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IndyCar: Deregulation of engineering areas will be gradual

Jay Frye has vowed to open the areas of individual team development “in a smart way” for when the universal aerokits are introduced to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Honda, car in the garage
Indycar Detail
Shock detail
A bucket full of shocks sit in the pit lane
Jay Frye, president of IndyCar
KV Racing Technology Chevrolet garage area
Charlie Kimball, Ganassi Racing Honda
Fans in the garage
The new Honda aero kit
Disks and shocks
Indy Car shocks
Crewmen rebuild shocks
Chevrolet speedway aero kit
Rendering of the 2014 Chevrolet aero kit

IndyCar’s president of competition and operations told Motorsport.com that the deregulated portions of the car will be defined “within two to three weeks,” while the identities of the designer of the universal aerokit and its builder should be revealed by the start of next month.

He stated: “We haven’t defined the boxes yet, but we’re working on them now. We’re trying to deregulate in a smart way, and there are many other parties involved in how this will work.

“We’re not just going to say, ‘Boom!’ – all these areas can be worked on, because that would immediately favor the bigger budget teams who can throw a lot of resources in a lot of directions all at once. The idea is that in 2018 we’ll open up X areas, in ’19 it’s Y, and in ’20 it’s Z.

“We’re trying to reinvigorate the cottage industry, to get more people, more companies, back involved in IndyCar racing.

“I would say within two to three weeks, we’ll have a really good idea of what’s possible and in what direction and at what pace we move forward.”

Frye said that IndyCar had not been working on this process autonomously but instead had the teams involved from the start of the plans.

He said: “How this all got started was that we went to all of them three or four months ago and asked, ‘If you had the freedom to do whatever you wanted to do with these cars, what would you do?’ So they all sent us their lists, we compiled it into one master-list and looked at what matched up.

“The low-hanging fruit was the stuff that they all wanted to do, and those areas are the ones that will be deregulated first, in 2018. Then the areas that three-quarters of them wanted to do would be the next areas we open up, and so on.”

However, Frye implied that IndyCar would retain the right of veto and that should the three-year plan need modifying en route, there would be room for some maneuvering.

“We’re formulating a template,” he said, “and according to the team’s aspirations we can add to it. But if there’s stuff that doesn’t make sense, we can take away from it, too.” 

New bodywork regs will be well defined

One of IndyCar’s prime intentions for the universal 2018 aerokit is to run aerodynamics that create less dirty air and therefore allow the cars to run closer together when in convoy. Consequently, the formula’s emphasis will be on greater underwing downforce and a major clean-up of the front and rear wings and bodywork. Since the aerokits were introduced for 2015, the wings have sprouted multiple elements, while sidepods have also gained new curves and flick-ups, compared with the basic 2012-’14 DW12s.

Asked how closely IndyCar will have to monitor teams’ individual aero developments in order that they don’t undo the series’ work on the spec car to the detriment of the racing, Frye said: “That comes down to how well you word and define the spec of the aero regulations. It’s going to be a case of, ‘Here’s the spec that you must conform to. This piece can’t be any higher than X, no wider than Y,’ and so on.

“A lot of teams think they can design things better, cheaper, more aero efficient than the standard supplier, even if they don’t have the ability to build it in-house. But we’re not going to allow it to become a no-holds-barred, Wild West, ‘do what you want’ situation.”

On the subject of that ‘standard supplier’ of the next-gen aerokit and whether the builder may also be the designer – as was the case with the original Dallara DW12 – Frye said: “We’re working through that now, and for sure by November 1, that’s got to be sorted out.

“But that’s fine. It’s not like we’ve just started on this now; we’ve been working on it since April. We’re pretty far down the road with three or four different potential solutions and now we’ve just got to figure out which way we go. Just like we’re allowing more work for the engineering departments within the teams, we’ve also got the chance to open up the design and build to more people, developing a cottage industry which I think is right for the sport. That extra participation is a good thing.”

Visible vs. “invisible” areas of development

In the past Frye has discussed with Motorsport.com the merits of developmental areas of technical interest for fans, rather than ‘trick’ shock absorbers, for instance, that visually don’t add to the series’ allure to IndyCar followers either at the track or watching on TV.

Asked if the chosen developmental areas will prioritize parts that are visible and distinctive in order to keep fans stimulated by what will basically be a spec car, Frye responded: “I would say we’re trying to look at every area and that list I mentioned, formed throughout the season collectively with the teams, will define what is and isn’t a worthwhile investment on their part in terms of the final product.”

He went on: “There are areas where teams have a lot of capital invested, and so we can’t just suddenly render something obsolete. That’s not fair. You have to look at what would be most efficient, perhaps using up inventory that they have developed already.”

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