Event Coverage: 2018 IndyCar Grand Prix
It’s May! And that means MotoIQ is back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, covering the IndyCar Grand Prix and the Indy 500. As has been the tradition for the last five years, the Month of May kicks off with the Indy GP held on IMS’ ex-Formula 1 road course. Let’s dive into the race and see what went down!
In the off-season, IndyCar ditched the expensive aero kit experiment and reverted back to a spec aero kit for their 2018 challengers. The chassis is the same Dallara DW12 fans have come to know and love, but the new wings, floors, and engine covers are much more of a throwback to the wonderful CART/ChampCar days. The major goals were to reduce costs, improve passing, reduce downforce, and improve the look of the car.
The kit starts with a new front wing that is much simpler than the old Honda/Chevy wings. The simpler wing is less sensitive to turbulence, making it easier to follow other cars. It’s also less prone to dropping bits if you make minor contact, an important safety factor both for drivers and spectators.
This is coupled with new sidepods that are much slimmer than before, but still retain devices that help prevent interlocking wheels at high speed. These devices also divert air around the tire and to the diffuser improving its effectiveness. While the car has the same wheelbase and track as before, the effect of the new sidepods makes the 2018 IndyCar appear much narrower and longer than it was in 2017: much more like the old Lolas and Reynards of the late 90s.
The most important changes are at the rear. A simpler rear wing combined with a longer, more effective diffuser moves the majority of the downforce creating surfaces to the bottom of the car. This creates less turbulence than the old kits did. All of this means that drivers can now follow each other more closely so they have more opportunities to pass. With the old kits, your only real shot of passing was to dive up the inside and hope for the best. With the new kits, drivers can set each other up and not have to rely on as many risky moves. The simpler, lower downforce bodywork has greatly improved the show in IndyCar: in the first four races of 2018 (St. Petersburg, Phoenix, Long Beach, and Barber), there has been more passing in the field than the entire 2017 season! Wow!
A purely aesthetic change was to remove the old overhead intake box and replace it with the old school style roll hoop. This was really a holdover from the IRL days when the naturally aspirated V8s needed the ram-air effect to get a bit more power. The turbo engines of today don’t need that extra ram air effect and removing the intakes has lowered the profile of the car. It’s safe to say that the new aero kits have hit all of the goals IndyCar set for them: the new kits are cheaper than the 2015-17 kits, the downforce has been cut by almost 20%, the passing is way up, and the fan response has been nothing but positive.