The Car Honda Built To Win The Indy 500

A front view of the new Honda Super Speedway car for the IndyCar Series. [Allan Brewer Photo]

By Allan Brewer

Indianapolis—Honda’s new super-speedway aerodynamics package made its static debut Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The aero kit, as it is called, is significantly different in many ways than the stock Dallara DW12 of years past, and suggests many of the innovative features of Honda’s road/street course and short oval package introduced and contested since the beginning of the 2015 INDYCAR season.

The brief for Honda Performance Development engineers in creating this “Car Made to Win Indy” was just exactly that: build a car that will win for Honda its eleventh Indianapolis 500 championship.

In the flesh it is a spectacular exercise in purpose and execution, presenting innovative wing architecture and further refinements in safety for the driver.

Walking around the car, from front to back. 

The front wing is very simple in design, in appearance similar to the standard Dallara front wing of years past. It is a basic straight main plane design with a slight cantilever where the wing attaches to the nose of the car. Outboard of the main front, and attached to the end-plate on each side, is a small “running board” set very close to the ground.

An important safety feature added for the super-speedway package is a center-line longitudinal wicker that runs up the middle of the tub area. This half-inch mini-fin extends from approximately the front wheels almost to the forward edge of the driver cockpit. It is designed to prevent roll-over if the car begins to pitch left or right during a loss of control.

There is, of course, still the triangular open space in the floor of the chassis from the short oval/road and street course car, put there to prevent “blowover” launch and airborne flight of the vehicle. The dorsal fin of the engine cover remains as well.

Along the sidepod area running to the rear wheel on each side is a smooth, slightly arched cover designed to further streamline the chassis. One of the main sources of drag in the car is the tires, and the hope here is to divert air above the tires and onto the rear wing area.

Finally there is the rear wing: a radically different component than we have seen in previous design efforts at the Speedway.

The rear wing itself is a flat, thin, narrow affair that spans the area behind the engine ending in two upright endplates. Outboard of the main plane are two smaller wings, much shorter in length and chord (distance from leading edge to trailing edge) than the main, each with a slight gullwing shape that Honda refers to as a “glider wing” design.

In the center of the rear wing components, and attaching them to the car, are two upright “swan-neck” stanchions: razor-thin supports that rise up from the chassis and then arch back like lamp-posts to hold the wing in place.

At every intersection between the old car and the new there is a logic inherent in the design toward a single goal: reduce drag, go faster and win the “500″. 

The super-speedway aero kit was developed in four steps:

• Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) technology was used to take engineering ideas to the virtual domain, the computer, where they could be manipulated at length

• Driver-In-Loop (DIL) simulators, programmed with inputs from the CFD step, allowed INDYCAR drivers to try out the proposed changes prior to any production commitmen

• Models of the new components were then tested in a full-scale wind tunnel to confirm their aerodynamic performance characteristics

• Final proof-of-concept correlation then took place in a series of on-track tests, totaling six days at various circuits, conducted by HPD with the assistance of the Honda-powered Andretti Autosport team.

The super-speedway package provides Honda drivers and teams with significant and manifold options to tune their cars’ handling characteristics for Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a circuit where fine-tuning is essential to win.

Honda’s Indy car aero kits will make their public on-track debut during an Open Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 3.  Official practice for the Indianapolis 500 opens on Monday, May 11, with the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 scheduled for Sunday, May 24.


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