Will third time be charm for Indy’s aero kits? At least now, there’s a plan

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The IZOD IndyCar Series is officially at a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” point with the much-ballyhooed, not yet implemented “aero kits.”

Derrick Walker, the longtime open-wheel racing team owner who is now the INDYCAR sanctioning body’s new president of competition and operations, described them accurately in Sunday’s press conference in Detroit as “the infamous aero kits.” If all parties agree, they’ll happen in 2015.

The technical merits and accolades of what the “aero kits” can be can come later. But in brief, “aero kits” were meant to be parts built by manufacturers to place on the existing Dallara DW12 chassis to provide both technical innovation and differentiation among the current cars. Twice, the collection of IndyCar team owners voted down the kits for implementation, and their introduction has been delayed.

New leadership at INDYCAR, both in the form of Walker and his boss, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, have stressed the importance of bringing some level of innovation back to IndyCar racing, and the aero kits are again the talking point.

What Walker, Miles and series vp of technology Will Phillips have done here is outlined a cost-effective, sensible, timeline that wouldn’t be astronomical in the short term and send even more teams packing.

Keep in mind, we’ve already lost Panther DRR the rest of this year, while the team that won the Indianapolis 500, KV Racing Technology, is still searching for primary sponsorship of Tony Kanaan’s car for a handful of races, per reports.

Within the confines of what INDYCAR is now, compared to your “pick your glory era” heyday of the 1970s, ‘80s or ‘90s, this is the only step for innovation with the commercial aspect being what it is and the TV ratings being what they are. The budgets are not there, now, to make true “innovation” occur the same as it did in other decades.

IndyCar has a contract with Dallara, so it’s not like a new chassis provider can come in off the streets and sell new chassis. Eventually, perhaps, the Indianapolis “cottage industry” can sprout back up to make some of the parts for these aero advances.

Besides the pockets of a handful of team owners, it’s not like the commercial sponsorships – the millions of dollars you see in a Formula One budget, for instance – are there to support the technological advances in modern IndyCars that there were when chassis providers could build a new car each year.

So, at this point, it’s laudable that INDYCAR has a plan to put the aero kits into action, and the necessary buffer/liaison between the sanctioning body and the team owners in Walker to see that their concerns and questions are answered and a sense of innovation – if small – can be attained.

We’ll have to see whether the aero kits actually see the light of day or whether this was just another “much ado about nothing” press conference.

WATCH: Red Bull F1 team completes pit stop in zero gravity

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The Red Bull Racing pit crew may have already made headlines last weekend when it completed the fastest pit stop in Formula One history, changing Max Verstappen’s tires in 1.82 seconds, but the team’s most recent stunt took their skills to new heights – quite literally.

With the help of the Russian Space agency Roscomos, a group of the team’s mechanics completed the world’s first zero-gravity pit stop, on-board a IIyushin II-76K cosmonaut training plane.

Using a 2005 BR1, the team filmed the viral video over the course of a week, enduring seven flights and about 80 parabolas – periods in which the plane climbs 45 degrees before falling again at a ballistic arch of 45 degrees, creating a period of weightlessness for approximately 22 seconds.

With such a short time frame between weightlessness periods, the car and equipment had to be both quickly and safely secured before gravity once again took effect. Each filming lasted roughly 15 seconds, and the stunt was the most physically and technically demanding activity the live demo team had ever undertaken.

“It pushed us harder than I thought it would,” said Red Bull Support Team Mechanic Joe Robinson. “You realize how much you rely on gravity when you don’t have any!

“It challenges you to think and operate in a different way – and that was brilliant. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and honestly, I could have stayed and done it all month. It was amazing. I think it’s the coolest, most fun thing the Live Demo team has ever done with a show car.”

Though Red Bull was the first team to perform a pit stop in zero gravity, surprisingly Red Bull was not the first team to put a car through zero gravity. In 1999, McLaren driver David Coulthard and his car experienced zero gravity as part of a promotion for then-sponsor West Cigarettes.

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