By Adam Tate, Managing Editor
Marco Andretti set the top time in today’s Manufacturer aerokit test from Indianapolis Motor Speedway in windy, somewhat rainy conditions.
Andretti led a field of 15 drivers, who logged a combined 501 laps on the 2.5 mile superspeedway. His 223.427 mph lap just edged his Andretti Autosport team mate Ryan Hunter-Reay, which will give Honda some reason to smile, as their full superspeedway kit may finally give them an edge on their Chevy powered rivals. The full results can be found here.
The purpose of the two session test was to evaluate the manufacturer’s aero kits and Dallara’s new and controversial domed skit plates. The skid plates, mandated by IndyCar for all superspeedway events this year, have been introduced to combat the savage crashes seen in the lead up to last year’s Indy 500 where saw several cars become airborne and led to the panicked decision that prevented the full implementation of Honda’s superspeedway kit for the race.
Like the name implies, the cars now feature a convex, dome like shape on the skid plate of the underwing of the car. The theory being that they will provide increased drag when a car becomes sideways and help keep a spin from turning into the kind of flipping, barrel-rolling action seen last year. Used in concert with NASCAR inspired flaps on the rear wheel pods, the cars should be much safer than in 2015.
They have come under fire from some of the drivers who have stated that it too greatly effects the steering feel and handling of the car. Most notably, James Hinchcliffe warned they could ruin the Indy 500 this year. After today’s test he seems to have calmed his tone. “The good news is we all seem to be working toward the same thing. We are all genuinely trying to make a safer car but a car that still races well. I think there is a way to appease both sides of that argument. Hopefully by the time we show up here for practice week, we’ve found that compromise and everybody can be relatively happy.”
Scott Dixon echoed Hinch’s sentiments, “We’ve got to look at safety before anything. Yes, it’s going to make the car maybe a little more difficult, but every car has a pedal and we have more downforce to put on to compensate for the loss.”
Despite leading the times, the ever outspoken Andretti was not very pleased with the day and accused the Chevrolet teams of sandbagging. There is a lot of politicking it seems behind the scenes of a test that is primarily about safety. Many in the Honda camp love the domed skids as they force higher ride heights, which will slow the Chevy’s down. Some are also pushing IndyCar to add the DW12’s pre-aerokit strakes to the underwing as a way to increase stability and make up for the strange sensation the domed skid plates give the drivers in a further bid to catch up.
Today’s test may be over, but the fighting and posturing around the domed skid plates and the competition between Honda and Chevy will only heat up, as the contest for the biggest prize in racing starts in just 53 days.
Image: Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR