From Apathy To Indifference

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It has now been a week since the IZOD IndyCar Series made their chassis announcement for 2012 and beyond. We’ve all had time to contemplate and decipher much of what we heard and didn’t hear. One week removed from the news, I’m neither upset nor excited. Instead, I find myself experiencing the worst emotion of all over this very important subject – indifference.

When the DeltaWing was first unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show in February, there was no question where fans stood in their opinion on the chassis. They either loved it or hated it. Regardless of what you thought about the car, it created a buzz. People were talking about it. Fans knew where they stood; they dug in and were passionate about their DeltaWing opinions.

Then to add to the buzz, Dallara and Swift released their first concepts of what they were proposing for the series. Generally, those that hated the DeltaWing were in favor of the Swift and/or Dallara. Most people loved the Swift. I thought the lighting system they had on the car was a little cheesy, but the overall design was favorable. Then Lola revealed their drawings, which really got the buzz going. Late to the party was BAT engineering. All five proposals offered something unique that the series had never seen. Fans chose their favorites and the great debate began.

The ICONIC committee was formed and even though they dropped no hints themselves, the rumor mill was buzzing that multiple chassis were going to be in the future of the IZOD IndyCar Series. Less than two weeks before the announcement, Curt Cavin wrote in The Indianapolis Star that he believed two chassis would be chosen – Dallara and Lola. That led most of us to believe that would be the case. Although it wasn’t the sexiest choice, it made sense. Dallara had been a reliable partner to the league since 1997 and Lola had a rich tradition in building open wheel cars.

Of course, we all know by now that Dallara was chosen as a single source builder of a common tub while the aero-kits can be made by anyone and have the potential to drastically alter a car’s looks as well as driving characteristics.

If you’ll notice, I’ve used the word “buzz” many times throughout this article. For the first half of this year, that’s what was building in the IZOD IndyCar Series – a buzz. For months, we all talked and speculated about which way the ICONIC committee might go. I was prepared to be thrilled, in the unlikely event that the ICONIC committee said “Come one, come all” and allowed everyone to the party. I braced myself to be outraged in case they chose the DeltaWing. And I expected to be happy, assuming that Curt Cavin’s scenario came true.

What I was not expecting was the curve ball that we got regarding a common tub. It’s not that I’m opposed to it – it may actually be the most practical solution, all things considered. What bothers me is the collective apathy that I have been witnessing in the past week – not only from myself, but the people I talk to and the comments from fans that I read on this site as well as others.

I have been pretty upbeat and bullish when it comes to the direction that the IZOD IndyCar Series has taken in the last several months. With the combined arrivals of IZOD and Randy Bernard, there has been much to celebrate – so please don’t think I’ve joined the dreaded “Legions of the Miserable“. What was so good about the past six months is that everyone had a strong opinion regarding which way the series should go, and they were more than willing to share it. This created the aforementioned buzz. Maybe it’s me, but I get this feeling that the buzz completely left the room with this announcement that very few can honestly say that they saw coming.

Perhaps the build-up and pageantry was too much for the actual announcement to live up to – no matter what it was. Maybe it was that after the announcement, most people had more questions than answers. Whatever the case, in the past week, there seems to be a noticeable deflation in the IndyCar blogosphere regarding the 2012 chassis – and that isn’t good.

One of the worst emotions out there is indifference. Whether you are talking about a marriage, your job, a friend, a hobby or a struggling open-wheel racing series – indifference is the kiss of death. Fans are split on Paul Tracy. Some love him, while some fans loathe him. But there is always a passionate buzz whenever Paul Tracy is on the entry list. It gives people something to talk about. Most are not that passionate when discussing Hideki Mutoh. He’s just there.

I am close friends with a couple that has been married for over twenty years. Their marriage is on life-support and they both know it, yet the husband swears to me that they have never had a fight. It has simply grown into a tiresome and benign existence. There is no passion. There is no hatred, but there is no love either. Instead, they just go through the motions; living day to day while each one waits for the other to make the move to put the marriage out of its misery. So far – neither has had the guts to do it, but they won’t make any attempt to save the marriage either. So they just sit and watch their miserable lives trudge on by.

The IZOD IndyCar Series cannot afford to have an indifferent or apathetic fan base. There is no marriage certificate holding its fans hostage. A divorce is as painless as changing the channel. I consider myself to be a hardcore fan, and I’m not going anywhere. But the lack of emotion that I feel one week removed from the “big” announcement concerns me. If I have developed an “I don’t care” attitude on what was billed as the most important decision in the history of the league, that can’t be a good thing. A lack of passion among the fan base can be fatal.

Have I misread the fan’s reaction? Are fans actually giddy over what is arguable the biggest announcement outside of unification? I’m a little perplexed over my indifference. Let me hear from you. Tell me if I am in the minority, or that there really is some growing apathy after this announcement. If I’m wrong, I’ll try to dig deeper to see what I’ve missed in the announcement. If I’m right, however – then Randy Bernard may have his toughest challenge yet, in his short tenure as CEO. He will have to go back and sell this to the most important people to the series – the established core fan base. That could be a tall order.

George Phillips

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33 Responses to “From Apathy To Indifference”

  1. Hi George,
    I may be wrong, but I’m not sure it’s apathy as such, but possibly a lack of comprehension amongst many as to how this can/will be done. It seems like such a good idea on paper, but the timeframe, costs (etc…) have probably left many scratching their heads.

    To be honest, I’m an optimist (when it comes to racing) and my preference is with the ICONIC committee’s solution rather than just another spec run and while 2012 may be full of Dallara aero kits, the following seasons may witness growing interest – we all know the IndyCar series needs it.

  2. Congrats George, you just had your first reality check. Now mark the day on the calender, and spend a solid year looking very closely at the truth in front of you, and for ways to suggest any change for the better. See where you get.

    My epiphany struck this morning as well: gazing at this strange planet IRL, full of smarmy-mouth types playing expert, high-fashion clique-fests, oversize sunglasses, and twit-talk of BFF’s and bitch-slaps….today, the truth has dawned on me too.

    I should be watching the rodeo instead.

  3. Andy,

    Who are the smarmy mouth types. Have the guts to name them please?

    Just like we have the guts to ask the hard questions, which you can hear live today/tonight on Midweek Motorsport on http://www.radiolemans.com when we have an exclusive with Randy Bernard, Gil De Ferran and Tony Purnell. Our listeners are not happy either and the ones who feel like George would be considered the most positive amongst them. Marshall Pruett and Sam Collins (RaceCar Engineering) will be asking questions too.

    Sorry for the shameless plug but its for a reason, we want your readers questions!

    You can send them to studio @ radiolemans . com

    Please be quick, we will be recording our interview this morning.

    This announcement generated more questions than answers and I’d like to think we will address as many of them as we possibly can today.

    Dex

    PS George, if you don’t delete this, thank you very much for not doing so. :)

    • Greetings Dex,

      Keeping on the topic of aerodynamic options, please discuss these issues with Mr. Purnell…with the understanding that they are not being posed by an engineer.

      Two specification changes were enacted by the IRL which eliminated drag and reduced wake turbulence. Correctly or not, it has been widely reported that removal of the rear wing endplate vertical wickers and relocation of the rain light have resulted in decreased turbulence and increased aerodynamic grip for the trailing car. Driver comments credit the effect of the changes.

      An aerodynamicist designing components for the 2012 Dallara chassis is thus faced with a consideration beyond L/D ratio: he can also add the wake signature consideration into the compromises he selects. The goal is to build a winning system of components, and the guy behind you is welcomed to stay there.

      IRL regulation to equalize aerodynamic “kits” will require extensive testing and make the approval process for a potential supplier problematic. It apears that the first step would be the submission of CAD designs and CFD analysis to verify preliminary safety concerns and represent the expected wake signature. That means expert IRL scrutiny, stage 1.

      Mold construction and protyping is next, and IRL stage 2 begins as the sidepod covers are presented for crash testing and wings tested for vertical load minimums. Testing for compliance to aeroelasticity standards will require wind tunnel verification, will they not? And the wake signature of the assembled components tested on a chassis at this stage as well?

      Once the IRL sanction has been granted, a constructor can now present his “kit” to the team owners for approval. Teams can inspect testing data, fit, finish and weight, but not test the components themselves before purchase. I believe Mr. Cotman stated that restriction.

      This process suggests a significant investment by a prospective manufacturer, in addition to the IRL fee required. All before a single sales contract has been secured.

      If a series entrant constructs a kit in full compliance, any competitive advantage will be lost when other teams place orders for the identical components he must provide by regulation.

      The end result will be natural selection, and one series of design elements will prove superior. The more the kits, the more the losers. With the undertray dimensions, venturi configuration, front wing and rear wing mountings defined by regulation and chassis construction, it is hard to imagine that the end result will yield a diverse set of visual profiles and perfomance characteristics.

      What are the errors in this sketch, and how will specific regulations incentivize competition between designers? Thank you.

      • In the interests of continuing this discussion…

        I’m not sure I understand the teeth gnashing about “what happens if somebody picks the wrong aero kit?” and “won’t people make the kits dirty up the air to screw the people behind them?” Aren’t those scenarios just like anything that came before the current de facto-spec era that appeared in 2006 or so after people stopped using the GForce/Panoz? In CART in 1996, if you picked a Lola, you were at a disadvantage to anybody who had a Reynard. True, people migrated to using the Reynard more and more over the ensuing years, but isn’t this just the way that racing works? For the other manufacturers, isn’t that a cue to make a better kit for next year?

        As for aero kit manufacturers “dirtying up” their kits, hasn’t that always been part of the deal as well? I thought that cleaning up the current package was neessary basically because everybody had the exact same “dirty” package, and so nobody could find an edge to get by anybody else. It’s true that you won’t want somebody putting something on the back of their engine cover that creates massive turbulence, but wouldn’t most devices that’d do that sort of thing also introduce a massive drag penalty for the car carrying them?

        As far as the “we’ll see identical kits from every aero kit manufacturer”, I’m not 100% sure I buy that, either. Isn’t it true that in F1, the front and rear wings have to comply with a “it has to attach in such and such a fashion, and fit in a box of such and such dimensions”, yet we see many variations in configuration from every team? Variances in CFD packages and wind tunnel results (brought on by two different manufacturers using two different wind tunnels, for instance) can produce two different solutions to the same problem. And if somebody takes a flyer on a different type of solution, they can either wind up at an advantage to the rest of the field (which they can hold over everybody else, in the case that everybody else has already nominated their two designated aero kits for the season) or a disadvantage to the rest of the field (like, say, if you had a Riley & Scott in 1999 or so). Isn’t all of this part of the racing game?

      • I think you’re asking some good questions, Andy.

  4. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    George…. I agree that for the most part, the average fans eyes have become nearly permanently glazed over. However, I believe that once we begin to see some of the aero-kit, side pod designs (and learn of their various performance enhancing aspects) and we see what these concepts look like on the team cars, that we may be able to take the the majority of the fan base back off of life support.

  5. Announcement hangover. That’s what we have. The big announcement was so far below the hype that were all like .. pffft. At least we have the tub-kits step out of the way and can move towards a new car.

  6. I am pretty stoked with Lotus developing an Aero kit and I am sure Penske will have his. Also, I am Buzzed with RB’s trip to Europe to talk wth car folks there.

  7. Travis R Says:

    I think I may be the one person on the planet that is actually really excited about the potential here. I have been honestly surprised by how the reaction has been. It seems relatively negative, and as you’ve pointed out, has quickly moved to indifference.

    I was honestly hoping that the announcement would be what it was, and nothing too specific. What I see is something I think that is really good – I’ve often heard people call for sanctioning bodies to go with more of a “here’s the box and if your car fits in it, you can race it” attitude. It seems we got some of that with this announcement, in a sense.

    In the short term, there’s still a lot to be excited about. There are so many questions (and I honestly hope that some of these will be answered sooner than later in order to help reestablish the buzz):

    Imagine the strategies that teams will need to consider. How will they use their two sets of bodywork? One set for street/road courses and the other set for ovals, or will they go with an Indy 500-only set and a different set for the rest of the year? Will any teams stick with one set for part of the year to see how they perform and then switch later in the season?

    Hell, I’m not even sure what the definition of a bodywork set would be – is it a complete group of parts for both ovals and road courses from one manufacturer in which parts can be swapped for the appropriate circuit, or is it specifically one front wing, one rear wing, two side pods, and an engine cover?

    Which engine manufacturers are going to announce their involvement? How soon will we start hearing from them?

    Which organizations will be supplying bodywork, other than Dallara, and how soon can we start hearing from them? Will anybody else step up?

    Has Dallara already made the specifications of the safety cell available to interested parties? Is the specification already complete?

    Call me weird, but I like the fact that there are currently more questions than answers. The slate has been wiped clean and there is parity in the unknown. That gives me the impression that all the teams are now on the same level when it comes to 2012. They are going to all have to gamble somewhat with whatever choices they have for engines and bodywork. Maybe one of the underdogs will get lucky with the right combination of engines and bodywork, and we’ll see some surprises. I can’t wait for the month of May in 2012!

  8. M. Miller Says:

    The problem most of you are having is we’re back to square one. You’ve been used to seeing new cars pop up every other week, drawings that is, and have been at a visual buffet. And most have imagined what it would be like having all of these cars in the series, which today can’t happen.

    So now we get the announcement and we’re back to square one. Once areo makers start making their designs, the thrill will return. It’s just we’re just back to a common tub waiting to see who’s going to play. Expect Penske, Ganassi, Lotus, BAT and possibly more to develope their kits. That’s when the real excitment will start.

  9. The kids woke up on Christmas morning and there were no shiny toys, just a nice card with the promise of something to come.

    I think everyone wanted something tangible–something to break down and discuss and look at and that was disappointing. I’m a real fan of the ICONIC idea–and I think it’s going to be exciting for the future of the series, but there’s just so much that’s unknown right now. And I think it’s going to give us plenty to discuss over the next year. Yeah, and I’m also a card-carrying member of the Randy Bernard fan club. I got my secret decoder ring in the mail today. Can’t wait to listen to Curt and Kevin tonight to get the top secret message.

    • billytheskink Says:

      The Christmas analogy is a good one.

      The announcement was probably over-hyped by IndyCar and the chassis manufacturers and certainly over-anticipated by fans. Right or wrong, though, so many fans were expecting something more from the announcement, something more concrete, some guarantee that we will see more than just Dallara-Honda packages in 2012, something they didn’t get.

      I think fans will start to get excited when aero kit and engine manufacturers are officially on board. But as long as the possibility of the status quo looms, a fanbase that has usually had every reason to expect the worst will continue to do so.

  10. Quite honestly the Delta Wing and the Swift Car looked ridiculous and I am quite thankful they were not chosen. But even more important, the Delta Wing was not an open wheel car. In fact the rear wheels on that Dallara comes awfully close not qualifying as open wheel. That is why my choice was Lola.

    Beyond being open wheel, there is a lot of talk that all of this will lead to speeds at Indy which might yet lead to “a new track record”. That is really when I’ll get excited about this. That and the addition of about six or seven more oval races to the schedule.

  11. My take (as many of you may have unfortunately alread read in one of three or four other places, so feel free to skip on by if you’re tired of my ramblings/”shameless Kool-Aid swilling fanboy cheerleading”, as I’ve been told elsewhere) is pretty similar to Travis R’s, M. Miller’s and redd’s (redd and I matched up brainwaves at Pressdog’s as well).

    I think the hangover stems from a couple of things:
    1) It seems like Curt Cavin’s speculation that there’d be more than one full-on chassis builder lead a lot of people to take that idea and run. The fact that he said multiple times that his speculation wasn’t based on any fact, just on gut feeling, led me to take that with a grain of salt. Hence, I’ve been a lot less non-plussed than many others by only having one tub supplier.

    2) There are a lot of questions yet to be answered. Of course, we have a lot of time for those questions to be answered in, but that leads us to the next (and probably biggest) point…

    3) We have to wait a long time before we actually see any pictures of finished pieces, much less Twitpics of teams taking delivery of finished chassis, much less pictures or video of the new cars on track. In this day and age, of the internet and instant answers to questions via Wikipedia, IMDB, official website, or fansite, having to wait 18 months for solid evidence of progress is an absolute eternity. Clearly, it sucks to have to wait that long, but given that many folks (myself certainly included) have been waiting for progress on the new car since roughly a week after the announcement of unification and that many folks had been waiting for years (4+, in my case) for unification to happen in the first place, we should have some pretty good practice in waiting under our belts by now. Again, it’s not much fun to have to wait 12 months before there’ll likely be a finished tub to look at and 16-18 months before we see an actual car on the track, but aren’t there worse things? Like, having to wait until 2013? Or all of the teams coming straight out and saying “since we went with multiple chassis manufacturers and now the cars are $800k each, there’s no way we’ll be able to afford to run in 2012″?

  12. The decision to stay at what will effectivly be a spec series isn’t something I’m very excited about. I’m not done with Indycar, but I had excitement for 2012, and now it’s no differant than 2011, 2010, or 2013, it’s just more Dallara/Honda spec racing… And I know for sure that there are some hardcore race fans who are a lot less likely to follow Indycar as long as it stays a spec series… Plus, I just cannot see many, if any, aero kits made. I’ve wrote a long article on my site, but it’s going to take 6 months and multiple millions of dollors to develop one, so will even Penske and Ganassi feel it’s worth it???? They can spend that money on their Anti Roll bars and stuff, and not have to share. Plus, there’s a rumor of a 200,000 dollor registration fee for areo kits….

    • Six months isn’t an insurmountable length of time. If Dallara can present any prospective aero kit manufacturer with chassis data by early 2011, then the aero kit manufacturer has nearly a full year to develop and then bake their product. I don’t think that’s out of the question.

      As for Bruce Ashmore’s “it’ll take multiple millions of dollars” (which is the only place I’ve seen anybody speculate on development cost, so I assume that’s where you took that wording?), Bruce didn’t say what “multiple” means. Two? Six? Ten? If it’s $10 million, clearly you’d have to sell way too many to make the numbers work. If “multiple” means “2 or 3″, though, suddenly it doesn’t take a whole lot of underwriting by an outside sponsor or many sales of kits to make the numbers balance out. It’s 15 kits that you need to sell for every $1 million worth of development, and that’s if you don’t have any outside cash coming in (like, from a corporate sponsor). The jury really is still out here.

  13. George,

    As I read the comments here, I see neither apathy nor indifference. I see all the angst and anticipation that results when a movie blockbuster ends ambiguously leaving the main story line unresolved so as to be adressed in a sequel. Which could very well be a good thing. If one or even two cars had been definitively selected then there is 18 months of dead conversation until the car(s) hits the track. Now we wait for another set of unveilings that are closer to 2012 and will be better timed to propell momentum forward..

  14. I got halfway through the article and just thought, MEH. Whatever. Then I went & put a Lean Cuisine in the oven.

    Just kidding, George. Wonderfully written post, that. And JP is exactly right: the comments point away from Apathyville. (AKA, Bowling Green, KY)

  15. Like Travis said before in his comment, I don’t understand why a lot of people is negative about this decision…I think there are some interesting possibile scenarios…one of this, I wrote here and I wrote in my blog, is the possibility that some F1/ALMS teams could be interested to build an own kit…this doesn’t mean that thay have necessarily to build a new kit, but maybe theay just can adapt one of their aero kit from Formula 1 or ALMS (or other series) to IndyCar…and I think this would reduce production costs…the same assumptions can be made for engine builders that can build an aero kit suitable to their engines…in short, there are many possible scenarios…we’ll see what happens…

  16. i’m hearing a license fee to make the areo package @ $200,000. paid to the IRL,before approval

  17. If you haven’t listened to our interview with the ICONIC committee, you can do so at http://www.radiolemans.com so right here:

    [audio src="http://audio.mpix.org.uk/mwm2010/mwm5-32_indy.mp3" /]

    I have subsequently learned more details which make me even more dismayed by the responses we got and the entire ICONIC process in general.

    The reaction, from the Motorsport business, to the show has been very supportive and hugely critical of the ICONIC decision. Nobody seems to believe it has any potential at all.

  18. Bobby Brown Says:

    I think hardcore fans, as well as team owners, will be more opinionated when the rules are laid out. Just as you wrote in the article, there are still many more questions than answers. It is hard to formulate a sound opinion without all the facts.

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