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.

Don’t know the Rolex 24? You should. Here’s why.

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Hello, America. It’s time to go racing again.

Yes, Supercross is now three weeks into its season, and the Chili Bowl Nationals is now effectively the Christopher Bell Invitational after the young NASCAR star won his 3rd consecutive Golden Driller last weekend.

But the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway is the first marquee event on the American racing calendar – an event that just happens to have international prestige.

It’s also the start of Daytona Speedweeks, which culminates with NASCAR’s Daytona 500 on Feb. 17. But this is no mere opening act just warming up the crowd for the headliner.

In case you’re new to this event, here are a few reasons why it stands out:

Twice around the clock: Are you the kind of person that appreciates a challenge? Well, challenges don’t get much bigger in motorsports than a 24-hour endurance race where drivers, crews, machines, and strategies must work together flawlessly. For those behind the wheel in the Rolex 24, the obstacles are numerous: Punishing G-forces, extreme mental focus, lack of sleep, and staying on top of hydration and nutrition.

Star power: Speaking of those behind the wheel, the Rolex 24 traditionally draws top drivers from other disciplines such as IndyCar, Formula 1 and NASCAR to join sports car regulars from North America and around the world. As a result, the winners’ list is a Who’s Who of Motorsports.

This year’s field includes a clutch of NTT IndyCar Series drivers, highlighted by 5-time series champion and past Rolex 24 winner Scott Dixon. But pre-race buzz has centered on two particular interlopers: Alex Zanardi, the former CART champion making his first North American start since losing his legs in a 2001 crash, and Fernando Alonso, the two-time F1 champion looking to add another endurance triumph alongside his win with Toyota in last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Cool cars: If you’re a gearhead, the Rolex 24 is a 200-mile-per-hour candy store. Across the four separate classes of competition, 13 of the world’s premier car manufacturers are represented.

The majority of those manufacturers are found in the Grand Touring classes that feature vehicles based on road-going production models. Chevy and Ford’s eternal rivalry rages on in the factory-backed GT Le Mans, but the class also boasts efforts from BMW, Porsche, and Ferrari. It’s even more diverse in the pro-am GT Daytona, where Porsche is joined by Audi, Lamborghini, Lexus and Mercedes.

As for the exotic, purpose-built Daytona Prototypes, they are powered by engines from Cadillac, Acura, Mazda and Nissan.

Nifty fifty: This year’s Rolex 24 begins the 50th anniversary season for IMSA, the sanctioning body for North American sports car racing. A select group of teams will mark the occasion at the Rolex 24 by running historic IMSA paint schemes on their machines. You may not be familiar with these looks, but it’s worth discovering the history behind them.

Here’s an example. The Starworks Motorsports team (GT Daytona) will carry a scheme based on Audi of America’s 90 Quattro from the 1989 IMSA GTO season. Boasting sports car legends Hurley Haywood and Hans-Joachim Stuck in the driver lineup, the 90 Quattro captured 7 GTO wins that season.

Audi’s performance led one competitor to create a “no passing” sticker with Stuck’s face on it. Stuck’s response: A doll fixed to his car’s rear window that dropped its pants to moon anyone Stuck put behind him.

Status symbol: Last but not least, the Rolex 24 has a unique prize – a trophy you can wear.

Winners get a standard cup, but what they’re really after are the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona watches, which include a special engraving to commemorate their victory. A standard version of this watch retails for tens of thousands of dollars, but you can’t put a price on the ones awarded at the Rolex 24.

This year’s grand marshal, 5-time Rolex 24 winner Scott Pruett, sums it up as “the ultimate reward.”

“To be presented a watch engraved with the word ‘Winner’ after 24 hours of intense racing is a moment that lives with you forever,” he added. “Your Rolex is a constant reminder of the perseverance and hard work that goes into succeeding at the highest level.”