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.

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
McLaren Racing
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Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.