Next Year Is Looking Good Already

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By now, I’m sure most of you have seen the renderings of the new universal bodywork for the DW12 or IR-12 as it is more officially known. Before last season was over, we learned that the common body would finally lose the airbox over the driver’s head. I say finally because I have never cared for that look on a race car and was disappointed when the Dallara and g-Force chassis were both introduced for the 1997 IRL season. When I saw the look, I cringed. But that was before I heard the dreadful sound that the Oldsmobile and Infiniti engines made. That horrible drone overshadowed any shortcomings in the look of the car.

So when I heard that the new engines for the 2012 season were going to be turbocharged, I assumed that the new car that was in the process of being designed would no longer have the airbox since the engines would no longer be naturally aspirated. I was wrong.

As we all know, what eventually was dubbed the DW12 was unveiled before the 2011 Indianapolis 500 with the airbox. But again, there were worse features that made you forget about the airbox – like the bulbous sidepods leading up to the rear wheels, or even worse – those hideous rear bumper-pods. Some scoffed that it was not even an open-wheel car with the sidepods and bumper-pods surrounding the rear wheels. I wouldn’t go that far, but I sure didn’t like the looks of them.

For three years we looked at those cars. Then we entered the aero kit age. Personally, I was in favor of aero kits. I wanted to see some differentiation in the cars, which we hadn’t really seen since the Panoz chassis went away over ten years ago. Being a child of the sixties when there were so many different looking cars, it bothered me that the Verizon IndyCar Series had become a spec series – same cars, same engines, same tires. On top of that, the rule book was very restrictive on what slight changes teams could make.

But as we know now, the aero kits didn’t exactly pan out. What sounded good in theory didn’t work out as originally planned. They were expensive, they seemed more brittle than the body parts of the original car, and as feared – one was far superior to the other creating a competition gap. Normally I would say “too bad”. But in this case, teams were saddled with a bad aero kit simply because they were aligned with a certain engine manufacturer. Plus, most casual fans couldn’t tell the difference between the two kits. The only real positive to me was that the aero kits looked better than the original DW12 – but that’s strictly my opinion.

So now we’re moving back to a unified body. It would have been easy just to go back to the body style run from 2012-2014. But credit Jay Frye and IndyCar for listening to the fans and deciding to go the much tougher route and coming up with a more aesthetically pleasing car. IndyCar released a computer rendering of the car on Wednesday, with an overlay comparison between the old car and the new.

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As promised, the air box is gone and replaced with a low-slung sleek engine cowling reminiscent of cars in the nineties helped by a forward-leaning roll hoop. Gone too is the rear-bumper. The rear wheels are exposed again, making the car look more like what most think an Indy car should look like. For now, the “sponsor blockers”, which are the small fins extending beyond the sidepods, are redesigned but still there. However, Jay Frye did throw out the teaser that they may be gone before the final design is done.

Overall, I really like what they have done. The bulbous sidepods are still there, but some of the design drawings show flip-ups instead of the giant mass in front of the rear wheel. For those that want to see the design without the overlay, this picture emerged on Twitter by yesterday morning.

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Many have noticed that there is no canopy or windscreen offering driver protection. Most know that is not a huge priority with me, so I failed to notice. However, we’ve already been told that a screen will be incorporated into the 2018 car so I’m sure it’s coming.

Remember, this design is still evolving and is subject to change. This is still only a computer rendering. My hope is that a prototype would be available for display at IMS throughout the Month of May so that fans could see it close up. Some fans will recall that one of the two DW12 versions on display at IMS in May 2011 never came to pass. And of course, it was the better looking of the two. Both prototypes on display had dorsal fins, which were gone by the time the car raced the next March. Unfortunately last night on Trackside, Curt Cavin said it wasn’t likely a car would be ready for May. However, he did say there would be a lot more 3-D mock-ups available online.

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IndyCar is smart to slowly whet our appetites at this time of year. On one hand, there has only been one race. On the other hand, the Indianapolis 500 is less than two months away. Racing resumes at Long Beach next weekend, then after another break for Easter, it’s Barber. From there, it’s Phoenix and then onto the month of May. I think the release of these photos was timed perfectly. It got us all to talking and that’s half the fun of being a race fan.

George Phillips

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8 Responses to “Next Year Is Looking Good Already”

  1. One of my first thoughts when i saw this rendering of the proposed new car is that it greatly reduces visibility for sponsors. Given the importance of sponsorships, there may need to be adjustments made with that consideration.

    • billytheskink Says:

      The primary loss of sponsorship space compared to the current car would seem to come from the new car’s low cowling. Without bringing back the airbox or lowering the sidepods (neither of which seem likely), I am not sure how the powers that be could reclaim much of that space.

      I would argue, though, that this model actually increases visibility for sponsors on the sidepods, particularly due to the smaller “sponsor blocker” that tapers off as it reaches the sidepod rather than ramps up like on the current car.

      • Mark Wick Says:

        It is hard to tell from this rendering, but it looks like the front 3/4 of the sidepod is recessed and angled so that the bottom is closer to the centerline of the car than the top is. Most TV angles and fan sight lines are from about 15 to 60 degrees up from the horizon. If I were considering sponsoring a car, I would want to know, among many other things, what my company name or logo would look from withing that range of view.

  2. Ed Emmitt Says:

    Say what you want it still is a spec racing series.Sadly

  3. It’s a shame they didn’t go with the alternate design back in 2012. The whole design is so much better than what they went with. It would be interesting to hear their justification(s) for choosing the actual DW12, that we were subjected to.

  4. Given the speeds that the cars travel these days, we will likely never again see a Novi or Blue Crown Special at Indy. Mechanics with wrenches have largely been replaced by engineers with tablets. So be it. The most important thing now is that the cars are safe, fast, and look zoomy. And let’s not forget about sound. I like race cars that sound dangerous to be next to. Sound that you can feel. Bottom line: A spec. series is way better than no series.

  5. I like it. I wish they showed a view from the back. The current car has gotten so ugly, anything is an improvement. I will miss the evolutionary process of the aero kits and the constant tweaking for more speed.

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