DETROIT -- Closer racing. Increased competition. Improving the breed. Luring new manufacturers.
INDYCAR’s unveiling of the sleek new series car for 2018 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Tuesday couldn’t have made manufacturing rivals Chevrolet and Honda happier as they prepare to battle on the racetrack again this Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Key executives from both automakers joined in the unveiling at Cobo Center with INDYCAR brass and open-wheel racing greats Mario Andretti, Bobby Rahal and Roger Penske in throwing their support behind the Dallara IR-12 chassis and its universal aero kit to be matched with Chevy and Honda power.
Early testing of the car has shown a livelier race car with less downforce, less drag and faster straight-line speed, all wrapped in a sexier, slinkier package.
“We are excited about this new universal aero kit,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports for Chevrolet, during the unveiling. “I think the new car is reminiscent of some of the old Indy car styles. It’s a very attractive car. The aero kit has about 20 percent less downforce, so, obviously, it’s put the drivers back in the driver’s seat to show what they can do behind the wheel.
“We have found that the Chevrolet drivers who have been testing this kit and engine have to really re-learn how to get quickly around the road courses and ovals. So, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and very exciting. With less downforce, the drivers will really have to be on top of their game.”
Henio Arcangeli Jr. (left), senior vice president of American Honda Motor Company’s automobile division, echoed Campbell’s enthusiasm as the new car highlights INDYCAR’s tagline for the year – “The Future Starts Now.”
“Honda is very passionate about racing, especially the Verizon IndyCar Series,” Arcangeli said. “We have had an uninterrupted, continuous involvement with open-wheel racing in America since 1994. We are very excited about this new car and working with fantastic Honda teams like Ganassi, Andretti and Rahal. I think all the teams are very strong and they are going to work out how to race this vehicle. Coupled with the Honda engine, we are confident it will be very competitive this season.
“I think the series as a whole is going to benefit,” Arcangeli added, “and that the fans will be in for the best racing in a very long time.”
INDYCAR’s two engine manufacturers assumed the added burden and cost of developing their own competitive aero kits beginning in 2015. INDYCAR and its stakeholders soon realized that this added responsibility was a potential deterrent to luring additional manufacturers – something both Chevrolet and Honda welcome. It was a primary factor in the decision to develop the universal kit to be used by all competitors beginning this season.
Lauding Honda and Chevy as “great partners,” Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations, said other manufacturers (OEMs) were kept informed along the way.
“There's been great collaboration on this whole process and project,” Frye said. “Again, when we started it in December of '15, we did (then) and we continue to talk to other OEMs about our direction where we're going. We've made them part of the process.
“We didn't want to come out with a five-year plan that no other OEM wanted to be part of, so we actually had them be part of the process, so they're aware of what we're doing. They seem to be enthused about what we're doing. Does that mean they're coming for sure? Obviously there's still a lot of work to do, but I think we've removed some hurdles going forward.”
Mark Reuss (left), General Motors’ executive vice president for its global product development, purchasing and supply chain, also attended the unveiling, where 2017 series champion and Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden educated the crowd on the new car from the stage.
“This car is going to do a great job of growing the sport,” said Reuss. “And that’s what we at GM had hoped for. Packaged with our twin-turbo, 2.6-liter V-6 engine, it represents great engineering technical exchange. We couldn’t be happier.
“The Verizon IndyCar Series is a place that is growing again. We at GM couldn’t be happier for American motorsports and open-wheel racing.”