IndyCar’s VP of competition and engineering, Bill Pappas, believes IndyCar needs some tweaks to car spec for PIR to improve the racing and raise the talent demands on the drivers.
IndyCar’s return to Phoenix International Raceway for the first time in 11 years was regarded as a reasonable commercial success but the drivers’ fears that it would be more difficult to pass there than on other ovals proved founded. Even the leaders struggled to lap cars, although this was also a corollary of how close in pace the frontrunners were to the backmarkers.
The other pre-event worry – that the downforce/grip levels would be high enough that the drivers were flat-out all the way around – was also realized. In the final two stints as the temperatures cooled, the air became denser and the track rubbered in, drivers were foot to the floor all around the 1.022-mile oval.
“If drivers say it only became flat out as the track cooled down in the last couple of stints, then I’d say we were close in setting the spec,” Pappas told Motorsport.com. “But we’ll look at how we can make it a little bit more racy.
“Like I told you after the test and also before the race, the drivers and teams couldn’t agree which way to go in terms of setup. So we decided to replace speculation with real data from the event, and go from there in future.
“But this was a good starting point. We’d never been to that track in that format before because it was considerably different from when we last raced there . So we can look at it and decide how we modify it to go racing.”
Tires will contribute to 2017 spec
Pappas said he would be taking up Firestone’s pledge to work with the series on improving the spectacle and making the race more demanding for the drivers.
He said: “I think the track behaves more like Iowa, so let’s look at some different tire combinations. I was told that this was basically a Milwaukee tire, so maybe we need to have a tire that goes off more, the cars slide around more and the driver comes into play more as a stint goes on.
“I don’t want a situation where the drivers aren’t having to lift the throttle around an oval.”
Pappas, who only got the VP of competition role at the end of February, added that getting all parties talking to each other about technical specifications is going to be part of his philosophy going forward.
“I’m trying to really engage everyone in these decisions going forward,” he said. “I want both manufacturers involved, along with the drivers and teams, and engage Firestone whereby we say, ‘How about looking at this?’ but then also get their input.
“I don’t feel to this point that there’s been that level of communication.
“I may be naïve but I feel that if I can get all those people involved to work together, we can produce a better product. That’s my objective."