August 12, 2022

An interesting thought occurred to me as Scott Dixon crossed the finish line to set the second fastest qualifying race in Indianapolis 500 mile history: This car is 10 years old!

But fear not, fans of change, IndyCar’s current DW12 machine is going to look quite different in 2024 with the introduction of new bodywork and a new lightweight aeroscreen.

The aeroscreen, which we’ll cover in detail shortly, will likely resemble what we have now, so the big change in appearance should come from some body tweaks being developed for the arrival of the new hybrid power unit. for 2024.

“Because in 2024 what’s going to change in the car is what we have to change to take the new engine and the new hybrid system,” IndyCar chairman Jay Frye told The Race in an interview. exclusive before the Indy 500.

“There could be things that change because of that.

“Because of the speeds, we may have to do other things with the wings, the front and rear wings, with the Speedway.

“It’s 100 horsepower more, out of the box, and the hybrid part could add another 100 horsepower. That’s also substantial. So a lot of good things are happening.

“When we moved from OEM kits [pictured in 2017, below] to the current one, which looked like a brand new car, it looked completely different.

“So I think in 2024, visually, it will look like a different car because of some of the things we’re doing.

“It won’t be as drastic as ’17 to ’18. But from 23 to 24, it will look like a different car.

At this time, the proposed changes are only for Indianapolis, and Frye added “we’re not convinced yet that we need to do this for the road course and the street courses” because his team has already done simulation testing for test different options in anticipation of changes.

The aeroscreen – introduced in 2020 – added around 53 pounds (just over 24kg) to the front of the car, and up high too, meaning teams and drivers had to go back to windsurfing. drawing on car setups to remove an element of built-in mid-corner understeer.

It also created a fair amount of heat in the cockpit – which IndyCar worked hard to address – but the visibility into the car and the safety it provided in particular made the device a mainstay of the series. .

There have been several instances of the wheels hitting the screen – perhaps most famously for Conor Daly at the 2021 Indy 500 – and on-board videos of debris hitting the screen and potentially upsetting crashes averted thanks to the canopy, which is actually a halo with a screen wrapped around it.

For 2024, the new power unit will make the car heavier, which has handling and safety implications.

The “Gen2” aeroscreen, as it’s called, should shave somewhere in the region of 18 pounds (nearly 7 kg) if the vendors are all successful in their attempt to lose weight.

Frye confirmed to The Race that since the inception of the aeroscreen, the partners involved – Red Bull Advanced Technologies, Pankl and PPG – have been looking for ways to reduce weight and are all part of the update work.

“We have this opportunity in 2024 to lighten up, to do different things with the car, we want to lighten it even more. So that’s Gen2 of the frame,” Frye added.

“So basically outwardly you really couldn’t tell the difference between the two, it’s all internal. So whether it’s a lattice or honeycomb type property in the internals, we’ll lighten it up to 50%.

“But what’s so substantial right now, what we need to do is do a lot of load testing, which we think will be fine. But until you actually go there and do it, you don’t know. So that’s the next phase of that.

It’s still just speculation at this point on what the aeroscreen might weigh, especially since there’s still work to be done to see what model the internals will be made with when printed in 3D by Pankl, and also whether the PPG screen will include technology to reduce heat, water build-up and/or anti-fog properties for wet racing.

Speaking of wet races, IndyCar is looking at data from the recent Indianapolis road race, where its information gathering has expanded from on-board cameras and telemetry to asking drivers to draw a picture of where water has collected on the screen in an attempt to get a better idea of ​​how the screen works.

During a late downpour some riders struggled on the main straight, although opinions were mixed as to whether this was a symptom of the aeroscreen or just the wet and wet race. spraying in general.

Some riders like Daly had water buildup in the midline of the screen, but it’s possible such issues were caused by water seeping in between the tears, leading Simon Pagenaud to ask the introduction of windshield wipers.

This was the first racing test for the aeroscreen in the wet so the series is combing through all the data it can get its hands on because racing in the wet and therefore testing the screen on the wet are so infrequent.

The new screen will slide in the same way as the current one, so there probably won’t be any need to change the mounting points, depending on what needs to change with the arrival of the hybrid unit.

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Some viewers have been clamoring for a new chassis to mate with the new PSU and do it at the same time, and while that idea has been welcomed by some, others are concerned about the cost implications.

There are 27 cars in the IndyCar series and at $350,000 a pop, that’s $9,450,000 in Dallara chassis before even considering backup cars, which most teams have.

With the current car nearing Indianapolis speed records and creating some of the best racing in elite-level motorsport right now away from the Brickyard, it’s easy to see the series and team owners’ trepidation at the idea to have a new chassis for the fun of it.

It is much more likely that a gradual introduction of updates will refresh DW12.

“It’s not going to happen in 24,” Frye says of this new chassis.

“People are like ‘hey you’re gonna get a new engine, why don’t you do it then’. It sounds simple.

“It’s also impossible to have 100 built by then. You can not do this. So you’re watching ’25, what’s that like? Should it be a new chassis? Again, we’re looking at different things.

“There was a pretty big success [crash, for Dalton Kellett in Indy 500 practice] here a few days ago.

“So if you think about it, it was 100G hit on the car. The tub survived, the tub is reusable. The driver is OK. So this car, this chassis, did a very, very good job.

“It was the exact result of what we wanted, between the SAFER barriers and between the car doing what it’s supposed to do. Everything that happened is supposed to happen, when you write it down, that’s what which is supposed to happen.

“There’s a lot going into a new chassis and the safety requirements of the safety test and the safety tests it has to go through.

“Saving 40 pounds (about 18 kg), is it worth it? I do not know.

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“Everything we did to add weight to the car was done for safety reasons.

“Think about the requirements we have. Safety wise the cars are going 241 mph one went 243.7 mph the other day there are different safety requirements different things we have to do that others can’t do -be not.

There is no simple answer as to whether IndyCar should prioritize a new chassis or not.

However, thinking about the bigger picture, this championship has survived the COVID pandemic well and there are certainly many people who think it might not have happened if Roger Penske had not bought. series.

It managed to expand its grid and make its cars safer during this time, which is more than other championships have been able to do. And I feel like every year it attracts better riders and becomes even more competitive.

With the car absorbing 100g impacts and getting closer than ever to its legendary 1996 Indianapolis qualifying record, is it time to ask for a $10 million investment in the chassis?

Setting up the new aeroscreen and new engine seems like a better focus of time and resources.