Yesterday, IndyCar revealed two concepts of their 2012 race cars, one in oval guise and one in road course guise. It is important to remember that these are not what we can expect to see on the track next year, they’re just concept cars representing what we could see on next year’s cars. It’s hard to tell what is body kit and what is rolling chassis so I’m not sure what parts will be variable for the body kit manufacturers and what is static with the rolling chassis. What I really wish IndyCar would have done is reveal three cars; the oval car, the road course car, and the rolling chassis so we would have a better idea of what is static and what is variable. Anyway, here are photos of each car (these were posted on Twitter yesterday by an Indy-area Fox reporter) with my comments about each concept followed by some commentary on the new cars(s) in general.
The Oval Concept
The first thing that caught my eye about the oval concept car is the sidepod treatment and how the rear wheels are almost completely encased minus a fender covering the top. I understand why that did it; they did it to increase safety by preventing interlocking wheels. Even given the safety aspect, I’m not sure I like it. After all, these are supposed to be “open wheel” cars. It would also appear that they conceive using the raised portion of the sidepods in front of the rear tires to channel airflow to the rear wing. This would also channel airflow to the rear bodywork (not visible in these photos) which is very reminiscent of the rear of prototype sports cars. No doubt aero kit designers would try to use the rear bodywork to try to create more downforce as well. Another thing that caught my eye are the sidepod fins; I don’t expect to see those on the actual race car – those would be nothing but tire slicers. Additionally, the way the floor extends out in front of the sidepod creates another potential tire slicer.
The Road Course Concept Car
The first thing that caught my eye about the Road Course Concept Car is the front wing. The front wing shows definite F1 influence as does the whole nose design on both the oval and road course concepts. The raised nose section on both cars are similar to the current generation of F1 cars (minus the fancy “tea trays” you see on the F1 cars) and the way the road course front wing drops down from the nose is also very similar to F1 cars (I just hope no one decides to copy the “walrus tooth” attempt that Williams F1 tried some years back) . The road course concept also features rear body work behind the rear tires and I wonder if controversy could develop around the rear body work much like controversy has popped up over F1 diffusers?
I’ve seen a lot of comments on the airbox over the driver’s head and at first I questioned it as well, but even with the turbos you still have to have an air intake somewhere and it seems to be en vogue nowadays to put the air intake on the top of the car (i.e. Peugeot 908 and Audi R18). You’re going to have the roll hoop there anyway, you might as well build the intake to it. I don’t see it as that big of a deal although there are some that will see it as too much of a visual cue from the old car.
It’s really hard to determine how much of what we saw yesterday will actually make it onto the new cars, not to mention that other body kit manufacturers could come up with different solutions, but I have to admit I’m intrigued by what they seem to have in store. I’m not ready to say I like either one but I definitely can’t say that I absolutely hate either one. Of the two, I’m more enamored of the road course concept than the oval concept; as I said earlier I understand the rear body work and why on the oval concept but I just can’t bring myself to buy into it at this point; it makes the car look more like a sports car at the rear than an open wheel race car.
One thing I hope that IndyCar is taking into consideration is using the car’s underbody to create downforce thus reducing the dependency on the wings. We have seen the recent history of aero dependency with NASCAR and F1 with the inability to pass due to loss of airflow over the wings. Using the underbody to create downforce could help avoid those problems.
I’m disappointed that what we’re seeing at this point are concept cars. By this time in the 2012 car program I would have hoped that we would have seen cars ready to test and actual examples of what Dallara was ready to put on the tracks. The concepts should have been shown earlier in the program. Just think of how nice it would have been to have an example of the oval car and the road course car to demonstrate at the Indy 500. Given that this is the 100th Anniversary of the Indy 500, it would have been great to show the future while showcasing history.