New IndyCar represents a learning curve for teams and drivers

Scott Dixon acknowledges he's been spoiled during his IZOD IndyCar Series career that began in 2003 with Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Spoiled in the fact that “we knew the old car so well." Other veteran drivers would likely agree as development of the new Dallara DW12 chassis is akin to breaking in a pair of leather shoes.

This week, the two-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion’s attention turns from the 3.56-mile course he toured in the Rolex 24 At Daytona over the weekend to the 1.7-mile Sebring short course for the next round of testing the chassis and 2.2-liter, turbocharged V-6 engine.

In addition to a more nimble, safer car, engine manufacturer competition between Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus returns to the series for the first time since 2005.

"It has been a busy off-season and with the new car, and it has been exciting because it is something new," added Dixon, who also will put in laps at Barber Motorsports Park and back at Sebring this month before the IZOD IndyCar Series Open Test in early March.

New represents a learning curve.

"Nothing is the same," noted four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti, who also will participate in the Sebring-Barber-Sebring program along with Graham Rahal (Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing) and Charlie Kimball (Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing). “The chassis, the power and the seat position are so different."

He’s optimistic that recent Dallara-INDYCAR wind tunnel testing will lead to improvement of the car’s oval aerodynamic configuration relative to the sessions that he and Tony Kanaan (Chevrolet) conducted in November at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Indianapolis 500 on May 27 is the first oval race of the season, following four street/road course events.

"It is moving in the right direction," he said. "Testing at Indianapolis to dial the car in will be critical for us. It will be much more of a learning process and it will change things a little bit."

Ryan Briscoe, who participated in Chevrolet engine development at California Speedway in December, also will be on the Sebring short course Jan. 30-Feb. 1 with Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Will Power. He's looking forward to the trio comparing notes and data.

"It will be the first time that we can really take advantage of us being a three-car team," he said. “The more track time we can get the more we can keep learning. The more we can test the quicker our development rate will be.

“It is going to be an extremely steep rate of development. We have been figuring out what aero configurations and geometries we need to use. The car is so different from last year's model; it takes a lot of tuning and we have just touched the surface. (This week) we will be back at Sebring and we will be working hard on the cars."

The IZOD IndyCar Series season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is March 25.

Oriol Servia (in the Lotus development car), Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport), JR Hildebrand (National Guard Panther Racing), Kanaan (KV Racing Technology) and Rubens Barrichello also will test Jan. 30-31. Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne Racing) and Mike Conway (A.J. Foyt Racing) will test Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.

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