When the IndyCar ICONIC committee reviewed proposals from Dallara, Swift, Lola, and DeltaWing for the new IndyCar chassis, they were presented with a very intriguing idea from Dallara. They proposed a chassis with specific aero components that could be independently designed and applied to the chassis skeleton. Therefore, 1 chassis would be needed, but multiple “aero-kits”, as they’ve been referred to, could be utilized. In theory, engine manufacturers like Honda and Chevy could design unique kits for their cars. Corporations like Boeing, or even Wal-Mart if they wanted to could design, engineer, and sale aero-kits to teams. A large swath of IndyCar fans would get something they wanted desperately…differentiated looking cars. Now, in its second year, the DW12 still races with only the factory Dallara aero-kit available. What happened?
Unfortunately, IndyCar team owners complained that the new chassis/engine combo was more expensive to maintain and race and they couldn’t afford the additional cost of aero-kits. Fair enough, but there was no set-in-stone agreement that if an aero-kit were offered other than the Dallara kit that you had to buy it. Can’t afford it? Don’t buy it. Many IndyCar fans, including myself, were quite peeved to hear the aero-kits would be delayed indefinitely.
The need for different looking cars has never been that important to me. The main issue is the Dallara aero-kit is so offensive to look at. I always maintained hope that a new kit by another company would at least look better. That’s all I really hoped for…nothing radical, but something not offensive. I get it though. Money is hard to come by these days and the racing is great. No arguments there. But, could this chassis end up helping IndyCar teams save money in the future?
IndyCar teams are struggling for sponsorship money and finding it hard to make ends meet. Meanwhile, in a quickly evolving world, old designs of anything wear quickly and often need freshening more often than in previous decades. Now, automobile manufacturers churn out redesigns of their products faster than ever due to the intense competition in the marketplace. And, let’s face it, we seem to have much shorter attention spans and love affairs with things than we used to. In a few years, IndyCar fans will be clamoring for the “next car”. Can IndyCar teams afford to buy new equipment every 5 years or so? No, they can’t. This is where the ugly-duckling Dallara comes in.
The ability to engineer aero pieces for certain parts of the chassis to create a unique look can be used to, cheaply, update the chassis and keep it fresh. Maybe that wasn’t the original intention, but it could work. Would you rather spend $30,000 on an aero kit or $300,000 on a new chassis? It’s like giving your house a fresh coat of paint, doing some landscaping, and replacing some worn out trim instead of knocking the whole thing down and starting over. Just introduce a couple of new aero kits every year or so and, viola, you have a fresh IndyCar. Plus, it still allows the competition and differentiation aspect that was originally intended. On top of that, keeping a chassis for a longer period of time allows new or smaller teams to enter the series later in the life-cycle of the chassis through purchase of equipment from teams that may have come and gone or just needed to jettison some redundant items. It opens up more opportunity to have more than 33 entries for the Indy 500 (hello Bump Day!) and for event one-offs for up and coming drivers. Maybe a new aero-kit is released, a big team purchases it, and they have old kits they need to sell. This is a perfect opportunity for a small or new team to pick up some equipment at a discount price.
No matter what happens, IndyCar just needs to piss or get off the pot about the kits. It was mentioned today that IndyCar is pondering committing to the kits, but only at the 3 superspeedway events next year. This is due to the fact that Honda doesn’t have a high-downforce kit ready. I say tough tits Honda. Your teams can use the Dallara kits if you don’t have one for the road courses. All I hope is that the new kits are more attractive. The DW12 needs a makeover already. She has an amazing personality, but she sure ain’t pretty. Come on IndyCar, allow some smart folks to turn this ugly duckling into a swan. Oh, and the kits may be the money saving savior you’ve been looking for.