The Chevy aero kit: flicks, kicks, and wedges
Chevrolet revealed its aero kit at the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series media day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last week. Finally. Even with a sharp video and a detailed picture with all the bits and bobs highlighted and named the result was, well, about what was expected. This is not meant as disparagement. Really, what did the racing public expect? Winged Furies? What they got was a compromise, one that was settled upon during the tenure of Randy Bernard and was so far down the road that there was no going back. What they got was differentiation without crippling development costs for the teams. Goal accomplished.
Chevy and Honda, whose own aero kit will have the sheet pulled off on March 15, were both toiling under the restriction of the Dallara DW12 spec chassis the pieces had to fit. Did people really expect the aero design to radically change the looks of the car? It is different, but only the most aware of the IndyCar cognoscenti will really notice or care. And that is acceptable. As long as the aero kit capped Dallara DW12 looks like a proper race car – and it does – then everything is copacetic.
Making the assumption that the Honda kit is not radically different, does it really matter how they look? Of course it doesn’t. What matters is how they race. Hopefully, neither manufacturer misses the target and creates a disparity between the two. A situation like that doesn’t help the series, the teams, or the fans. The racing the past two years has been superb, and anything that changes the balance of power too drastically can hurt the series. Chevy and Honda need to be different, and both want to win. Great. But neither needs to embarrass the other. The series needs competition, not dominance. The series, teams, and fans need the engine builders to be happy and stay in the series. What is really needed is another deep-pocketed engine manufacturer with a willingness to design an aero package.
If aero kits keep the hard-core fans happy, or at least in a reasonable facsimile of happiness, and keep the engine builders interested, then by all means keep building them. Of course, the series might want to make sure the parameters of the chassis will support the engineering of the kits. Both Honda and Chevy were a little put out to be informed that the downforce generated by the new designs went beyond the expected tolerance of the Dallara suspension pieces. This was discovered, of course, after the fact and required significant change by the manufacturers. Great aero engineering. Great downforce. Not so great communication. In any case, both Honda and Chevy have invested time, effort, and wads of cash. They each expect to win.
Aero kits having any effect on fan development is highly unlikely. Fans pull for drivers – not aero kits, not sponsors, not engines, not chassis. In today’s world, the fans that IndyCar wants to find most likely do not care about aero parts called upper flicks, main flicks, top flicks, side floor kicks, wheel wedges, and inboard fences. They never will. They need to be entertained by the racing and engaged by the drivers. Those are the entrées. Everything else, including aero kits, are side dishes. If the main storyline in the Verizon IndyCar Series this year is how one aero kit is better than the other, then the series will once again fail to highlight what it has in abundance: great drivers and great racing.
Pigs in silk suits.
True, and this is a bit of a side thought, but IndyCar should think beyond “great racing” to providing exceptional fan experience everywhere it races. Great racing is part of that, but I can get great racing a lot of places, including Knoxville, Iowa.