Maybe the 2012 cars don’t suck?

Preview versions of the 2012 aero kit INDYCARs were unveiled yesterday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They don’t look as bad as I’d feared, in fact I think they’re pretty cool.

They are less dart/arrow/jetfighter like than some of the CGIs we’ve seen in the past. They look exciting and different, but are recognisably INDYCARs (probably because the wheels are identical to the present Dallara). The rear wheel protection is quite extreme, but looks pretty good. The rear wings are more conventional than I’d feared.

I still have a few concerns:

These prototypes are only required to look good and demonstrate the art of the possible, they need to LOOK fast, they don’t need to BE fast. When the time comes to design a quick aero kit, will it be as innovative or attractive as this?

The physical shape of any car is determined by 1) the regulations and 2) what works, aero wise. Until we know the detail of the regulations, we don’t know how much of what we see is required by the regulations. Because if it’s NOT required and its not helping aero performance, it will be removed (examples include the unusual wing end fence shapes and the radical sidepods. See the one with the big slanted sidepods? I still think that design could launch a car at a driver’s head.

The aim of any aero kit designer should be to get the car working as well as possible within the regulations. Given that they all have the same ‘Safety Cell’ chassis and associated kit to push up the road, and the same set of regulations, it’s likely that a competent aero designs will move towards similar philosophies. There just won’t be room for extras that add weight but don’t bring better performance.

I’m also curious to know what the rear wheel protection is made of. It’s bulky, so it’s going to have to be strong, or it’ll just break off and hit people

in the face, Felipe Massa style. If it’s strong, it’ll surely be heavy? Or will it? Like I say, I’d like to know.

I’d love to know whether there is really a compliant 2012 specification Dallara safety cell under these ‘presentation’ aero kits. It would have been nice to see a ‘naked’ chassis on display as well.

I’ve read a lot about whether the cars look better or worse, and I’ve written a lot too, but I have also started thinking that what we think of the present cars is also a product of the handling of those cars, as much as the shape. As long as these cars are big and heavy, and don’t corner brake as fast as F1 cars, they are never going to look quite right on a road course. How many times have you watched 20 Dallaras lumbering slowly round a hairpin and thought ####sigh####.

I guess we need to see the new cars running in the summer before we judge.

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