innovation

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.