The Verizon IndyCar Series makes me happy. Normally, that happiness comes from the racing itself. Other times, it comes from a series that continually makes news for all the wrong reasons. In other words, the WO’s (worthless opinions) often write themselves. Let me offer my thanks to IndyCar for once again making my job easier.
1. The flying cars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are absolutely a cause for concern. The DW12 Dallara chassis has had an unfortunate tendency to have the wheels lift off the ground when contacting walls at high speed. When first introduced, the chassis had an issue with yaw, which is defined as “to twist or oscillate around a vertical axis,” when making contact with walls at high speed. The current iteration of the Chevy aero kit has shown a ugly tendency to have the rear wheels lift off the ground on contact, particularly with a half spin, putting the tail of the car into the wind. At that point, the car becomes a kite, having the necessary elements of air speed and a large surface area to deflect the air downward as it speeds by. Yikes. Physics has laws that must be followed, even by aerodynamicists.
2. One of the terms being thrown around at Indy this week has been “computational fluid dynamics” or CFD. This usage implies that really smart people are using really smart tools to make really smart decisions so there is nothing to worry about. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. We have the CFD unit in here to take care of things. With the lack of real-world testing, the series and teams have come to rely on algorithms to solve their aerodynamic problems. How is that working out?
3. Speaking of testing, the superspeedway aero kits did not really get much in the real world. Airplanes are designed on computers and tested with software. They are then given a rigorous series of real world flight tests, at tremendous risk to the test pilots, to ensure that they act as expected. If not, then it is back to the drawing board. As a cost-cutting measure and a way to provide parity in the series, the Verizon IndyCar Series severely limited testing, even with the new aero kits coming on-line. As an additional monkey wrench, the series mandated holes be cut in the spec Dallara floor to decrease downforce. In other words, the teams arrived knowing very little about the aero kits and have been allowed to try an insane number of aero combinations. It has a little Wright Brothers feel to it. “Hey, Orville. Let’s try this and see what happens!” Just like airplanes, real testing is a vital component of development and safety. More testing, please.
4. The Verizon IndyCar Series certainly made an unpopular but arguably correct decision about qualifications at Indy. Due to the rainout on Saturday and the continued flight of Chevy cars, teams were required to use their race aero set-ups for qualifying and the extra boost that was to provide a speed kick was taken away. Additionally, teams were only allowed one attempt to qualify. Basically, the teams were told to take the cars off the knife edge that is the essence of Indy qualifying and make them stable and slower. And if that didn’t work, then be reminded that you might not make the race if you wreck. Point taken. The runs were ho-hum, but the field got filled without incident. Poor Honda, though. They did nothing wrong and were penalized for it. And after the series played the safety card, any protest by Honda would be met by accusations that were against safety, freedom, apple pie, and the American way. They cannot be happy.
5. Do you need proof that there is power in social media? After the rain washed out qualifications on Saturday, the IMS Twitter feed was letting patrons know that rain checks for Saturday would not be honored on Sunday, the explanation being that cars were on the track early and practiced. Of course, the tickets said “Qualifications” in big letters and that did not happen. Before Twitter, this would have been a non-starter as an issue. People would have found out as they arrived on Sunday and been disappointed. It may have made the paper on Monday, but not likely. Immediately after IMS announced that people had to fork over more money for Sunday, you could feel the anger building on Twitter as more and more people started responding. IMS felt the love fading and quickly changed its decision. Power to the people