The Indianapolis 500 and the race series it spawned used to be a showcase for innovation, but the modern Verizon IndyCar Series limits teams to one chassis design, and one of two engines. Next season, the cars will get even more similar.
IndyCar’s 2018 race car puts an end to so-called “aero kit” body kits specific to engine manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda. Instead, all teams will use the same pair of aero kits, meaning all cars will look identical. The new car features two body designs, one for high-speed ovals, the other for shorter ovals, road courses, and street circuits.
IndyCar previously gave Chevy and Honda free reign to develop their own aero kits, but the experiment didn’t go well. Both manufacturers’ designs were rather ungainly looking. Initially, the Honda aero kit also had a major performance disadvantage, while a low-drag version of the Chevy kit produced so little downforce that it sent some cars flying through air in its first few outings.
After those results, IndyCar literally went back to the drawing board. Race cars usually emphasize function over form, but designers actually put a lot of effort into making the 2018 IndyCar look cool. The design is a bit more streamlined, and is inspired by the popular “low-line” IndyCars from the 1990s, according to series organizers.
Under the skin is the same IR-12 chassis from Italian race-car manufacturer Dallara that all IndyCar teams have used since 2012. Engines are unchanged as well: teams will continue to use 2.2-liter twin-turbocharged V6 motors from Chevy or Honda. IndyCar expects performance to be largely similar to the old car, but because the 2018 car uses a different arrangement of aerodynamic aids, it should be easier for drivers to pass each other.
IndyCar also claims safety improvements. Side-impact protection has been improved by redesigning the side pods, series organizers say. In simulations, the cars have shown less of a tendency to become airborne in spins, and the less-complicated front wings will produce less debris in crashes. The car can also be equipped with a windshield, something IndyCar is considering to reduce the risk of driver head injuries.