Walker said aero kits are more likely to see the light of day first, before manufacturers agree to a horsepower increase.

“The first bit will likely be aero kits,” said Walker. “There is room for the cars to advance aerodynamically.”

There’s a fine line to ensure innovation returns and the solid nature of the current IndyCar on-track product isn’t affected as a result, Walker said.

“There is plenty of speed in this car if we want to let it go, and if we can manage it,” he said. “To get where we want to go, it will take time. It will take a very careful structuring.”

In March, IndyCar announced the formation of an 11-member advisory Competition Committee. Members on it include Walker, officials from Dallara, HPD, Chevrolet and Firestone, other IndyCar senior officials and two drivers (Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dario Franchitti) and two team representatives (Tim Cindric, Penske and Bryan Herta).

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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