IndyCar’s aero kits planned for 2015 debut as part of innovation timeline

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Call it, “aero kits, take three.” The long-discussed, planned implementation of aerodynamic adjustments to the Dallara DW12 IndyCar begins for the rest of this year, as part of a 10-year gradual process of innovation. IndyCar series officials, including Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles and IndyCar’s new president of competition and operations, Derrick Walker, announced preliminary details of a return to innovation ahead of the Indianapolis 500.

With partner approval, IndyCar will introduce various aerodynamic configurations in 2015. Prior to actual body adjustments, the series will work with chassis provider Dallara to look to reduce the potential for lift on the car. That process begins immediately.

The timeline of getting manufacturers and teams confirmed will occur over the next two-three weeks, with participation set to be announced in July.

Essentially, how it breaks down is that the base DW12 chassis will be the model at least through 2018, with a completely new car look evident by 2019 if not sooner. The combination of aero adjustments plus horsepower increases by the manufacturers, when approved by all partners, will determine the evolution cycle between now and 2021, the end of this cycle.

Right now, it appears current manufacturers (Dallara, Chevrolet, Honda, Firestone) will be involved in the process, with the engine manufacturers the ones committing to aero kit designs. Plans for a revival of Indianapolis’ “cottage industry”  are remote at best, for the moment.

Stay tuned to MotorSportsTalk next week for more information on aero kits, their timeline, and their planned implementation. In the meantime, here are the initiatives outlined as part of IndyCar’s long-term strategy:

  • 2013 – IndyCar and Dallara look to reduce the surface area of the underbody of the current chassis to reduce the potential for lift in preparation for the addition of various aerodynamic configuaritions in 2015.
  • 2014 – Engine upgrades as part of the current homologation process; downforce adjustments to enhance racing, overtaking as well as safety at various racetrack configurations, as needed.
  • 2015 – Aero configuration components introduced for the full IZOD IndyCar Series season in conjunction with potential enhancements to the underbody.
  • 2016 – Opportunity for tire development, if needed, with Firestone, as well as engine power enhancements as required. As this year is the 100th Indianapolis 500, a new qualifying record of 237.000 mph is the goal.
  • 2017 – Possible aero configuration kits and engine upgrades. Potential for areas on car to be opened for team development.
  • 2018 – Competition enhancements made based on performance of 2017 package.
  • 2019 – Potential introduction of new body style and engine formula.
  • 2020 – Competition enhancements made based on performance of 2019 package.
  • 2021 – Possible aero configuration upgrade.

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

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TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.