In The Garage: Angst Over Suspect Valve Springs And Broken Wings

Indianapolis – It’s one thing to have a known problem and resolve to correct it. It’s another to conjecture there might be a problem and apply a fix that may be unnecessary.

So what to do if your wings are definitely falling off? And what to do when your engine’s health just may be amiss?

Jeff Olson, reporting in USA Today, quotes Chevrolet motorsports leaders: “We had bad (en-gine) valve springs and replaced them. We thought they might fail.”

Bruce Martin of Fox Sports quotes a Honda chief: “We made some strengthening of (aero) parts to resist car-to-car contact. The change is immediate.”

Chevy subsequently announced it too was making wing and winglet modifications.

To be sure, some of the flying bits at the Grand Prix of St Petersburg were launched as a result of more aggressive driving of the aero-equipped 2015 Dallara chassis.

‘’We will get used to those big front wings,” said driver Scott Dixon. “It won’t be as bad’’ next time, he added.

As a practical matter, falling debris creates a nuisance to driver and to spectator. It slows the race pace with local yellows. It can, as it did at St Pete, cause physical harm to fans.

“It’s not that the aero pieces are brittle, it’s the fact that you’ve got more stuff hanging off,” said 2014 series champion Will Power.

“It does break the race up with the yellow (flags),” he added.

On the other hand, none of the drivers who raced at St Pete with a Chevrolet power-train prob-lem behind their back have complained about torque or lap-time.

In point of fact, Power (in a Chevy) twice broke the course record at St. Petersburg.

A winning Chevrolet-powered car at this week’s race in New Orleans can make it eight straight for the bow-tie in INDYCAR series competition.

So what justifies incurring a huge points penalty, one that puts the Detroit manufacturer into the red on the points ledger at the very start of the season?

“Valve springs,” said the Chevy executive. “They might fracture before the full (2500 mile) life-cycle requirement.”



Some might view the “wait until there’s a problem” approach as lazy, blinkered, denial.

Others grimace at an expensive “just in case” fix as guess-timating, over-cautious, paranoid.

In the twelve days since the checkered flag fell in Florida, Honda introduced changes to both the front-wing end plate and rear wheel guards to improve impact resistance.

These updates consist of bonded-in-place panels which further strengthen specific areas of the front-wing end plates and rear wheel guards.

So who’s right, who’s wrong?

Curt Cavin, writing in the Indianapolis Star: “Given the strength of their teams, I predict Chevrolet will be back on top of the standings by the 500, maybe sooner.”

From deep in the hole to back in the black…in only six weeks, or less.

That’s racing.

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