The latest on IndyCar aero-kits (Update)

UPDATE Full transcript of conference

Derrick Walker's plans for aero-kits appear to be on target.

MODERATOR: Going to cover a couple of topics with Steve today that are a bit more forward-looking, the first being kind of an update, if you would, on the status of aero kits for the 2015 IndyCar season.

HPD's STEVE ERIKSEN: Aero kits are proceeding to the schedule that IndyCar has laid out. There's quite a bit of work involved in them. I think when you guys see what the aero kits look like in person, you're going to be surprised how open the rules are.

IndyCar has defined some boxes, and you have to work within the boxes. But apart from that, it's pretty open. So I think the target of having distinction between a Chevy car and a Honda car is going to be achieved, because it's so open on the rules that you're going to see quite a bit of variation, I think, between the cars – the details particularly. I think you'll end up in sort of like a sports car situation where people are going to be looking at all the little details on the car, and it's going to generate quite a bit of interest.

We've got a test window coming up October through January. IndyCar allows six days to each manufacturer to go out and do track testing. Obviously that's going to be pre-production testing before you actually get to the final stages of the aero kit.

Teams have to place their orders by November 1 to get receipt of aero kits on March 1. So the teams will have to be squared away, signed up, place their orders November 1, then the aero kits show up on March 1. The first races with those will be the domestic races here in the U.S.

You talked about the timeline a little bit for on-track testing. Can you give us an idea of where we are in the process? You've done some virtual testing and some other development in advance of the on-track component. Give us a little bit of that chronology.

Just as we've done in IndyCar aero development years ago, just as we do on the sports car side, the bulk of the development is done in the digital domain. Then we have had a series of wind tunnel tests to verify that the correlation between the virtual world and the real world is where we need it to be. We've done quite a bit of that testing.

That so far has shown very good correlation, so we believe that the projected performance targets that we're seeing are going to be met in the real world.

Let's move to sports cars for a moment. The new ARX-04b makes its debut in 2015. It's a beautiful car. We know the Extreme Speed Motorsports team is going to run it in the TUDOR Championship. Give us an update on where that project stands, perhaps if we have the possibility of seeing other cars out there in addition to the Extreme Speed entries.

Our target was to have six cars planned for next season. I have every confidence that we'll have all six out there.
The balance between World Endurance Championship or the TUDOR Championship kind of depends on the politics and balance of performance happens in the U.S. But I expect that all six of the cars we've targeted will go out to teams.

The progress on the car is going really well. We're planning to put the first cars together in late October, then they'll be on track in November. You can see them in person.

The car itself, it takes everything we learned from the last times that we had to do new cars. If you look back on the history, there was the ARX-01a, which debuted in 2007, then the 01b came out in 2008, which was a major update. The 01c was developed for Le Mans. That was a car that raced and set all kinds of records in 2010. We didn't have opportunities to do updates to the car until we created this new car because of the ACO regulations.

What you'll see is essentially the behind-the-scenes work that has been going on for years in our sports car program finally come to light. All the things that have been happening in the virtual world over the years is going to be coming together in this new car.

We made a special emphasis on the safety in this car. If you look at the regulations and you look at LMP1 versus LMP2, there are some differences in safety requirements between the two cars. Our P2 car is going to have all of the P1 safety requirements in addition to the P2 safety requirements. We've gone above and beyond. Although that adds expense to the car, it's going to have every safety advancement we can put in the car.

This is not part of the regulation requirement, but we're adding the fuel safety interlock system, which is the same system on every IndyCar here, which we developed. That same system of ours is going into the sports car as well. That's another safety enhancement.

We're also pushing the TUDOR Series to go back to ACO-style pit stops with the requirement that you can't work on the car until fueling is done. We feel that's an important safety benefit that should be put back into the series.
I think it will also save teams money because they'll be able to double, triple, even quadruple stint their tires. I think it will help make the racing more interesting because you'll have this back and forth between a DP car, which is really using the cars properly, then a P2 car for which the tires are not designed to operate with that type of car.
When the 04b comes out, I think you'll see a lot of neat refinements on that car. It's going to be a special car.

You expect some mix of 04b cars, chassis, between the World Endurance Championship and the TUDOR Championship, correct?

That's correct. If I was guessing today, and every day changes, but if I was guessing today, I'd say there will be four in the TUDOR Series and two in the WEC.

Finally, a little more immediately, we are pleased to see the Acura TLX GT racecar here making its debut at Mid-Ohio this weekend. Didn't really know until late yesterday afternoon and on into the early evening that it was going to come from Road America after a successful test there.

Talk with us a little bit about that project and what it means. Actually it's kind of the flagship for Acura Motorsports right at the moment.

The TLX is kind of a ground-breaking activity for HPD as a company. It's our first foray as a company into GT racing. That's a new step for us.

The other thing that's kind of ground-breaking for us is that it's an all-wheel-drive car. That's a new level of complexity that we haven't dealt with before. I think when you get a chance to see the car in person, you'll see how technically sophisticated the car is. It's an amazing work of art. It's been a joint project between the RealTime Racing guys and the HPD folks.

HPD had a significant role in the car. We did all of the electrical systems design for the car, front to back. All of the suspension design was done by HPD. The aero was all done by HPD, as well. For us as a company, it was a great challenge for our associates.

The RealTime guys put a lot of work into it as well. They worked on the engine positioning and the fuel system, a number of other areas of the car. So you're going to see really the best that the two companies together can do in a GT car. It's an impressive piece of work.

I think when you get a chance to see it, there will be quite a few surprises in there.

Q: Is the expectation that all Honda IndyCar teams will run the Honda aero kit?

The teams are allowed to run the Dallara current kit or the manufacturer's aero kit. Teams have that option, but I can't imagine them selecting it. There would be no logic for that.

Q: When you begin supplying aero kits for next season, will there be ongoing development, a piece that can't be touched, as some of the other engine components can be?

The answer lies in what changes happen in the regulations in the coming period. If I look at the regulations as they are today, the 2015 aero kit, when you homologate it and introduce it, it remains unchanged through the 2015 season, then you are allowed three boxes.

Basically if you look at the regulations, there's a series of boxes. The boxes surround certain sections of the car. You might have a side pod box, you might have a front wing box, a rear wing box, engine cover box, etc.

In 2016, you're allowed to do three boxes, take three of those boxes, and revise them further. If the rules stay the same as they are now, you'll see a 2015 car, then you'll see an updated 2016 car.

As long as a team stays with the same manufacturer, the base components would stay the same. Then just those three boxes, whatever you chose to update, you'd buy those new parts.

Q: (Inaudible question regarding consultation between OEMs to stabilize rules packages in sports car racing.)

We participate in all of the manufacturers meetings that happen all in France. Some of our guys get a lot of frequent flyer miles. We spend a lot of time in those meetings working with other manufacturers to try to create a logical and pragmatic set of rules that truly achieve the target of cost control.

I think in general the P2 formula has been pretty good. The foresight that the ACO had in creating that has generally worked. I think the challenge is now that the trend is toward coupes instead of open-top cars. The cost of a coupe is more expensive than an open-top. There probably has to be some adjustment of that cost-cap price just to recognize you have things like doors and air-conditioning that you have to add to the car, which you didn't have to before.

Q: (Inaudible question regarding Honda potentially joining the DTM Series.)

I'm not aware of any plans to do so. I guess I'm on a need-to-know basis. Our focus is on the GT program and Pirelli World Challenge.

Q: They had to revise some of the standard parts on the [Dallara] DW12 as they were developing the aero kits. How difficult is that?

Yeah, certainly there were some fairly last-minute, past-last-minute changes made by IndyCar which definitely impact the whole aero kit. But the changes they were making were being made for the right reasons. I think it affected both manufacturers in the same way.

I think the decision that IndyCar made to do that was the right thing. We supported them in that. We just said, "OK, we've just got to get on with it," and that's what we're doing.

It's definitely a reset. Development in the digital world is wonderful because you didn't have to throw away any parts, so…

Q: Do you have a set target for performance gains provided by aero kits in 2015?

Absolutely. It's the same as what we do on our engine program. We go through and set a performance target that we expect to achieve. We monitor, just as on the engine program, our progress towards that target over time. Based on that you can impute an expected performance at the end of it.

We're doing the same thing with the aero kit. We do a tracker of the performance of the aero kit. You can watch over time as it approaches our target.

At this point it looks like we've got every likelihood of reaching the target we set. It's going to be a pretty impressive performance.

Honda Performance Development COO Steve Erickson spoke with the media at Mid-Ohio this morning regarding IndyCar aero-kits for 2015.

Of course, the introduction of aero-kits has been a little messy. They were originally scheduled to be part of the Dallara DW12, which was introduced for the 2012 season. However, during the 2011 Sao Paolo weekend, IndyCar owners voted unanimously to appeal to then CEO Randy Bernard to delay the introduction of the kits until 2013. The kits would be further delayed during the 2012 season, as Bernard's tenure was coming to an end.

Last season during the Detroit weekend, then-newly-appointed INDYCAR president of competition and operations Derrick Walker outlined a detailed multi-year plan for aero-kits. Primary to the plan was the announcement that the kits would be introduced during the 2015 season.

And according to Erickson, it seems things are going as planned. Here are a few quick notes, which we will add to, if we get more info:

  • Teams will need to place order for aero-kits by November 1, 2014 to take delivery March 1, 2015.
  • Once the specs are homologated, they are locked for 2015. There will be certain areas of the 2015 spec open for development in 2016.
  • Aero-kits will be introduced at the start of the 2015 domestic season. Of course, IndyCar is expected to race in Brasilia March 8, 2015, and possibly Dubai during February.
  • Erickson said teams have the option to simply stick with Dallara parts, so in essence, no one has to purchase the aero-kits.
  • That said, Erickson expects the kits to create a significant performance gain. Therefore, he "can't imagine why" teams would not opt for the kits.
  • Also, according to Erickson, the kits will create different looking cars.

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