Tagliani on the handling characteristics of the new IndyCar
Alex Tagliani tells Racer.com about the ill handling of the poorly designed tail-happy 2012 Dallara IndyCar:
R: Let's talk about the car itself. There have been some mixed messages regarding how it handles. How hard did you feel able to push to the limit at Homestead, or were you just engine-focused?
AT: On a road and street course, I don't think the car is going to be too evil. It's drivable, it has a lot of potential and there's probably 50 percent more performance to get out of it just from understanding what it needs and working around this whole new philosophy of weight distribution. When we have it dialed in and have the engines running to their full potential, and Firestone bring the same tires as last year, I'm sure it will outperform the old car.
On the ovals…it's another situation. The drag factor needs to be resolved and the mechanical stability, too. I was testing on the Homestead road course, but even there, what you notice is how light it seems on the front end, yet the car also has a tendency to rotate mechanically because of the weight distribution. You don't feel the front end too well because it is light, and you think you don't have a lot of front-end grip, but then the car still rotates quite well because of all that weight at the rear.
On an oval, normally you want the car mechanically understeering and then you add aero to turn it and put some feel back into the hands of the driver and so the car is mechanically stuck down. But this new car feels free because it has a lot of weight to the rear. You turn in, the steering is so light that it feels like you've got no front grip and still the car over-rotates! Now imagine that on an oval: going into Turn 1 at Indy, you feel the front end is light, but you don't want extra front wing because you know that on the exit, that will make the rear end over-rotate even more. But you don't want rear downforce because that will make the initial turn-in understeer feel even worse. It's a very weird setup at the moment.
R: On the positive side, does that mean – almost by accident – that the series has eliminated pack racing at high-banked ovals? This strange handling characteristic is going to emphasize who are the properly skilled drivers, surely?
AT: Ha! Yeah, I suppose if the car's difficult to drive on the oval, it will mean the good drivers are separated from the not-so-good and so we won't get those packs of cars. But there's a question about how close we can run at all. Aerodynamically, some of the cars last year were so good that you could run side by side, and not lose much downforce. Maybe now, as soon as you pull alongside another car, you could lose so much aero that you have to drop back. It could be like the Handford device, where you had to stay in line otherwise everyone freight-trains past you. I'm just speculating here, of course, because I haven't yet tried the oval aero package to give a real judgment. Racer.com