Chevrolet’s director of motorsports Mark Kent says the brand’s 2016 superspeedway aero kit has been designed to overcome potential stability loss caused by domed skids.
The IndyCar-mandated and Dallara-built domed skidplates are designed to dramatically increase a car's downforce in the event of a spin, rapidly slowing the rate of rotation.
They will be run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an open test next Wednesday, April 6, and will be raced by all cars in the Indy 500, Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway and the Pocono 500.
Domed skids, combined with wing flaps on the rear beam wing that activate as a spinning car passes the 90-degree mark, are aimed at reducing the chances of cars launching, as happened to Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Ed Carpenter in practice at Indy last year.
However, some drivers and engineers have expressed worries that the increased ride height necessary to accommodate the new convex skid plates makes an IndyCar more unstable at speed.
Kent acknowledged this, but told Motorsport.com he believes Chevy’s 2016 superspeedway aero kit will overcome that problem.
“Some drivers have said the cars are not as stable to drive,” he said, “probably because of the ride-height being raised. But we don’t believe that’s an issue with the Chevrolet kit.
“Domed skids became part of the rules while we were developing the 2016 aero kit, so the package was created knowing that component was going to be there. In other words, we’ve compensated for it.”
Kent compared this with the raised seam or wicker added on the noses and over the front bulkhead of all IndyCars initially, but which was removed from the Chevrolet-equipped cars long before race day at IMS.
“That was added at the last minute,” he recalled, “and we believe it hurt one manufacturer – us – more than the other, in the way it worked across the whole car. We believe it pinned the front down on our car, causing it to have more of a tendency to pivot and spin.
“If that part had been a requirement from Day 1, when we were designing the kits, we would have compensated for it elsewhere.
“That’s the downside of changing rules at the last minute – the unintended consequences.”
Hand-in-hand with IndyCar – and Honda
Kent went on to explain that the improved safety measures had been a joint effort, as IndyCar collaborated with Chevrolet and Honda.
He said: “Domed skids are a safety enhancement, and that’s very important to Chevrolet. We will always support initiatives like that.
“We work hand in hand with IndyCar for anything safety-related. And while we will always be competitors with Honda, and competitors don’t always see eye to eye, these initiatives we’ve gone through have seen us working together and for the common good of the series, its participants and fans.”
The three accidents at IMS last May prompted IndyCar’s then-president of competition Derrick Walker to mandate immediate modifications to the cars for qualifying. These included lowering turbo boost to race levels and also regulating that cars carried the more downforce-laden race-spec bodywork.
Kent says: “In the rulebook [for the 2015 aero kits] we had to have a higher liftoff speed than the [pre-aerokit] DW12, and sure enough our aero kit met all the conditions and was better than the DW12.
“But it’s one of those things where you can’t put in the rulebook every configuration you’re going to race. So collectively we all learned things last year and made adjustments so the cars were even more resistant to liftoff. And together we’ve all done even more again this year with the flaps.”
Kent added that he was satisfied that both manufacturers’ opinions were heard by IndyCar.
“Both on the engine side and the aero kit side, we do have a strong voice, just by the way IndyCar operates both the engine committee meetings and the aero committee meetings.
“Technical changes are ultimately IndyCar’s decision, regarding what they do or don’t implement, but yes, I feel we have had good input in those matters.”