RacingNation.com

A New Season Of IndyCar Sports A New DW12 Racer

2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden describes the 2018 Universal Aero Kit on stage during the 2018 INDYCAR unveil at the North America International Auto Show in Detroit. [Photo by: Joe Skibinski]

2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden describes the 2018 Universal Aero Kit on stage during the 2018 INDYCAR unveil at the North America International Auto Show in Detroit. [Photo by: Joe Skibinski]

by Allan Brewer

Auto show season has swung into high gear with the turn of the calendar from 2017 to 2018, and the Detroit Auto Show (grand-daddy of them all among consumer shows) brought out the bright lights from IndyCar in a season-previewing introduction of the fourth Dallara DW12 iteration on Tuesday. On hand were World Driving and Indy 500 champion Mario Andretti, executives from Chevrolet and Honda, Mark Miles and Jay Frye of IndyCar and Roger Penske with driver and reigning IndyCar champ Josef Newgarden to lovingly admire and talk about a stunning candy-apple red static model on the show’s main floor.

The 2018 Universal Aero Kit on stage during the unveiling at the North America International Auto Show in Detroit.  [Photo by: Joe Skibinski]

The 2018 Universal Aero Kit on stage during the unveiling at the North America International Auto Show in Detroit. [Photo by: Joe Skibinski]

The changes to the IndyCar are evolutionary, not revolutionary, and the result of three years of collaboration from manufacturers, teams and drivers. However, that is not to say that the changes are insignificant because they are not. It will be several months before the final reviews are in, especially the all-important returns from Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, but if the engineers have hit the mark fans and drivers will be rewarded with even more exciting racing than IndyCar has produced in abundance over the last several years.

From front to rear, here are the salient points of difference between the new fourth-generation Dallara DW12 IndyCar and its predecessors:

The front wing of the 2018 IndyCar has been greatly slimmed and simplified from the straight-on perspective. It now presents a sleek, even knife-like appearance of its considerable end-plates, suggesting force which lives to slice through the air ahead. Its function remains the same as previous: create aerodynamic downforce and provide a counter-balancing force in opposition to the rear wing and tire ramps at work further astern.

Amidships is another significant change: the side pods have advanced to a position parallel that of the driver in the cockpit. Reinforced with dyneema, the carbon fiber pods contain the usual cooling components and ductwork to induct airflow and conduct it rearwards as well as providing additional lateral-impact protection for the driver. Up top the dummy air intake box above the driver’s head is gone, replaced by a simple roll hoop and camera pod.

Beneath the car is the most highly anticipated design feature of the new car’s construction: the underwing, which will now assume an even greater role in the car’s handling with the diminished size and complexity of the wings front and rear. The engineering brief to Dallara was to reduce the downforce and still improve lap-times—a contradictory feat the success of which will become evident as the racing season unfolds.

Continuing rearward there is the notable low-profile of the engine cowling and persistence of the wheel ramps—though slightly narrower than before—just fore of the rear tires. The ramps remain as they provide diversion of the air over the top of the tire, a high-drag component when fully-faced into the wind. The rear wing is a simple mono-plane with downward winglets at the right and left margins.

Finally, and most mercifully, the rear-tire bumper pods are now a thing of the past. And that is a good thing for aesthetic and competitive reasons as the redesign of the underwing should now make close following with less turbulence possible. Also unlamented in their absence are the huge dorsal fin aft of the driver and the various added-on, knock-off pieces of team-specific aero kit that littered street courses without fail at their opening laps.

So, how does it drive?

The diminished front wing of the car, and the smoother back-wash of air behind the car, will help eliminate the dreaded loss of front downforce the previous car was notorious for creating in its wake. That in turn should lead to more passing and more lead-changes than previously. Advancing the radiators and their weight forward also stabilizes the handling somewhat as well, another boon to maneuvering on tight road and street courses to abet overtaking. The additional layer of protection from lateral impact for the driver is a welcome side-benefit of the change.

Share Button

Allan Brewer covers IndyCar and other racing series for RacingNation.com. Allan is a fixture at the race track, armed with keyboard and camera, eager to take you inside open-wheel sport where the news is being made. He comes to RacingNation.com with multiple professional awards from the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AWWRBA). He began his motorsports writing career at FastMachines.com; and solely published IndyProRacer.com and A1GP.com, two award-winning websites for open-wheel racing’s junior leagues, prior to becoming IndyCar correspondent at Motorsport.com. He has also covered Formula 1, NASCAR, Formula E, the Indy Lights Series and its predecessor Indy Pro Series, NHRA events and major auto shows. His major interest outside of competition is automotive technology and its application to the cars we drive every day on the public highways.