Aero Kits 101
The start of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season marked INDYCAR’s introduction to chassis competition based upon aerodynamic bodywork components designed, manufactured and supplied by Chevrolet and Honda.
Cars will be differentiated by their shape as the manufacturers have designed separate aero kit specifications for road and street course/short ovals and speedways for the Dallara IR-12 chassis. References to the cars will incorporate the name of the corresponding manufacturer.
INDYCAR’s goals for the program include:
- Provide a platform for developments in safety, performance and efficiency that are relevant to automotive and technology showrooms;
- Provide a platform to market brand identity without the necessity of designing and manufacturing an entire vehicle, while receiving high exposure; and
- Promote the INDYCAR brand, the fastest most versatile cars in the world.
“Aero kits will improve the diversity of the fan experience and renew technical engagement, while providing a controlled cost structure,” INDYCAR president of competition and operations Derrick Walker says. “This is the first step in making the incremental changes to our cars toward further enhancing speed, innovation and safety.
“It will add a lot of performance to the competition. This will be not only a competition of engine manufacturer versus engine manufacturer. The aero kits are now a component of their package. Records will be broken. If you look at the car for ’14, it’s been frozen in time since it came out in 2012. When you say to designers and engine manufacturers, ‘OK, you can make some changes here; go do what you can,’ you’ll get some different shapes and certainly get more performance.
“For the casual fan and followers of the tech side, there’s a lot more to look at.”
Regulations were announced in July 2013 by INDYCAR and manufacturer on-track testing commenced in October 2014. Homologation of components was in mid-January and Verizon IndyCar Series team testing was allowed March 13.
On track for 2015
There are two aero kits supplied by Chevrolet and Honda – one for street/road courses and short ovals and the other for speedways.
Both manufacturers, under the regulations, have designed, tested and supplied components in “legality boxes” that complement the standard components of the rolling chassis.
Areas open for development in these legality boxes include sidepods, engine cover, rear wheel guards, front and rear wing main planes and end plates, speedway front wing main plane, and the Indianapolis 500 rear wing main plane. Standard components for all cars include the underwing, road course front wing and rear wing main planes, nose, mirror housing and roll hoop fairing.
No entrant may use more than two homologated aero kits during a single season, and the 2014 Dallara bodywork may be one of the two aero kits. A team is not required to have each of its cars use the same aero kit at an event, and both manufacturers have homologated multiple options to supplement the base components. Optional components also can be changed between qualifying and the race.
“Differences between the 2014 Dallara chassis and the 2015 aero kits and between the Chevy and Honda aero kits will be quite easily spotted by an interested fan,” INDYCAR director of aerodynamic development Tino Belli says. “It’s certainly not going to be a spec car, and it’s not spec even within the Chevrolet or Honda environments.
“The teams will have quite a lot of things they can play with if they decide that they can come up with a better solution for their particular requirements and their driver or car set-up. The car set-up is not only going to be a downforce level like a wing angle, springs, shocks, toe and camber. If a particular type of mechanical set-up needs an aerodynamic solution, they can try what they like.”
The total cost to a team is $75,000 per car for the pair of aero kits.
The total weight of the aero kit without optional components, as run in road/street and short oval configuration may not be less than 55 pounds; as run in speedway configuration not be less than 46 pounds; and as run at the Indianapolis 500 with the manufacturer aero kit rear wing main plane and pillars not be less than 53 pounds.
INDYCAR will police the regulations through its technical inspection process on race weekends. There will be a combination of jigs and fixtures, load tests, maximum and minimum height dimensions and then laser scanning of the components to compare the database of the CAD of components against the car.
“We want the bodywork run as the aero kit manufacturer designed it and manufactured it,” Belli says.
Looking past 2015
Aero kits have been homologated through the final race of 2015. Approved suppliers may re-homologate three of the legality boxes available for re-homologation following the 2015 season.
A 2016 upgrade kit will cost no more than $15,000 per car charged to the team. The original items can continue to be used, too.
“Aero kits are breaking the mold a little bit, but it’s really the tip of the iceberg,” Walker says.