How do the Highest Speeds at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Influence the Car Set-Up at the Indy 500? Find out from our No. 64 Scuderia Corsa Race Engineer Q&A!
How do the highest speeds at Indianapolis Motor Speedway influence the car set-up at the Indy 500? Find out from our No. 64 Scuderia Corsa Race Engineer Q&A!
Q: Indianapolis has the highest speeds of any track on the schedule, how does that change your focus on car setup?
A: As speed increases, the aerodynamic forces become more important. Therefore, there is more focus on optimizing the setup to maximize downforce and reduce drag.
Q: What is the difference in setting a car up for four laps of qualifying vs. racing for 500 miles and 32 other cars?
A: To be fast in qualifying the car must be right on “the edge.” The driver can tolerate that for four laps. Downforce is reduced to a minimum in order to reduce drag for qualifying, but that puts the tires right on the edge of adhesion and can even be sliding. For 500 miles of racing, with 32 other cars, the car must be more planted with more margin. Downforce is added as the air will be turbulent with other cars on the track and for the tires to last a stint they can’t be sliding.
Q: How much does the car change from the beginning to the end of a 500-mile race?
A: Normally the balance of the car will tend toward understeer as the race goes on and the track grips up. Also, if the driver is in the mix for the win, they will tolerate a more neutral car and may ask for a trim (reduction of downforce and drag). The rear wing can be quickly adjusted during a pit stop to trim. The front wing can also be adjusted during a pit stop to change the balance and it is common to add front wing during the race.
Q: What would engineers from our sportscar program be most surprised by with an IndyCar?
A: Probably the tolerances involved in the setup and build of the car. The crew will spend hours and hours doing body fit for Indy to make the bodywork as smooth as possible with barely any visible seams. For setup, many of the settings are specified and measured to a fraction of a millimeter.
Q: This year features all-new styling for the IndyCar, what do you do to prepare before practice begins?
A: The new styling means the aerodynamic forces will be different. Hours are spent in a wind tunnel doing what we call ‘mapping.’ This tells us what aerodynamic forces are generated at different settings and attitudes (ride heights, yaw angles, steering angles). The wind tunnel is also used to help optimize the aero setup of the car with the options available. With the data gathered from the wind tunnel, computer simulations are used to tune the mechanical setup of the car to the new aero package.
Q: With all teams running the same chassis, is that an advantage or a disadvantage for a new team coming in to the sport?
A: I’d say that is an advantage. Everyone is working on the same foundation with very tight constraints. So, a new team can come in and quickly be up to speed.
Q: How do you expect us to do during the race?
A: Win! Of course that is a tall order with 32 other cars and some very strong teams and drivers. However, Oriol has what it takes to win the race and we have partnered with a very strong team in Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.