With IndyCar heading to New Orleans this weekend for the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana, there's a few things to watch for in terms of aero kit development.
The opening round at St. Petersburg was a carnage filled race. Aero kit bits and pieces littered the track throughout most of the race, mainly the rear bumper pods and front wing elements. By one count, as many as 12 front wings were lost or damaged during the race. This can cause some unsafe conditions for drivers and spectators, too; Gabby Chaves' bumper pod flew off of his car and hit a spectator around turn ten. Part of the reason for this is of course the track itself; St. Petersburg is a small and tight circuit that features lots of contact every year, similar to Long Beach. NOLA Motorsports Park is a lot wider, 40-50 feet in most places, and there shouldn't be as much contact there. Even so, in order to combat future debris filled races, IndyCar has mandated that both Chevy and Honda issue "structural upgrades to strengthen designated . . . bodywork components."
These components will be approved by IndyCar and debuted at the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana this weekend. The exact way the two manufacturers will go about making these changes isn't known yet, but we will get a look at it during Friday practice sessions. From the reports, it sounds as if no new parts will be added to the cars or kits themselves, just a reinforcement of the parts currently on the car. This seems the most likely path as the manufacturers won't gain a competitive advantage by adding new parts or changing the current ones. We may not be able to notice a lot of these changes if they are material or structural, but new parts would be evident throughout practice. Look out for this increased strength during the race if the drivers start making contact with each other.
Extra Downforce For Rain
Rain is forecast for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in New Orleans. Both Honda and Chevy's aero kits have close to 200 parts on them, and a large number of them can be tinkered with and changed by the teams and drivers. If wet weather conditions do prevail this weekend, it will be interesting to see how the teams adapt their kits. The need for more downforce and traction on the wet track will have to be met by the teams. Look out for larger wings and flaps in order to increase the downforce on the car. If the race turns out to be a dry one (Sunday currently has a 50 percent chance of rain according to RaceCastWx), teams who choose an ultra-wet setup could be left behind. It will be a delicate balance that the teams will have to find. Watch out for it this weekend.
It'll be the first true wet conditions that teams will have to run in. The second practice session in St. Petersburg was a wet session but no teams chose to run in it due to fear for the fragile cars.
Photo Credit: IndyCar/PR