As the fallout from Dan Wheldon’s fatal accident in Las Vegas last month continues, a desire to put more car control in the hands of the driver and out of the control of technology was the general consensus reached by a group of IndyCar engineers gathered at a brainstorming session in Indianapolis last week.
With the question of whether IndyCar has a future on 1.5 mile ovals still very much undecided, the group discussed the sensitive issue a month removed from the tragic accident which marred the 2011 season finale.
IndyCar’s Vice-President of Technology, Will Phillips – a former engineer himself – knows the special trust a driver has with their engineer and the benefit of convening such a group to discuss the matter.
“Do we keep running on the 1.5-mile ovals and if so, how do we go racing on them?” Phillips told Speed’s Robin Miller. “Obviously safety is paramount and as engineers we have to remember we are ultimately participating in a show.”
The state of 1.5-mile ovals on the 2012 series calendar is in disarray, with only one currently confirmed for next season. Ironically, that circuit is Texas Motor Speedway, known for producing the best crowds but also for producing high levels of the severe pack racing currently at issue (pictured, top).
Demand from the core IndyCar fan base for a range of oval layouts has prevented the oval discipline from being scrapped altogether. Series CEO Randy Bernard has said that the diversity of racetracks visited is what makes the series and its drivers as great as they are.
Overall, a goal of giving the driver more to do in the cockpit and putting less emphasis on running flat out all the way around the circuit was one of the better ideas put forward. Engineers were of the belief that changes can be made to allow the series to race at Texas and that the DW12 chassis was needed to go and test the theory.
“We need to see them run together, see what the turbulence behind the new cars is like and see if they run two abreast, three wide or get spread out,” Phillips said.
Currently, drivers testing the DW12 at Indianapolis were unanimous in their belief the new car suffered from handling and weight distribution problems. Phillips has said Dallara are working on the problem and that testing at Homestead will show what improvements have been made and what is still needed prior to the December 15 delivery date on the first batch of rolling chassis to the teams.
[Article by Matt Lennon; images via LAT]