Bill Pappas, IndyCar’s VP of competition, says cars will qualify and race at Phoenix this weekend with the same aero package they tested last month – but changes could be made for Iowa and Texas.
“At Phoenix, we’re planning on running what we ran before,” Pappas told Motorsport.com. “Nothing has changed since the test. We spoke to all the drivers and asked them what they would do, what they thought would help the racing. And there wasn’t a consensus of opinion that said, ‘Go down this route,’ or ‘You should change that.’
“The one thing they agreed about was that this was the first time we’d been here with this car, so let’s run what we have and we’ll talk about it afterwards and talk about how we change it going forward.”
Roger Penske recently said that current downforce levels on short ovals are “ridiculous” and has suggested it should not cost a lot of money to make reductions. And Pappas himself told Motorsport.com last month that he wants drivers to have to lift the throttle for turns on short ovals.
Asked if the delay in reducing downforce had been caused by Verizon IndyCar Series manufacturers, Chevrolet and Honda, disagreeing which aero parts could be removed, Pappas said, “Basically, yes," but added that he sympathized with their point of view at this stage in the season.
He stated: "They come to us saying ‘We did all the mapping for this kit back in January, and short of re-mapping the car, we couldn’t give you a quantifiable decision regarding what part, or area of the car to remove aero pieces.’ And I understand that.
“Then on top of that is the involvement of the tire. If you suddenly start changing the loading on the tires, are the tires we have the right ones for that application?"
Thinking further ahead
Pappas said that taking a longer view of technical regulations would become a priority for him, now that he has embarked on his second month in the role of IndyCar’s VP of competition engineering.
“These are the kind of problems we need to look at – for the sake of the manufacturers and teams – quite a ways ahead of an event,” he remarked. “Those are questions that I’ve been asking since I got this seat. Why aren’t we doing more pre-planning?
"Even though we hadn’t been to Phoenix for 10 years, we at least knew that the race track had been modified since Indy cars last ran there. We knew there would be a lot higher G load, a lot higher speed, so what were we going to do, and what is our target?
“So I’m trying to come up with a system where we can actually create targets for these events whereby 1) we can ensure safety, and 2) make sure we have an entertaining race. It isn’t as easy as ‘just taking parts off’, by the way! It takes time to think it through, takes time to run some simulations.”
Pappas stated that the verdict after the Phoenix race this weekend, and his intention to better pre-plan, could have a direct influence on the downforce package applied to IndyCars at other tracks – and as soon as this season.
“Going forward into next year – and hopefully even before the end of this season, at a couple of race tracks like Texas and Iowa – we’ll get to test and make a decision about what configuration really makes sense for these places.”