Edmonton Indy: Technological changes for IndyCar’s new vehicle has levelled playing field as series hits Edmonton
EDMONTON - After 10 races in IndyCar’s new car, drivers aren’t surprised by the rapid shifts in the standings — something the series hasn’t seen for some time.
Every car is now equipped with a new Dallara chassis, while Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus are supplying the 2.5-litre, turbocharged V6 engines.
Lotus has been lagging in that race — to the point where only one driver, Simona de Silvestro, has stuck with the company — but the new car project, which began in 2010 and was undertaken to enhance driver safety, has seemingly evened the playing field.
This is the first time since 2003 that a new one has been rolled out.
What’s even more telling is that the 2003 chassis was designed for ovals, not street and road courses, and until this season, Honda was the sole supplier of a 3.5-litre engine.
Now, teams that change out their engines before it reaches its mileage limit receive a 10-grid spot penalty. De Silvestro, for instance, will drop 10 spots on the starting grid in Edmonton because her car went out with its sixth engine of the season in Toronto two weeks ago.
Teams can make five engine changes before they are penalized. Scott Dixon, who is eight points pack of third place driver Helio Castroneves, went into Toronto with his fifth and final engine.
“I do think the new car has leveled the playing field, and that has benefitted us, for sure,” points leader Ryan Hunter-Reay said.
“Ganassi and Penske have had a bit of a stranglehold on the series, they’ve been the strong teams, and now we have Andretti Autosport back up where it should be. Hopefully, we’ll see more of it come this way.”
In seasons past, Penske and Chip Ganassi have been the powerhouse racing teams.
“The new chassis has been a little more challenging because the car will do things the other one didn’t,” said Castroneves, one of the drivers who left the brake on the left side. Others used the sanctioned modification kit and shifted it to the right so they didn’t have to alter their driving habits.
“I like it,” Castroneves continued. “I like it very much. It’s safer as well.”
Push to pass, which allows drivers to add a turbocharged boost and more RPMs, was reintroduced in Toronto and will be an option for the drivers in Edmonton. With three long straightaways on the track, some drivers, like Castroneves, think it will be an advantage.
Hunter-Reay wasn’t so sure.
“I didn’t use much of it at Toronto. I think these cars have been doing an excellent job on their own,” Hunter-Reay said. “I don’t think they need any help to spice up the racing. It’s been excellent this year ... (so) I’m not sold on the push to pass. It’s just another variable in the race.”
The Edmonton track was reconfigured before the 2011 race, so the 3.631-km, 13-turn layout remains virtually unchanged. It is still a favorite spot for the drivers.
“There was brand new tarmac last year and a new layout — it was a huge change from the old Edmonton track,” Ryan Briscoe said. “The new one, I think, is really good for racing. It’s got three long straightaways with really heavy braking in tight corners at the end. It opens things up for lots of passing.
“Braking is probably the most important thing around the new track.”
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