Jury out on Indy 500 aero changes

Indy 500 aero

Josef Newgarden says it is too early too tell exactly what effect the Indy 500 aero changes will have

It is still too early to tell how much of an improvement new aerodynamics will make in the Indianapolis 500, according to drivers.

IndyCar and Dallara have introduced a host of changes, some mandatory and others optional, for the Month of May, with the aims of enhanced safety and better racing.

Specifically, those changes are:

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  • New optional underwing flap wicker
  • New mandatory stability wickers
  • New optional additional underwing inner bargeboard
  • Optional underwing road and street course strakes
  • Speedway infill wicker made optional
  • New wing mount with an extra three degrees of adjustability

CLICK HERE to watch McLaren Racing Director Gavin Ward explain how the new components work

While the Texas Motor Speedway event has already been run and won, teams had the opportunity to experience the full Indianapolis suite of components in last week’s Open Test, at which Josef Newgarden was fastest.

With the second day of the test washed out, and the first day featuring high winds, the Team Penske driver still has much to learn about the new package.

“It was a tricky day; very, very tricky,” noted Newgarden.

“It wasn’t cold; This was a relatively warm day. The wind was pretty gusty. It wasn’t just that it was 20 mile-an-hour winds, it was gusting at times pretty aggressively.

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“Very difficult to assess year over year. It seems like for sure there’s a small benefit already to be able to follow relative to last year. I think some of that is just going to be the extra downforce that’s on the car.

“But we’ve not explored everything. We’ve only had one day. That’s really not enough to get through all the configurations.

“It remains to be seen exactly how this new package will race. I thought some guys looked really good [but] let’s see.

“It’s very, very early. It’s so difficult to predict this stuff until you get into the meat of the month of May. We need a little bit more time.”

2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay has returned to the field for a one-off drive with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing after missing last year’s race as Chip Ganassi Racing’s reserve driver.

After taking 14th on the testing timesheet, he said, “I was expecting a little bit more with the downforce adds that are offered to us. I was expecting a little bit more grip. It was similar.

“The real wildcard was the wind, right? Guys were kind of balloon footing it out of [Turn] 2 at times. You never knew who was on the new tyres.

Indy 500 aero

Ryan Hunter-Reay

“I was getting some really good runs on some guys. You just really never knew. It was a weird day in that aspect.

“Yeah, I’m not sure. There’s added bottom side downforce, which I would think would help. I mean, Josef looked super strong out there. There were a few others.

“Passes were not coming as easily amongst the whole group, as easily as they kind of do here when you’re the second or third car back.”

The Texas race was taken as vindication of the changes which applied then, and while Newgarden expects an improvement at The Brickyard, he cautioned that it will not be the spectacle that the Fort Worth circuit produced.

“I think purely speaking from what’s available, there will be more load on the cars than last year,” he explained.

“That should pack everyone up theoretically. I think that will happen.

“I don’t think you’re going to get the Texas effect. This is not a two-lane racetrack. At least not currently.

“Outside of restarts and starts, you’re not going to have side-by-side lap after lap.

“You’re going to have really exciting restarts, really exciting start to the race, then it’s going to be a matter of how do you work traffic, et cetera.

“I think the goal would be giving a little bit more of the front-runners an opportunity to shuffle around.

“Typically it’s just the front two shuffling. I think if we could get the shuffle going three, four deep, even getting people opportunities in the mid-pack to make moves more often, that’s really the goal without overstepping it.

“It remains to be seen if we’ve struck that right balance. It’s just very hard to predict.”

The IndyCar Series resumes this weekend with the first road course event of 2023, at Barber Motorsports Park, before a weekend off and then the now customary 500 curtain-raiser on the Indianapolis road course.

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