how much longer E85 is going to be
available to the American market.”
Walker says that the question of fuel is
very much an open one.
“Will E85 remain part of IndyCar in the
future? Personally, I don’t think so,” he
says. “It’s not a decision we’ve made, but
it’s under review, for sure.”
Hard as it might be to draw a direct line
between a DW12 and a Honda Accord or a
Chevy Volt, everyone seems to agree that
IndyCar has enough technical substance to
maintain its value. And everyone seems
equally clear that any changes will be heavily
influenced by the manufacturers to ensure
their continued interest. Precisely how that
future might look is still an open question.
But if Walker doesn’t have all the answers
yet, he’s adamant they have to come soon.
“A year from now I’d like to see some
meat on the bones,” he says. “Ultimately,
we want to bring variety back to racing.
Our image is one quite far toward spec,
and it was a good idea at the time. Three
to five years down the road, will it still be
a good idea? I personally don’t think so.
“I think we should always keep our eyes
and ears open, looking at and thinking
about where the formula needs to go next,
rather than heading three or five years
down the road and suddenly realizing that
we need to go and do something.”
One of the loudest criticisms of the current
IndyCar formula is the near-complete
dependence upon Dallara for parts teams
previously either sourced or designed and
built independently. Most teams continue
to argue that the days of relative technical
freedom were cheaper, and they’re
unanimous in observing that the scope to
flex engineering muscle has been reduced.
Reduced, but not removed.
Despite the restrictions associated
with the DW12, Target Chip Ganassi
Racing head engineer Julian Robertson
believes that there is still scope for
smart thinkers to make a difference.
“There are still gains to be had,” he
says. “It’s just a matter of finding those
areas. We’re probably spending more
time and effort on certain areas than
we would if we had more freedom. It’s
a lot of effort for small gains, but you
still put the same amount of work in.”
In mechanical terms, the star here is the
damper. It’s one of the few areas open to
development, and a massive performance
differentiator in a series racing on tracks
as diverse as those found in IndyCar.
The gains made by both Chevrolet
and Honda during the season point to
the amount of engine development
work that is possible, even within the
confines of the homologation rules.
Obviously the teams have little direct
input into this, but what may come as
more of a surprise is the amount of
aerodynamic work that goes on.
“Optimizing what you need for each
track isn’t as straightforward as just sticking
the parts on,” Robertson says. “As delivered,
the car has some areas where, if you just
do the obvious thing, it doesn’t necessarily
work right. So most teams have some
form of aero program, and the engine
manufacturers have large aero programs.
“Massive amounts of CFD are done on
these cars. You look at them and go, ‘oh,
it’s quite simple’, but if you don’t have it
all right, you won’t be able to win.”
THINK INSIDE THE BOX
FINDING AN ADVANTAGE
road, I think it ultimately could be.”
The prospect of manufacturer-designed
and -supplied bodykits could be the first
step in this direction. Unlike NASCAR, an
IndyCar will never look like something in the
showroom but, says Griffiths, the aero work
has value beyond mere brand differentiation.
“Everybody looks at Honda and GM as
engine manufacturers,” he says, “but
we’re car manufacturers. So there is
reason for us to produce aero kits.”
One area almost certainly set for change
in the future is fuel. Currently, IndyCar uses
E85, which is immensely relevant...provided
you drive a flex-fuel car and live near one of
the 1,000 or so mostly Midwestern E85
pumps. GM has a lot of flex-fuel vehicles in
its line-up, but it’s a low priority for Honda.
“We’ve gone a different path and
become purveyors of hydrogen technology
and other alternative fuels,” says Griffiths.
“With IndyCar being a predominantly
American sport, I guess it’s relevant to the
Dallara DW12 has
produced close, open
competition since its
introduction in 2012.