LEXINGTON, Ohio – “Take your time. No problem,” Tristan Vautier announced while the crew made adjustments to the Dallara IL-15 on pit lane at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Vautier, the 2012 Indy Lights champion and 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year, took the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires car out for its maiden full test. Two enthusiastic thumbs up indicated it passed initial muster.
“It’s a proper race car and definitely good step forward for the series,” said Vautier after a dozen laps on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course. “I love the sound and performance of the turbocharged engine, the drivability, the brakes. I’m very comfortable in the seat.”
The introduction of the chassis to competition in spring will coincide with the 30th anniversary of Indy Lights. Vautier is scheduled to test Aug. 12 and 14 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and at the Milwaukee Mile later in the month. Additional on-track testing, which will include Verizon IndyCar Series drivers to provide feedback, is scheduled for September.
“We want a car that drivers want to drive. We want a car leaning a little more European than the current IndyCar,” said Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, which oversees all aspects of the Mazda Road to Indy. “We want a light car. This car comes in about 180 pounds lighter than the current Indy Lights car with more horsepower, and I think it’s going to be more nimble on road and street circuits. Truthfully, on an oval, we may have to turn the wick down on the horsepower because we might go faster than I’m comfortable with.
“Seeing it on the track I love it.”
So did several Mazda Road to Indy drivers and a few prospective buyers.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction in a massive way for the series,” said Conor Daly, who shook down the car July 28 at Putnam Park in Greencastle, Ind., and will see more seat time in future tests. “The experience I’ve gotten in Europe in basically all the Dallaras that are on the market, it’s cool to experience this new one. It’s what the series needs. It’s big and it’s fast and it’s high-tech. It’s the future.”
Project manager Tony Cotman said safety was at the forefront of design. The car mirrors the Verizon IndyCar Series car supplied by Dallara with full-length anti-intrusion panels, side-mounted radiators to assist in energy absorption, a raised monocoque to protect the driver’s head, a front wing span to reduce wheel-to-wheel contact and increased underwing width to also reduce wheel-to-wheel contact.
The driver’s seat fits the Indy Lights and Verizon IndyCar Series chassis. Paddle shifting and push to pass also are mechanisms shared with the IndyCar. And the Indy Lights car has an onboard starter – an attribute not on the current IndyCar.
“We have a real race car, a high-quality machine,” said Cotman, who’s also the Indy Lights race director. “After we meet two or three targets, we’ll leave here with a lot of miles and a lot of confidence, and then we’ll feel good going to the Speedway.”
Top Speed: 200 mph
Design: Carbon chassis and bodywork
Weight: 1,400 pounds
Length: 192 inches
Width: 76 inches
Transmission: 6-speed semi-automatic
Engine: 2-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 450 horsepower plus 50 horsepower push to pass
Design: All aluminum
Weight: 230 pounds dry crated
Features: Carbon plenum, carbon inlet runner and trumpets and “drive-by-wire” throttle control
Electronics: AER with full active-knock control, ignition-angle learning, advanced boost control and integrated gear-shift strategies
• Cosworth looms, data logger, dash, display and sensors
• Dynamic dampers
• Life Racing paddle-shift kit
• Tilton carbon clutch
• PFC brakes
• 2014 carryover items include gearbox internals (including ratios), dampers and springs