Friday, April 1, 2016

Independent Aero

The aero kits have been anything but a slam dunk for IndyCar. From frustrating drivers to draining the wallets of car owners, many want to see them gone and it is understandable. However, what if some of these issues could have been avoidable? Hindsight is 20/20 and this is another case.

It made sense that each manufacture would develop its own aero kit but that has led us right to where we are today. It's not that Honda teams can't compete because the Honda engine is vastly inferior to the Chevrolet power plant. Honda teams are stuck with the Honda aero kit. There is no alternative and because of that each race has been an uphill battle for half the grid.

What if IndyCar had made it so aero kits had to be independent from the engine manufactures? The Honda aero kit was developed by Nick Wirth and Wirth Research. The Chevrolet aero kit was developed by Pratt & Miller. What if instead of billing the aero kits as Honda and Chevrolet, they were billed as Wirth and Pratt & Miller? Pratt & Miller is a company with a deep alliance with General Motors but for this example, let's say that wasn't a factor. If the kits were labeled "Wirth" and "Pratt & Miller," they could be open to all the teams. A Honda team could have gotten a Pratt & Miller and Chevrolet teams could have gotten a Wirth.

This could have created more diversity in the field. Instead of being focused on the difference between Honda and Chevrolet, we could be pinning the difference on Wirth and Pratt & Miller but what if the horsepower of the Chevrolets could overcome the aero deficiency in the Wirth kit? Then the difference might not be as noticeable and we might not be heading into each race wondering how far behind half the field would be to the other half.

However, no Chevrolet team would take a Wirth aero kit at this point. They know it is garbage and the teams aren't going to handcuff themselves just so two or three Honda teams can take a step forward. We are so far down this rabbit hole and there is no turning back.

I think we were all hoping a few independent aero kit manufactures would have stepped in and made it a little more interesting but that hasn't happened and it appears it won't be happening. As much as people want innovation and differences between the cars so we don't have two dozen of the same looking cars on the grid, a series like Super Formula has no problem with all the cars looking the same and the racing being fast and exciting. So maybe aero kits aren't needed. But something needs to dress the DW12 chassis.

Many want to throw the aero kits out and it makes sense but what are they going to use? Are the teams going to go back to the underdeveloped Dallara aero kit and sacrifice some speed or would Pratt & Miller or Wirth become the sole aero kit supplier?

There must be a way to compromise. Here is what I have thought of: For 2019, IndyCar should find at least two companies to develop aero kits that are independent from the engine manufactures. Because I am a dreamer, let's say those companies are McLaren and Saleen. We could see McLaren-Hondas and McLaren-Chevrolets and Saleen-Chevrolets and Saleen-Hondas. The field could be a little more jumbled up. There would be no more worrying about Chevrolets sweeping the top ten. Maybe it changes and now the worry is McLarens are sweeping the top ten or Saleens are but hopefully that wouldn't be the case.

I like aero kits. They leave the door open and I want the door open. I want the possibility of someone coming out of left field and stealing the show. IndyCar keeps the door closed on a lot of things and the possibility for some company to enter and stir the pot is intriguing.

IndyCar needs to get a few independent aero kit manufactures or IndyCar needs to find a big automotive company such as McLaren or hire Adrian Newey to design and develop the aero kits for all the cars. Regardless of what is done, IndyCar needs to figure out the aero kit issue and sooner rather than later.