Get Aerokits Right The First Time

Posted in IndyCar on December 19, 2014 by Oilpressure

Last week, the Performance Racing Industry trade show took place in Indianapolis. It was there that Will Phillips, IndyCar vice-president of technology, took part in a Q&A session regarding aerokits for next season. The other day, I went through and read the transcript of what transpired. I’ll admit – I learned something.

Unbeknownst to me, if one aerokit is more dominant than the other; the other one will have an opportunity in mid-season to redesign the areas they think are slowing them down.

Read that again and let that sink in…if you did a poor job the first time around, you get a do-over after you’ve had time to study the competition’s design and copy what they did right the first time.

My age and old-school thinking is going to come out here. I never understood rewarding everyone just for trying, while attempting to make everyone equal. To me, this goes against the very concept of competition. My thought is that you do everything possible to get it right the first time. If you don’t, you fail and suffer the consequences of failure. If you fail, you regroup and you do whatever it takes to get it right the next year.

If a football team is getting their head handed to them at the first half of a game, the score is not reset and they don’t require the leading team to give their playbook to the team that is trailing. They let the chips fall where they may. If the team leading at halftime goes on to win 40-0, well – that’s just too bad. The losing team should have been better prepared. Maybe they can regroup the next week and prepare better. If not, they’ll get blown out again.

That was what I liked about the concepts of aerokits in the first place; teams would have a leg up on some others simply because they had better equipment. If somebody missed the mark, those were the breaks.

In the nineties when most teams opted for the readily available Reynard or Lola chassis, Roger Penske chose to build his own chassis. Sometimes it was better, sometimes it wasn’t. In 1992, not only was the Penske chassis not very good – but the Chevy B engine, that was run exclusively by Penske was not very good either. Still, Emerson Fittipaldi was able to squeeze four wins out of not so great equipment.

In the late nineties, there were four different engines manufacturers (Ford, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota), five chassis (Lola, Penske, Reynard, Swift and Eagle) and two tire companies (Goodyear, Firestone). There were varying combinations of each throughout the grid. If a team did not have a Reynard/Honda shod with Firestone tires – they were out of luck. Such is the way in racing.

Reynard got into financial difficulty about the time that Lola got its act together in the early 2000’s, but make no mistake – Lola got its act together. They took their lumps for about five or six years, learned from their mistakes, worked their tails off and figured out a way to get competitive again.

That’s what competition does. It forces everyone involved to do their best. Anything short of that and you’ll be left behind.

That’s why I always had an issue with sole providers. It was not by design that Honda was the sole provider of the IndyCar Series from 2006 until 2012. They kicked the collective butts of Toyota and Chevy and ran them both out of the series after the 2005 season. With Honda powering the entire field for six seasons, they detuned the engines and focused more on reliability instead of performance; hence saving themselves and the teams a good deal of money in the process.

It was about that same time that the Dallara chassis became the chassis of choice over the out-of-favor Panoz/G-Force. Suddenly, every car in the paddock was a Dallara/Honda. Neither the chassis manufacturer, nor the engine manufacturer had any incentive, whatsoever, to try and improve on what they had. Instead, it was just status quo, year after year. As a result; the manufacturers, drivers, teams and fans fell into a tired state of stagnation and mediocrity.

When the new car was announced by the ICONIC committee in the summer of 2010; it was to be a tub built by Dallara, but able to have various aerokits designed by third party companies. This was a nice compromise to those of us that wanted Lola, BAT and Swift to be chosen to give the field some variety. But as we all know now, the aerokits did not come when the car debuted in 2012. They were to come a year later. After many delays, they seem to actually be coming for 2015; but provided by the two engine manufacturers – Honda and Chevy. There are no third party providers like Boeing, which was always the example given when the concept was first announced.

It may be a watered-down version of what we were expecting, but it’s better than another year of identical cars. I’ve heard people say they’re concerned the racing may not be as good when the aerokits come out. One reason why the racing has been considered “good” is because the cars are all equally matched. I have no problem with one manufacturer being dominant over the other. It shows they did their homework and they deserve to dominate. That’s their reward for developing and building a better mousetrap.

But now we’re told that there is to be no reward for building a better mousetrap. In fact, if you do – your competition will be given the chance to correct their flaws and catch up while you can do nothing to change your superior design. To me, it sounds like in their desire to be “fair”, the series has come up with a very unfair solution.

Every month, I’m judged against my peers on how well I do my job. What’s the point in trying to excel and outshine my peers, if my superiors will handcuff me while giving full support to my peers that have not worked as hard? It completely defeats the purpose. Should Honda come up with an aerodynamic device that cuts off a second per lap, is it really fair to give Chevy the chance to copy the device so that their teams can also shave that second off of their lap times? Apparently, so.

I try not to be a constant naysayer, but count me as one that does not like this “catch-up” policy for which ever manufacturer comes out with a bum aerokit. I’m not allowed a do-over in my job. Why are the designers that go the wrong way given a chance to right the wrong, when those that got it right the first time have to sit and watch them play catch-up. They need to get it right the first time.

George Phillips

Altering Photos To Re-Write Racing History

Posted in IndyCar on December 17, 2014 by Oilpressure

Before I get into my rant, I must first issue my disclaimer. I am not a smoker, nor have I ever been. I never took up the habit. Even in high school and college, when most of my friends were trying to look cool with a cigarette hanging out of their mouths – I always found the habit to be disgusting and could never understand how anyone could get addicted to something that was so unpleasant.

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Shoes Too Big To Fill

Posted in IndyCar on December 15, 2014 by Oilpressure

When Coach Bear Bryant retired from Alabama in 1982; there was no way that his successor, Ray Perkins, was going to gain immediate acceptance from Crimson Tide fans. Perkins went 32-15 in his four seasons as coach, but he jumped ship for the lowly Tampa Bay Bucs of the NFL, rather than live under the enormous shadow cast by The Bear. Hoosiers basketball fans are probably too familiar with Mike Davis, who succeeded legendary coach Bobby Knight at Indiana. Davis lasted six years but made the fatal mistake of only one NCAA appearance in his last three seasons.

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Time To Buy Another Tony Kanaan Die-Cast

Posted in IndyCar on December 12, 2014 by Oilpressure

By Susan Phillips

Greetings from somewhere in northern Alabama! I’m wrapping up my last week of overnight travel until January. I don’t get to read as much about what’s going in the IndyCar world on the road, as I normally would at home. Slow hotel wi-fi makes it slow and difficult enough to upload my reports for work. I wouldn’t dare waste time and bandwidth on one of my hobbies. Fortunately, George and Facebook keep me up to date about anything big in IndyCar.

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A Track Future Very Much In Doubt

Posted in IndyCar on December 10, 2014 by Oilpressure

Just the other day, I had someone ask me when the sale of Nashville Superspeedway was going to close. Admittedly, I had forgotten that the original closure date as well as the extended closure date had passed without a word. The sports-talk radio stations here hardly even discuss NASCAR, so they aren’t going to spend a lot of time talking about racing when our Tennessee Titans have been so impressive. Our local paper gave the original announcement a good deal of ink (a soon-to-be antiquated term) back in May; but there has been nary a word since.

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The Event That Almost Wasn’t Anymore

Posted in IndyCar on December 8, 2014 by Oilpressure

Yesterday was Sunday December 7th. It’s a day that still probably means something to even the youngest Americans – although as time goes on, the significance of that day is softened with each generation. I was born less than seventeen years after that day. My mother was seventeen years-old in 1941 and remembers every moment as the confusing details slowly filtered into her Tennessee home that Sunday afternoon and evening. The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor was to my parent’s generation, what 9/11 is to ours – without the whacky conspiracy theorists of today that claim it was engineered by the US Government.

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If I Were To Start An IndyCar Team…

Posted in IndyCar on December 5, 2014 by Oilpressure

Most people have fantasized at one point or another about winning the lottery. Even if you’ve never bought a lottery ticket, you have probably allowed yourself to dream about the day that some huge unexpected windfall came your way. You’ve also probably thought about what you would do with such an obscene amount of money.

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