Drivers think more aero changes are needed to improve speedway racing

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In the wake of this year’s Indianapolis 500, IndyCar officials revealed that changes to the front wing of the UAK-18 would be made available for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.

The decision came as a result of an Indy 500 that did not produce the same slip-streaming shootout we’ve seen since the DW-12 chassis was introduced in 2012, and drivers, teams, and officials were looking for a way to improve the show as they continue to get their hands around the the 2018 aero kit.

Pocono would serve as a testing ground of sorts, and the nature of the 2.5-mile “tricky triangle” made it ideal to see if the subtle aero changes would work. Pocono, like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is relatively flat, particularly in Turns 2 and 3, which means it doesn’t have multiple grooves to use in the corners. This puts a premium on having a package that allows cars to follow each other closely through the corners.

Sebastien Bourdais highlighted this point about Pocono after Saturday qualifying. “It’s typically a one-groove race track and following is very difficult, so getting a run is going to be hard,” he explained.

Although the front wing changes were small, there was optimism that they would allow cars to follow each other more closely. Tony Kanaan addressed this after his qualifying run, and while he acknowledged that things were still going to be plenty challenging, he thought the changes were going to be a help.

“I think it was a good tool to add, but we’re still going to have our hands full anyway. It’s just made our life a little bit better,” Kanaan expressed.

However, things ultimately did not pan out as well as everyone hoped. Following and passing cars remained difficult – several drivers indicated that even passing lapped cars was a challenge. Further, while Will Power was able to keep a dominant Alexander Rossi in his sights, Power knew he would have trouble getting by on the track, and resigned himself to saving fuel and going longer on a stint, with the hope that he would jump ahead during a cycle of pit stops.

“Pretty much as soon as we caught traffic, I was just in fuel save heavily for most of the race to get a lap on (Rossi). That was our best shot to jump him,” Power revealed.

Third-place finisher Scott Dixon detailed that, while battling Marco Andretti for third earlier in the race, he simply could not get a run on him, despite Andretti running lean on his fuel mixture.

“We got stuck behind Marco for I think it was three stints. It was just miserable,” Dixon lamented. “No fault of his. They were just trying to hit a fuel number. But I just couldn’t do anything. I had no pressure from behind. It was the most bizarre thing where you’re running four, five miles an hour slower than probably the pace of the race should be, and nobody was doing anything.”

Dixon also asserted that, as a result of the persistent issue of cars unable to follow each other on super speedways, more changes might be needed.

“It was really tough to pass. You could get cars that were really bad, but cars that were sort of midway and halfway pace, you just really struggled. Marco was lifting big-time to get fuel mileage and just couldn’t get a run on him. If we just didn’t have the washout we did today, it would have been a lot easier to pass. It is what it is. Next year we need to come out with a revised aero kit,” said Dixon.

Power also highlighted possible changes to the tire compound to improve things.

“I think the tire will help. It just depends how far you want to go,” he explained. “You need to make it so close where you take the driver out. Obviously (on Sunday) there was a lot of driver in it. It probably needs to go a bit more towards being wide open in (Turn 2), getting runs. Just need more grip. That’s probably downforce and tire, yeah.”

However, they remained positive about the overall outlook of the aero kit, and are confident that IndyCar and its technical team will make the right changes for next year and beyond.

“It’s the best group they’ve ever had at IndyCar as far as the technical side,” Power added. “Bill (Pappas), Tino Belli: these guys are very thorough. They’ve worked as engineers on teams. They are always making the right moves. They’ve made a car that looks awesome, and it does race well on short ovals, road courses.”

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Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.