Jay Frye, IndyCar’s president of competition and operations, says full details of the test program for two 2018 aerokit-equipped IndyCars will be revealed in the next seven days.
After three seasons of manufacturer aerokits, IndyCar will switch back to spec bodywork for 2018, with the series’ principal aims being to make the cars more aesthetically pleasing, to reduce overall downforce, and to switch the prime downforce source from the top surfaces to the underbody.
There will be two cars – one Chevrolet-powered, one Honda-powered – used in all four tests conducted by the series, which begins at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 25-26. The road-course configuration will then be tested Aug. 1 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the day after the Mid-Ohio race. Further tests are scheduled for Aug. 28 at Iowa Speedway (short-oval) and Sept. 26 at Sebring International Raceway, which is regarded as the closest real-life simulation IndyCar has for a street course.
Frye told Motorsport.com: “The personnel involved – teams and drivers – will be consistent throughout the whole process, for all four events or tests. We should know within the next week to 10 days who will be involved.
“Between tests, the cars will be impounded at Dallara and kept separate, and they’ll be run from separate garages to preserve the confidentiality of the manufacturers. The aerokit is obviously the same but there are certain areas of the car where the manufacturers have boxes they can work in – where they locate their electronics, certain plumbing elements, cooling elements and so on – which are different, so that’s why they’re kept separate.”
Although Frye was remaining tight-lipped on who will test the cars, Motorsport.com understands that series veteran Oriol Servia has been tabbed to drive the Honda-powered car, while hot favorite for the Chevrolet machine is two-time Indy 500 winner and former series champion Juan Pablo Montoya.
“I can’t tell you who we’ve signed up, but we’re looking for drivers who are ‘current’ on the current IndyCar, but who are not fulltime now,” said Frye. “There’s a handful who would qualify for it, but once we got this test schedule organized, we had to make sure that these drivers could do the whole schedule, and obviously that eliminates some drivers who have other commitments.”
Frye emphasized that although IndyCar will rigorously test the basics of the 2018 kit at the four different types of track that the series races on, he says the finer details of the kit will be left to the teams.
“We’re not necessarily going to test the IndyCar, as such,” he said. “We’re going to these tracks to check off some boxes once we’ve confirmed the car meets certain criteria. Once we’ve met our criteria we’re basically done. This is more of a sign-off process. The testing will be left up to the manufacturers and the teams.”
Asked the nature of those criteria, Frye replied: “Well, things like there are certain numbers we need to meet at the Speedway on single car runs. Then we want to do full-tank runs and see what happens over the course of a longer stint.
“Then we’ll have each of the cars taking it in turns to run behind the other and see how they react running closely.
“But remember, even before this kit was being designed, we did this sort of testing at Phoenix with the current car but with its extra wheelguards and wings taken off, and then we did the same at Mid-Ohio too. So the feedback and data from those tests was used as we started building this car, because ideas from those tests, as well as our windtunnel testing, showed us how this car would perform.
“So that’s why I say these four tests aren’t tests but more a sign-off. We’re verifying that all the data we collated from windtunnel testing and on-track experience has translated into the real on-track experience of the new bodywork.”
Frye said that the final and finer details being sorted this week are to do with how and when the teams receive feedback from the series’ own tests.
“We have control of the data and sign-off of everything, and at some point we’ll give it to the manufacturers to distribute to the teams. We just need to sort out who gets the data, when and how it’s distributed.
“We want everyone to be involved too: I mean, the whole paddock’s been involved to get the project to this point. But there needs to be a very structured process to go through as far as data distribution is concerned.”