Mark Miles and Derrick Walker addressed the media this morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Here’s the full transcript, courtesy of INDYCAR:
MARK MILES: This morning we saw a third car get into the wall, turn backwards and lift into the air. As precautionary measures and after consulting with the manufacturers and the teams, IndyCar will require that cars qualify today with the same aero configuration at loose levels that they will run in the race next weekend. In addition, because the situation has been fluid, we’ve decided not to award championship points for the qualify.
This decision is based on our commitment to safety. We’re committed to protecting the safety as best we possibly can of both the competitors, the drivers, and our fans, and perhaps we’re being cautious, but we think that that’s the responsible thing to do.
That’s really our statement. We’re happy to take any questions.
How did this go over with the teams involved? Was there pushback?
MARK MILES: What I’m learning in this sport is that initially everybody thinks about how a situation affects them, but then fundamentally I believe that the paddock, the owners, and eventually our drivers, understand where we’re coming from and that this may be being done with an abundance of caution, but these are increasing speeds, and Derrick and I have said that for the time that we’ve been working together that we hope to go faster but we’re going to do so being responsible, and safety is the first priority. I think that’s understood, generally speaking, in the paddock.
Mark, you said you had meetings with teams and the drivers. Was it 100 percent now identified what caused the problem that happened earlier?
MARK MILES: I think Derrick might want to speak to this, but I think they’re different issues. One is what puts the car into the wall in the first place, and probably each of the three incidents that we’ve referred to may have started for different reasons. Another question is what gets the car to turn backwards and ultimately what causes the car to get into the air.
I don’t think we have complete clarity on the answer to the latter question, and all the work that can be done continues to work on that question from a data‑driven analysis and factual basis as best we possibly can, and that is the reason to be careful out there for now.
Derrick, can you speak to the technical changes that will happen, for instance, with Chevrolet? May they run their low drag side pods? When he describes it’s race trim, are those no longer allowed?
DERRICK WALKER: Well, quite simply what we’ve done is we’ve mandated that what you start qualifying with, you must race, so that rule alone will cause the manufacturers to select certain components that are biased towards the race, which in effect will give them more downforce, which is really part of the exercise we’re going through here. We’re adding more downforce, and we’re reducing the engine power.
I think Chevrolet will run the road racing at the race configuration pods. There’s a mixed bunch. Some are running more, some are running less, but all of those I’m sure will be off for qualifying.
Because Indianapolis is such a unique layout and a unique track, will there be any way to do more testing at some point after the Indianapolis 500 on these particular aero kit parts to maybe identify the problem and ensure that it doesn’t happen next year?
DERRICK WALKER: Yeah, that’s a good question. Since the first incident that we had with car 3, we’re working with both manufacturers to do just that. We’ve been trying as fast as we can, they’ve been running their supercomputers like every day into the night to try and compare what we have been doing in the past and what we’re doing now and do we see any big red flags that says we’re going the wrong way here. That whole process will continue and does continue to this day.
If we can’t learn more about what we’ve got any sooner than we are, we’re keen for answers so we can hopefully minimize the ‑‑
Isn’t the best kind of testing real track testing?
DERRICK WALKER: Well, first, it’s very hard to simulate. They have such good computing power nowadays, they can evaluate a car over at (indiscernible) or 180 degrees going the opposite way, and that quite frankly is the best way to get there as quick as we can.
Only the ultimate test is when you get on the racetrack, and that somewhat is where we are now. We’ve got a situation and we’re trying to learn as quick as we can and at the same time put on a competitive race with basically two different configurations, two different car designs. It’s quite a complex issue.
In hindsight, since this package really wasn’t on the racetrack until May 3rd and now some of the packages are significantly different than the May 3rd package, would you have liked to have seen a lot more time track testing prior to this May?
DERRICK WALKER: Well, clearly we’d like to be not where we are now. We’ve set out an ambitious schedule for that, but hindsight always gives us a different perspective, but I think we are ‑‑ until we understand it more and understand what the issue might be, it’s hard to really give you a black‑and‑white answer on that, really, I think.
Derrick, can you explain why the Hondas have to abide by participating in a situation where the Chevrolets had the issue?
DERRICK WALKER: Yeah, another good question. Just because we’ve seen three incidents happen with a Chevrolet, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t three more Hondas out there that are likely to happen or could happen. I can assure you Honda does not believe that they have any issue, but then again, they will admit that right now we don’t have that answer.
So when we’re talking about an event here, we’re talking about safety. It’s not about manufacturer one versus the other. It’s about how can we grab a hold of the situation and reduce the speed in the interest of safety, and safety has got to be our guiding light.
I think it would be at this stage fairly negligent on our part to just focus on one manufacturer and lay down restrictions for them. I think you have to accept the fact, just because we’ve had three incidents and they could be coincidentally involved with one manufacturer, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s only that manufacturer’s problem.
And the other thing to bear in mind is these three incidents, they all started in different ways. We had one that had a tire pressure issue. We had another one that had an aero balance issue. The car was set probably a little too far one way, and it caused a spin. And there’s the one we had today, which was just an accident.
We’ve got three different starting points. We all can see where it ended up, but to address the issue, the big issue is where it ended up. We have to start with where it starts, and if we can reduce that speed by boost and by the aero requirement, so the cars are going to qualify what they race, and there is a minimum rear beam wicker, which is the wing at the bottom. There’s a minimum of half an inch for both manufacturers, that’s our starting point, and we know that the teams will put on more downforce for qualifying, so we mandate that, and they will migrate to the setups that they need for the race, which will give us a little bit more grip, which is what we need at the moment.
Derrick, you’ve said that you can’t conclusively say that it was a Chevy problem. Do you think that on this particular generation of car, the fact that it has such a wide floor that extends to the outside edge of the rear tires without tunnels that start forward in the car, do you think that the large swept area of the floor is contributing to these incidents?
DERRICK WALKER: Well, I’m not an engineer, so I won’t profess to have the technical answer that would give you that. I think it’s a lot more complex than that. I don’t think in the fullness of time we will ‑‑ I don’t believe we’ll be sitting here a year from now still scratching the head. There is enough intelligence there as it’s applied to understand what is happening here and correct it. I don’t think it’s something that’s ‑‑ we just don’t have the time under the gun that we’re under.
MARK MILES: If I could just elaborate, ultimately we’re not certain what causes this, then we can’t say it’s a Chevy problem or a Honda problem, and we’re locked into a situation where we have to be cautious, and I think it’s a complicated situation technically, but ultimately the decision was what it was.
Does this give you pause to rethink going after the track record by next year? Does this kind of delay that process any?
DERRICK WALKER: No. I don’t believe that. This problem is solvable. We just are ‑‑ backing up to the race here, we need to err on the side of safety, and I’m very confident we will resolve whatever issues we’ve got.
MARK MILES: We said all along, IndyCars are fast, and we laid out a two‑year program. It was never intended to be a stunt to get to a certain speed or above a certain speed two years later next May. It’s a journey. It’s a development exercise. And we knew two years ago that there were at least two periods for homologation where the cars were likely to get quicker because of the engine changes, and the introduction of the aero kits presented a third time when the cars were likely to get quicker. We’re not determined to get to a certain number come hell or high water. We think that the evolution of our racing is ongoing, and we think it will continue.
Are you expecting the longer term solution to be testing implemented before the series goes to the next high‑speed tracks such as Texas, Fontana and Pocono?
DERRICK WALKER: Most definitely.
Do you have any sort of timetable for that?
DERRICK WALKER: Well, we’ve already started, and it will go as long as it takes to get the answers we need. Both our manufacturers are working very closely with us. That’s one of the reassuring things of this whole exercise is how they’ve rallied around and put all their resources behind looking at how to understand it more, so I would see that continuing.
Mark, you said (inaudible) we have another week, which is maybe not much, but (inaudible) some safety solutions or ideas?
MARK MILES: Well, I don’t think we anticipate the regulations changing for the next week. I’m sure that (inaudible) looking at many angles and dialing in within the windows that they’re (inaudible) it’s unlikely there are any other regulation changes.
DERRICK WALKER: Just to follow up on that, in the race condition, it’s a completely different exercise when you’re running the oval in qualifying mode, you’re trying to go for the minimum obviously downforce, the minimum drag that you can stand. When you’re in the race, you’ve got a lot more factors to deal with, so you’re beefed up. You’ve got a different kind of race car, and let’s not forget we’ve done thousands of miles round or thousands of laps round here so far, and a lot of them mostly done in race mode configuration. We’re really focused on the lower end of the grip level, and that’s the reason for the changes we’ve implemented.