ormer Honda Performance Development
technical director Roger Griffiths proved to
be something a visionary back in 2012.
With the first of many false starts for the
Verizon IndyCar Series’ aero kits sparking
the conversation, he feared the arrival of
custom body kits from Chevrolet and
Honda would send both brands down a
path that was both costly and unnecessary.
“We’d all be the wiser to forget the idea
of aero kits, and instead have both
manufacturers come to an agreement to
pool the money set aside for them and put
it into better TV each year,” he said. “That’s
where the budgets would be better spent.”
Given the slow uptick in TV ratings since
2012, and the recent decision to freeze
aero kit development after two uneven
seasons, Griffiths’ musings seem prescient.
And with IndyCar preparing for a return
to a single-spec aero kit in 2018 – one that
should remind open-wheel fans of the low,
wide, sleek Champ Cars – it’s worth asking
whether the frightfully expensive aero kit
era of 2015-’ 16 will go down as a wasteful
mistake, or if manufacturers managed to
gain something from the brief adventure?
“There were two things that came out
of it that hit the objectives,” says Mark
Kent, Chevrolet’s director of racing. “One
was the visual differentiation between the
manufacturers, and the second was the
opportunity for the manufacturers to
truly compete in aerodynamics, to try to
out-perform and out-engineer the
opposition. Both of those did result from
this program. I don’t see any areas where
Kent’s positive appraisal comes in the
wake of the Bowtie’s utter dominance of
the two-season aero kit era. Its teams
won 24 of 32 races, a pair of Drivers’
Championships, and extended its
Manufacturers’ Championship streak to five.
Chevy’s 88-percent win rate in 2016 alone
represents one of the most successful
A LIFT OR A DRAG?
With a freeze on IndyCar aero kits next season, and spec
bodywork back in for 2018, what exactly was achieved in
two years of high-downforce, high-spend competition?
“I believe that the aero
kits have moved the series
forward; they’ve moved the
performance level up”
outcomes in any open-wheel season where
multiple manufacturers were present.
Honda’s experience with aero kits has
made it harder to find positives in the
experiment. In light of its struggles in 2015,
the offseason redevelopment for its road/
street course kit leading into ’ 16, and the
decreased competitiveness that followed,
the vibe from its competition arm, Honda
Performance Development, is that the
upcoming universal kit will be welcomed.
“We’ve made no secret that we weren’t in
favor of aero kits, which is why we started
late,” says HPD president Art St. Cyr. “Our
initial impression was we didn’t think it
was good for the series to do, and we’ve
gone through some well-documented trials
and tribulations with our 2015 kit, the
2016 redesign, and those types of things.
“The theory was that if we could bring
this kind of technical innovation to IndyCar,
WORDS Marshall Pruett MAIN IMAGE Shawn Gritzmacher/IMS Photo