As part of Verizon IndyCar Series Media Day on Tuesday, Chevrolet unveiled their aero kit for the 2015 season. IndyCar allowed each of the manufactures to develop a unique look for their cars to help improve the aerodynamics of the cars, within certain rules.
“It was our opportunity to differentiate our look, drive innovation, look for ways to improve performance and speed, lap times,” Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s Vice President of Motorsports, commented. “That’s exactly what we’ve been doing. We’ve been working with Mark Miles, Derrick Walker to bring this package to life. Obviously our competitors are doing the same thing.”
The new aero kit features a brand-new endplate and a front flap adjuster that “will be visibly different than the DW12”, which is the current car developed by Dallara that the teams run. It was the named the “DW12” due to Dan Wheldon’s influence in the testing.
“The front upper very prominent feature in the new front wing design. Inboard fence again, another new part, that ties it together,” Chevrolet’s Program Manager for IndyCar Chris Berube explained. “Seven parts in our new front wing assembly compared to four on the Dallara side.
“Moving on, we look at the center of the car, towards the rear we have a wheel wedge in front of the rear wheel, compared to the Dallara where the side pod carried all the way over to the front of the rear tire. We have a new side floor kick that you’ll see behind the pod wing. A new part on the side pod that we call the upper flick. Our side pod and side pod inlet are also new.”
Berube added that they maintained the overhead intake, but it is now a “much more shrink-wrapped tight engine cover without that vent in the back” to create a tighter package. They also added new bumper pods at the back of the car, as well as a top flick, new end plates with louvered features in them.
“Our upper rear wing development is a dual flap design as opposed to the single flap that the DW12 has,” Berube concluded.
In total, there are 123 new parts, but by regulation, none of them are adjustable when the driver is driving. And they’ll run you about $75,000 each for your first two, with every subsequent kit costing you $90,000.
There are comments that stem from people not annoying the small new additions, saying it takes away from the look of the car. However, per the manufacture, they feel that they have accomplished a balance between form and function.
“If you’re all form and no function, you’re not going to win on the track. If it’s all function and no form, you don’t get the balance of the visual along with the functional,” they shared. “It’s function and form together for us. So I think it will be interesting to see the debate. One of the reasons we like of having the ability to do an aero kit is there’s another storyline for this series. Engines and now the aero kit for Chevrolet working with our teams. That’s going to be in comparison to the competition, what we do on the engine and aero package.
“I think it’s exciting. It’s about innovation. It’s about speed. It’s about faster lap times. That was what we looked for as we looked about coming back into the series. We looked at the engine package. Then the ability to do an aero kit was something we were very interested in doing.”
Chevrolet discussed the development process in detail with Chevrolet’s Director of Motorsports Competition Mark Kent said following some baseline testing, they began to develop a series of design concepts by trying to find a way to optimize engine power, drag and downforce for the perfect package.
“Once we established these goals, we had some design concepts, some renderings that we had on what we thought the car could look like,” Kent commented. “We had a very focused, dedicated team that worked on this aero kit program that then took these renderings and put them into the computer through computer-aided design, which we then took one step further and did structural analysis of the components.”
Kent added they worked through discovering what they wanted by using “the computer to simulate the aerodynamic properties”.
“A lot of our up front work was done on the computer. It’s a very efficient and effective way in order to run through numerous designs before you even start to produce parts,” he commented. “So once we ran through this process, and I’m going through these in linear steps, but this is obviously a cycle. We go back a lot and start over based on learning along the way.”
Once the computer backed up what they wanted, they went forth creating prototype parts, in which he commends the technology that they were able to work with.
“You can take a 3-D printer and produce parts like this that is carbon-filled parts that are strong enough to actually go on a racecar and be tested on speedways and ovals and road courses. It’s an amazing technology that allows us to rapidly learn what our parts do and rapidly allows us to go back and make enhancements as required,” he shared. “Once we had the parts, our next step was to go to a scale model wind tunnel, 50% scale model of the car. 50% testing offers us a great opportunity to learn quickly and more efficiently, producing parts that are half the size of the real parts represent a cost savings and allows us to test numerous iterations more rapidly.
“Once we were satisfied with those results, the next step was to go to a full scale wind tunnel test. We produced rapid prototype parts, took them to a full scale rolling wind tunnel, conducted numerous tests to confirm what we learned in the scale model tunnel and the computer.”
With everything having been proven through their research, they were set to take to the kit to various tracks and test it out. Berube says that they went to Homestead-Miami Speedway, CoTA and Phoenix to test the parts.
“We were glad to have Helio (Castroneves) and Juan Pablo (Montoya) help us at Homestead,” Berube commented. “At CoTa we had Will (Power) and Simon (Pagenaud) in the car. Then at Phoenix we had Scott (Dixon) and Tony (Kanaan) running for us. Got a number of team Chevy drivers through this that helped us keep making progress in the validation phase, which is what the track testing is all about.”