Tuesday was a good day to be a person who falls in love with new race cars. It was also a bad day to be a person who mocks new race cars.
Remember the last time a new generation of Indy car was unveiled? It happened in March 2015 at a small restaurant in Culver City, California. Ryan Hunter-Reay was there, along with all the important people from Honda and the Verizon IndyCar Series as aero kit between Honda and Chevrolet was set to commence.
The mood was upbeat and enthusiastic. The new aero kit was unusual and interesting, weirdly futuristic and intriguing, or so we thought. The first photos went live and ...
Ran head-first into internet mockery.
Photoshop nerds turned it into a running online joke. We saw cheese graters and armadillos and snowplows that mimicked the car’s multilayered wings. We saw memes of Nelson from “The Simpsons.” We saw what was intended as a positive turned into negative. We saw a race car belittled before it had even raced.
This time it was different. When images of the latest generation of Indy car were posted Monday, pointing and laughing didn’t accompany them. Instead, people seemed to like the new universal aero kit design; even loved it. Almost in unison, drivers went to Twitter and declared to be in love at first sight with an inanimate object.
Tomorrow you are mine. First taste of the 2018 @indycar and happening at @indianapolismotorspeedway. Can't ask for much more. She looks pretty and ready. @hondaracing_hpd 😍😍😍😍 What do you think? Fancy her?
A post shared by Oriol Servia (@oriolservia) on
“Tomorrow you are mine,” Oriol Servia posted on Instagram with a photo of the new car on Monday, hours before he tested it with Juan Pablo Montoya. “First taste of the 2018 @indycar and happening at @indianapolismotorspeedway. Can't ask for much more. She looks pretty and ready.”
It’s a long journey from unveiling a race car to reaching the point at which it provides great racing, but the first step – and often the most important step in revealing a new product – has been accomplished. The car is attractive and – no matter how inconsequential appearances are to actual performance – looks do matter. If this thing races half as well as it looks, the next three years will prove positive.
Look past looks, though, and you’ll find the true potential of the new era:
“We're optimistic,” Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations, said during Tuesday’s first test at IMS. “We've come up with a five-year plan. We have a business model. Actually, we had other manufacturers who aren't our current partner manufacturers be part of the process. So as we were going through it, we showed them what we're doing, give their opinion, ask what they thought. They've been involved.”
First step taken, many more to take. But the mockers are silent, and their silence is profound. No cheese graters or armadillos or snowplows this time. It looks good, and that’s what’s important in the beginning.
Make no mistake. First impressions matter. But second and third and fourth impressions are almost always more important.