Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay says the universal 2018 aerokit will get the Verizon IndyCar Series back to its best, as the majority of the downforce will be created by the underside of the cars, allowing cars to run closer together.
The 2012 series champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner believes that making the cars more difficult to drive but easier to run close together can get the quality of racing back to the standard seen in the Dallara DW12’s pre-aerokit era.
He told Motorsport.com: “I’m really looking forward to the new car, and the new challenge. At the moment, we have these races that go green the whole way because there’s so much downforce on them and there’s a lot of grip. It just requires commitment.
“But then when you get into the proximity of another car, you take away the topside downforce which makes it much more difficult to run close enough to try and make a pass. So the new car, together with filling in the holes in the floor or road courses and short ovals, is going to make the racing a lot better. We’ll get much closer in traffic.
“That’s what I can’t wait for – getting back to the kind of racing we had 2012 through 2014. And we need to get back to where we never know who’s going to be at the top from race to race, so everyone having the same aerokit is going to help that.”
Hunter-Reay said he was confident that Andretti Autosport-Honda, which has scored only two wins – both Indy 500s – since the start of 2016, can use this aero do-over to elevate its status to Penske/Ganassi level once more.
“I think as a team, we learned a lot with the aerokit downforce package,” he said, “and we basically know what it took to turn ourselves around at some tracks. So we have a wide range of setups we can potentially apply.
“Obviously this new car is going to be completely different. The aero loading, the center of pressure, the center of gravity – a lot of things are going to be different. It’s not going to be plug ’n’ play setup wise from the DW12. But like I say, I think we have a far wider range of knowledge now so hopefully we can get back to where we are a contender for race wins every weekend.”
Still hope for 2017
Hunter-Reay, who suffered a 138G accident in qualifying here at Pocono but was cleared to race this afternoon, said that despite lying 12th in the championship – the same place as he finished last year – he considered this season as a vast improvement over last, due to the team’s improved pace.
He said: “If you look at the season as a whole, we started the season strong at St. Pete, because we started half a lap behind the field but came through and finished fourth. Then we’re second at Long Beach but the car dies with five laps to go. So that’s two potential podiums right there; then we have a podium at Indy GP, we have a potential fight for victory at the Indy 500, a podium at Iowa.
“So if you look at the stats, it doesn’t look a lot better than last year, but looking at the facts, we have had the pace. We’re not knocking on the door for wins all the time, but if you take into account Pocono last year, and Long Beach and Indy this year, we’re looking at three potential wins within a calendar year. So that’s not bad, and when circumstances are out of my control, I can compartmentalize that and not let it affect me.
“I think we’re trending in the right direction, but there have just been some really unfortunate circumstances that have bit the #28 car in the butt this year. I’m not turning a blind eye to the fact that there are still some weekends where we’re fighting hard to stay in the Top 10. There are some weak points, without doubt. But I’m not frustrated because if given the opportunity and the car’s healthy, then I’m right there.
“We’ll be right there for 2018. I really think we’ll be able to show that. At the moment, we’re filling in quite a few of the shortcomings we had last year, but we haven’t yet completed them all which is what we need to do to fight for the championship.”
Hunter-Reay and primary sponsor DHL last year re-signed with Andretti Autosport through 2020, but Hunter-Reay denied thinking about what might have been at a time when both Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing are looking at driver changes for 2018.
“No, Andretti Autosport is like a family to me,” he said, “and I’ve been a longterm brand representative for DHL. I almost wouldn’t know what to do with myself in any other environment.
“We’ve won a lot of races together, we’ve won the Indy 500, we’ve won the championship. We’re just looking ahead now, and like I said, trying to get in a situation where we’re a contender every weekend. I think the 2018 car will help us do that.”