Honda will be allowed to make alterations to its 2016 road/street course and short oval package to bridge a competitive gap to Chevrolet under the provisions of Rule 9.3, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles said on an INDYCAR teleconference.
According to Rule 9.3 of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series aero kit regulations: In the event that an Aero Kit is not competitive to such extent that it would be detrimental to the Verizon IndyCar Series, INDYCAR may permit in its sole discretion Approved Suppliers to implement modifications to their respective Aero Kits. A detailed description of such a modification will be circulated to all Approved Suppliers should it be approved.
INDYCAR conducted multi-day, full-scale wind tunnel testing at Windshear in North Carolina, comparing Honda (Graham Rahal's car) and Chevrolet (reigning series champion Scott Dixon's car) road/street course and short oval aero kits in arriving at its decision in respect to Rule 9.3.
"Most observers looked at the situation from the point of view of the on-track results, which one could understand. It was not our view of what the rule says," said Miles, who oversees INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "So you could look at, and they're not irrelevant, data from qualifying, from laps led, from races won, from results in the championship, all those things, and they provide a perspective.
"But our perspective was that we need to know whether the aero kit itself is competitive or not. When you take out all the variables of who the driver is, when the pit closed, all the other things that happen in a race, engines and the like, what is the situation with respect to the aero kits themselves? That's what we wanted to focus on, is the first test in the rule. I would say that it's our view that both the substance provided by the data and the perceptions of the racing have clearly provided significant hurdles for our teams who are racing Honda.
"I think the takeaway is that we are following the letter of our rule."
Honda’s proposed changes to its road/street course and short oval aero package will be analyzed in a second round of full-scale wind tunnel testing that begins Nov. 7, and a decision on allowable alterations will be communicated to both manufacturers. INDYCAR aero kit regulations specify that modifications cannot enable Honda to surpass the aerodynamic performance of the 2015 Chevrolet road/street course and short oval kit.
"This weekend our engineers will examine (components) in the tunnel and decide how we will reply, whether or not the answer is yes, this works, does not exceed the Chevy performance in 2015, or no, this would give you an advantage we're not prepared to grant, or some combination of potential changes that is less than what they're asking for," Miles said.
Analysis of the superspeedway aerodynamic bodywork during the initial round of wind tunnel testing concluded that no competitive disadvantage existed.
In addition to any changes permitted to the 2015 Honda road/street course and short oval aero kit, both manufacturers are allowed to re-homologate up to three volume boxes of their aero kits for the 2016 season under INDYCAR aero regulations. The replaced components are still allowed to be used.
Honda teams have been testing prototype bodywork components on road courses during the offseason. Andretti Autosport and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports drivers will test Nov. 18 at the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway tri-oval.
Chevrolet entries earned the Verizon P1 Award for every contested pole position this past season. Cars powered by the Chevrolet 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engine with corresponding aero kits won 10 of the 16 races, including six of the 12 road/street course and short ovals. The bowtie brand swept the podium six times on the way to earning its fourth consecutive Manufacturers’ Championship.
Six street/road course track records were reset in qualifications in the first season of aerodynamic bodywork packages, including the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street course that will host the 2016 season on March 11-13.
Miles said it's "all systems go" with Honda re-upping with INDYCAR as an engine and aero kit supplier.
"This week we expect to receive a markup of the agreement that Honda will be ready to sign and we'll be reviewing that and hoping we can get it done in the next several days," he said.