CHAMPCAR/CART: Handford Device Tested at Michigan

Handford Device Tested At Michigan Speedway (June 30, 1998) -- The new Handford Device, adopted by CART to help reduce the speeds of its Champ Cars at superspeedway events, received its most extensive test to date last week at Michigan ...

Handford Device Tested At Michigan Speedway

(June 30, 1998) -- The new Handford Device, adopted by CART to help reduce the speeds of its Champ Cars at superspeedway events, received its most extensive test to date last week at Michigan Speedway.

Seven FedEx Championship Series drivers participated in three days of testing on the two-mile oval in preparation for the July 26 U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota at Michigan, where the Handford Device will be utilized for the first time.

Designed by Mark Handford of Swift Engineering, the device is a wing-like aerodynamic piece fitted to the rear of the car which creates drag and reduces downforce. Drivers who tested the piece at Michigan last weekend included Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford), Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Penske Mercedes), Paul Tracy (KOOL Reynard Honda), Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Reynard Honda), Dario Franchitti (KOOL Reynard Honda), Andre Ribeiro (Marlboro Penske Mercedes) and Arnd Meier (Hasseroder/J.A.G. Lola Ford).

Unofficially, Andretti's lap of 224 miles per hour was the fastest of the three-day test. Though variable weather conditions make across-the-board comparisons inconsistent, Andretti's unofficial speed was approximately nine miles per hour slower than Scott Pruett's (Visteon Reynard Ford) pole-winning speed of 233.857 mph last year and more than 10 mph slower than the track record of 234.665 mph set by Jimmy Vasser in 1996.

"I think it's a great way to slow the cars down," Andretti said during the test. "It sounds like an easy thing to do, but it's not, and I think that right now this is probably the best solution. The wing basically takes downforce off and creates drag down the straightaways. It seems to be working. The cars are a little more unstable - you have to drive the car a little more - but it [the device] is slowing us down."

"There are several different ways of slowing the cars down," said Unser Jr., "but the Handford wing has become the best option because you haven't put [so much] wing in the car to the point where anybody can drive it and run 215 218 220 miles per hour. We didn't want to do it [reduce speeds] with horsepower, because that involved a lot of engine development that would have cost a lot of money for the engine manufacturers. The Handford wing gives us the best of both worlds. It slows the cars by creating more drag on the straightaways, but you don't have so much grip in the corners that you're running pedal to the metal. We're still running wide open, but we had to work to get to wide open.

"It still leaves the driver in the car, and it slows us down, so the Handford wing was a great move by CART."

"I think you had to do something to slow the cars down," Franchitti said. "To be running 240 [miles per hour, Mauricio Gugelmin's pole winning speed at California Speedway last year] is fine until you hit something. Something had to be done with the speed. Time will tell how they go in traffic and how well we can race with them [the devices]. All in all, something had to be done, and this seems a good solution."

"If you compare how much quicker we'd have been going had we never done anything [to reduce speeds] to where we are right now, we've probably taken a huge chunk of speed out," said Derrick Walker, owner of the car de Ferran campaigns in the FedEx Championship Series. "The real problem is not actually going fast. Our drivers can drive these cars at those speeds. The problem is if something goes wrong and you hit the wall. For every mile-an-hour more in speed, the impact is four times harder, and there's only so much you can do inside these cars to protect the drivers. So we've always had a need to contain speeds, and this [the Handford Device] is a response to that."

Source: CART Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Mauricio Gugelmin , Scott Pruett , Andre Ribeiro