Looking at the two Aero Kits, there are some major differences that should give both automakers their own brand identity on the racetrack this season.
The Chevrolet kit has 123 different pieces including optional parts that can be used on the Dallara chassis for performance gains. Honda’s kit has nearly 200 individual pieces that can be added to the Honda-powered Dallara IndyCar.
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“We’re excited to reveal our aero kits as Honda welcomes this era of enhanced competition in the Verizon IndyCar Series,” said Art St. Cyr, president of HPD and vice president, auto operations, for American Honda. “Coupled to our proven Honda Indy V6 engines, these aero kits are the products of literally thousands of hours of research, development and testing, as we seek to give our drivers and teams the tools they need to win races, the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Series championship.”
The Honda Aero Kits were developed by utilizing the latest in Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) technology. Each concept was validated using Driver-In-Loop (DIL) Simulators, minimizing waste at the prototype stage and allowing aerodynamic direction to be determined prior to the creation of full-size components.
Additionally, components were then tested in a full-scale wind tunnel to confirm actual aerodynamic performance characteristics, and create aero maps to be used during on-track testing. Final proof-of-concept correlation then took place in a series of on-track tests, totaling six days at various circuits, conducted by HPD with the assistance of the Honda-powered Andretti Autosport team.
An interesting aspect of HPD’s Aero Kit development is the entire kits were never tested on the race car at the same time. Parts were tested separately at separate tests so that at no time did any Honda IndyCar team have all the pieces on the car.
“A big part of it goes back to maintaining confidentiality of our designs,” said HPD Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Steve Eriksen. “Some of the tricker pieces that we feel will be more likely to be unique we did not want to show out on the track and have photographs taken of it. The reality is a lot of the testing we were doing was really about correlation.
“You start with your design that was created in the virtual world; you do a full-scale version of it, take it to the wind tunnel and check that it is matching reality and that is really your correlation process. Then you take select pieces out of that and bring them to the track and double-check that the track is matching what you saw in the wind tunnel and what you saw in the virtual world.
“There is a lag between when you make a design in the virtual world and when you get an actual full-scale part out the other end to be able to test in the wind tunnel or on track so you are always testing a design that was some time ago. Your tests becomes a series of correlation checks to make sure that what you designed back then even though it’s not current now that we have a full-sized part we can verify that we had good correlation to where we were at that point.
“It ends up being a series of correlation steps.”
The complete kit provides Honda drivers and teams with a significant range of available configurations to tune the cars to their desired characteristics and provide additional visual variety to engage fans at all IndyCar Series circuits.
“We’ve been encouraged by the performance of the new Honda aero kits in testing, but of course the end goal is to win races, the Indy 500 and the championship,” St. Cyr said. “We believe we have a superior aerodynamic and engine package. We’re looking forward to the start of the 2015 season on the streets of St. Petersburg, and taking on the battle for the Manufacturers’ Championship.”
In addition to improving performance, aerodynamic safety was a primary consideration in aero kit development. Working with INDYCAR, Honda has a well-established record of utilizing its development resources to produce a safer racing environment, including the design and development of the fuel safety interlock system, now standard on all Indy cars, and more recently the 2015 chassis floor and other future safety developments to be fitted to the Dallara chassis.
Honda’s Indy car aero kits will make their public debut next week at the Verizon IndyCar Series “Open Test,” March 16-17 at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Alabama. The 2015 season opens March 29 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Florida.
Be sure to catch Bruce Martin’s Verizon IndyCar Series Report on RACEDAY on FOX Sports Radio every Sunday from 6-8 a.m. ET.