IndyCar Tested its 2018 Body Kit at Sebring and The Drive Was There
We have a ton of pictures of the beautiful new car for you to drool over.
IndyCar was down in Sebring, Fla. Tuesday testing a new universal body kit for 2018. Just as in the previous testing for the new bodywork, Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia were on hand to drive the Chevrolet and Honda (respectively) powered cars. For this test, two more cars were added, one from each manufacturer.
Sharing the Penske Chevrolet with Montoya was newly-crowned series champ Josef Newgarden. Spencer Pigot was behind the wheel of the Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Servia split his time in the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda with James Hinchcliffe. Scott Dixon was in the Chip Ganassi Racing car. This would be the first time Newgarden, Pigot, Hinchcliffe, and Dixon would drive a 2018-spec car.
The four cars were running the high-downforce body kit while testing the braking systems and giving the cars a final shake-down. If there was ever a circuit to give a car a shake-down, it would be Sebring. The track is notoriously bumpy. If there is anything that can easily be broken on a car, Sebring will find it for you.
The good folks at IndyCar were nice enough to let me tag along, so I happily did. Sebring is just a short drive from my home in St. Petersburg. Despite living less than two hours from the track, I haven't been there in a long time. Everything was still almost exactly as it was years ago. The odd thing was being there when the track and grounds are almost completely devoid of people. It's weird.
The testing was taking place on the short-track configuration, so the teams were set up at the club pit area in the infield. This meant that the trucks were rolled and make-shift pit areas were assembled on the side of a road. While the drivers and crew had the occasional chance to cool down in one of the mobile offices or transporters that the teams brought, they were, for the most part, outside on a beautiful autumn Florida day. Autumn in Florida means that Summer is just reaching its peak.
It was disgustingly hot outside. It was even worse when standing on the ancient sun-bleached asphalt and concrete of Sebring's former World War II airstrips. This was not a glamorous race event. The crew and drivers earned their keep putting in a full day under the unforgiving Florida sun.
As far as the new 2018 car is concerned, it looks simply amazing in person. The key word is "simply." The body design is so sleek and clean. There aren't little aero bits sticking out everywhere. From the tip of nose to the end plates of the rear wing, everything flows together very organically.
The 2018 body kit is designed to have less downforce than the cars had in recent years. While that may be the case, the floor and diffuser work together to suck massive amounts of air from underneath the car, creating a low-pressure area under the car that keeps it glued to the road. When the car accelerates out of the corners, you can see the back end hunker down.
The lack of downforce means higher speeds and increased braking distances, which is precisely why brakes were one of the focuses of this test. Even under the bright Florida sun, you could see the brakes brightly glowing after coming through Big Bend and slowing the car for the Hairpin. The Penske of Montoya and Newgarden seemed, at times, to be not lighting up the brake discs as much as the other three cars. That could be due to different set-ups, different discs and pads, or any number of things. There is plenty of testing yet to happen, so don't read too much into that.
While at the track, I took a lot of pictures. I tried to show off the details of the new body kit. I also tried to capture the atmosphere of what was going on. For example, when Hinchcliffe wasn't in the car, he was down in the pits talking to Servia and Sebastian Bourdais about the car. Bourdais, who also lives in St. Petersburg, popped in to check out the action. It was all very fascinating to take in.
Enjoy the pictures. We can't wait to see these new body kits all decked out in team liveries, racing each other in 2018.