NEWTON — The Verizon IndyCar Series was at Iowa Speedway for a second time in the 2017 season on Thursday — this time for a two-car test.
While it wasn’t the enthralling action Iowa Speedway sees on a race day — testing rarely is exciting for anyone involved — it did serve as an important third step in evaluating and analyzing the universal aero kit set to be implemented for the 2018 season.
As seen in the video above, Team Penske and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports brought Chevy and Honda-powered cars, respectively, to the 7/8-mile to conduct tests on downforce levels for the new aero kit.
Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya was behind the wheel of the Chevy, while veteran open wheel racer Oriol Servia piloted the Honda. Both were selected by the manufacturers and IndyCar for their experience. Both said Thursday that through tests at Indianapolis, Mid-Ohio and now Iowa Speedway, there’s a direction they feel IndyCar should and will go: lower downforce.
“We’re trying different levels of downforce and it’s interesting how you can run the same lap time, and in one you’re completely flat out and the other you’re lifting,” Montoya said. “I never liked that you could run wide open all the way around.
“When you run wide open, it’s 7 mph difference in the corners and straight. With the other (lower downforce), it’s 20 mph difference and you see acceleration out of the corners. I think it’s going to create better racing.”
Thursday’s test did not have speeds or lap times available, but both Montoya and Servia indicating the laps were the same regardless of downforce levels suggested to them the series would listen to their feedback on drivability in single-car runs and when running close together.
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The current aero kit causes a severe loss of handling when cars follow each other closely at high speeds, which makes passing more difficult and in turn, theoretically, hurts the racing product.
IndyCar officials said Thursday’s test, like the others, was focused on getting car to drive and react in a way that would preserve the product that has been, at times, dynamic in recent years.
“The car did exactly what I think everyone hoped,” Servia said. “I was able to run a decent distance behind Juan Pablo. The car loses grip, but in a four-tire kind of slide. It’s not like the front or rear loses a lot, which is the problem with the current car.
“It was very consistent and with the lower downforce package, you have to drive it, which is fun.”
Thursday’s test was the third of potentially five tests for the 2018 aero kit, which will make its debut in the season opener on March 11 in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The next scheduled test is at Sebring later in August, with the possibility for a final test at Phoenix International Raceway this fall.
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