Thursday, November 10, 2011

IZOD IndyCar Series 2012 Motorsports Musings

Memorial three-abreast five lap salute To Dan Wheldon performed by the IZOD IndyCar Series drivers at Las Vegas Motor Speedway October 16, 2011. Image Credit: LAT Photo

IZOD IndyCar Series 2012 Motorsports Musings

The 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season will be the 101st season of American open wheel racing. It is hard to get one's mind around the beginning of a new season of competition when the previous season ends, in such tragedy, as the 2011 season ending race in Las Vegas played out.

The memorials and auctions in support of all that Dan Wheldon and his family stood for during his career have taken place and are winding down on the internet. The response on eBay in terms of donated items and bidding response was beyond anyone could have imagined. Dan was unique in that he was very independent and corporate at the same time. A trick that held him in high esteem with the top brass in the series and some of the most renegade fans this sport had to offer. He was so unique in this posture, he was probably one of a very few IRL standard drivers fans from the former CART/ChampCar series could relate to and half embrace as their own.

Dan had a large hand in helping to understand and craft the beginning of a new era in American open wheel racing as it enters 2012. So large was his influence, the IZOD IndyCar Series and Dallara have decided to rename the new chassis Dan spent the last months of his life testing with the Bryan Herta Autosport engineering staff based out of Santa Clarita, CA.

The Dallara DW12 IndyCar Safety Cells, ready for their close-up, as they sit next to the "yard of bricks" start/finish line. Image Credit: Ron McQueeney

The new era, as set upon by the ICONIC committee in 2010, will feature the IndyCar Safety Cell monocoque and suspension parts renamed the Dallara DW12 which, instead of being a pure specification car where all of the component parts come from the same manufacturing resouces, keeps the driver encased in a frame covered with a choice of outer composite aerodynamic body work (not at first, but starting in 2013), rolling on tires from Firestone (with discussions of having a potential of at least two manufacturers supplying solutions during future seasons), powered by engines supplied by at least three different manufacturing marks in 2012 (Honda, Chevy/Illmore, and Lotus/Judd). What this brings to a racing series is an element of diversity in the fielding of a competitive entry. This places even greater emphasis on the team's engineering, and support make up as well as driver talent.

With all of this diversity and evolution of technology in the paddock, one has to ask, what is the IZOD IndyCar Series going to do to meet the support challenges that will show themselves on the track during race events?

The management and negotiation quotient between additional suppliers for body parts, and engines is only a part of the equation ... race control has to be considered on the other side. Cars being fielded with a broader diversity of component parts will translate to a greater difference in performance on the track between teams.

Will the current, years old specification template, and staff (with a cobbled together, two series philosophical input flow), stand up to the demands this new ICONIC committee Dallara DW12 approach exact? Given the troubles that exposed themselves this past year (possibly placing the series championship at stake), can the current race control be the standard for 2012 and beyond ... or is it time for a change that can adapt to the engine and aero-package diversity that will present itself in competition?

On behalf of the unique approach the ICONIC committee and CEO Randy Bernard have embraced, which recognizes the precept that some potential for technology evolution is a good thing for motorsports, let's hope that management template evolution can be explored in background series support and race control as well.

... notes from The EDJE

<Article first appeared as IZOD IndyCar Series 2012 Motorsports Musings at Technorati>

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