IndyCar 2018 lede copy

IndyCar 2018 lede copyIndyCar's new universal 2018 aero kit saw its first action Tuesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Here's a first look at the Chevy and Honda cars.

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IndyCar is conducting its first test of the 2018 universal bodywork. Here's what's happening at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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12:00 p.m. ET: Oriol Servia turned two additional laps at speed in the 216mph range before stopping at the lunch break. The Chevrolet test car has been silent for most of the test, barring a couple of installation laps just after 9 a.m.

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11:22 a.m. ET: The first hot laps of the day have been turned after a quiet morning filled with installation checks and long periods of down time due to electronic problems. Oriol Servia turned an unofficial best lap of 217.9mph and completed two more laps at speed before pitting.

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11:15 a.m. ET: IndyCar's plan to evaluate its new 2018 universal speedway bodywork is rather concise. Tino Belli and Bill Pappas, key leaders within IndyCar's competition department that led the 2018 aero project, will oversee the cars run by Schmidt Petersen Motorsports (Honda) and Team Penske (Chevy), and if all goes well, testing will conclude at the end of the day.

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"Bill's on the Chevy, I'm on the Honda, and we're essentially on the same plan," Belli told RACER. "We'll start by doing a shakedown, then a Center of Pressure (CoP) check, and once we're confident we've got the CoP right, we'll go out, do a run, and make an adjustment, do another run, and once we're content, we'll fill the cars up with fuel, and do more runs for reliability. We have a set of tires to test for Firestone, we'll do coast-down checks, and if there's no surprises, that's it."

SPM and Team Penske will return to run the cars on Wednesday if IndyCar's test plan is incomplete. With only one flying lap completed during the first two hours of testing Tuesday morning due to electrical gremlins, the odds of a return are becoming more likely.

"You never know with a new kit and new electronics locations, so the second day is a backup," he confirmed. "In a normal environment, this test would be done in three-quarters of a day."

Looking at the 2018 superspeedway kit, race engineers at SPM and Team Penske will have few aero items at their disposal to tune the cars.

"Today it's just wing angles," Belli said. "We believe this will be the configuration for Indy next year. We might have a front wicker available for Indy next year. We don't envisage a rear wing wicker for Indy; we envisage one for Pocono. And an alternate front wing wicker for Pocono. So, two front wing wickers for Pocono, and a wicker for the (rear stability) flap at Pocono for higher downforce. The diffuser sidewalls are optional."

As drivers found with the original Dallara DW12 superspeedway kit and again with custom aero kits from Chevy and Honda, removing sidewalls sheds a lot of downforce and a lesser amount of drag in qualifying trim. Belli says the same degree of confidence and talent will be required once time trials begin next May.

"It's brave. It's the same. When we get to qualifying, you're going to need to remove one or more. I think the drivers will earn their money in qualifying," he added.

Having spent time in Honda's simulator lapping IMS with the 2018 bodywork, Oriol Servia came away feeling impressed with the advancements that were made – at least in the virtual testing environment.

"On the sim, the car felt very similar," he told RACER. "In race trim, it was about 1.5mph faster. In qualifying trim, it was slower, but that's what they're targeting. They don't want us to go faster than we're already going in qualifying, but in race trim, at the same downforce number [from the 2017 race], it was faster. I think the big difference will be in traffic.

"With the low engine cover making less drag and the bigger floor making more of the downforce, we should be more stable following cars and that should help passing that we expected. Aside from looks, that part is really impressive."

Servia will get his first taste of the 2018 road course package in testing next Tuesday at Mid-Ohio, and that's where the removal of the rear wheel guards and other hefty items at the back of the DW12 should make drivers much happier.

"They've moved the weight distribution 1.7 percent forward," he said. "It's huge. This year, when you were changing weight distribution [at Indy] to see how it would affect the handling, it was 0.2 percent you'd try. So 1.7 is a huge difference. On the oval, you already set up the car to be that way [with a lot of forward weight bias], so you won't feel it a lot here, but it's going to make a huge difference on road and street courses. That's where it will help immensely. The old car had way too much rear weight. This will be like every other car before it."

Keselowski LATBrad Keselowski will remain with Team Penske for years to come as the two sides have agreed on a contract extension.

Team Penske announced the news Tuesday morning, but did not specify the length of the contract other than to say it was a multi-year deal. Keselowski will continue to drive the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford, which he drove to the 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, the first in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series for Roger Penske.

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"In the time that Brad has driven for Team Penske, he has risen to the top echelon of stars in NASCAR," Penske said. "Brad and [crew chief Paul Wolfe] have established a terrific, winning combination and they are both real leaders within our team.

"More than just wins and championships, Brad is an important part our relationship with Ford Performance and his work with the Checkered Flag Foundation shows what kind of person he is away from the track. There is no question he continues to be a great fit for our organization."

Of his 23 career wins, Keselowski has won 22 of them since joining Team Penske in 2009. He has also won 29 Xfinity Series races with the organization as well as the 2012 championship. Over the last few years, Keselowski has been a part of Team Penske's three Xfinity Series owner's championships.

"Roger and everyone at Team Penske have given me everything we need to win championships at the highest levels of NASCAR," said Keselowski. "As I have said all along, Team Penske is where I want to be and I am thrilled to continue with the organization well into the future. I have a lot of years left in the sport and I truly feel our best years are ahead of us."

The Keselowski-Wolfe will remain intact as Wolfe also recently signed a contract extension. With two wins already this season, the No. 2 team is locked into the playoffs with a chance to compete for another championship.

"There is no one I want helping make my racecars go fast more than Paul Wolfe," Keselowski continued. "We have a lot of continuity between the two of us, and really the entire No. 2 Ford team, which is so important in today's NASCAR. With partners like Miller Lite, Alliance Truck Parts, Wurth, Autotrader, Fitzgerald Glider Kits, Discount Tire and Ford Performance in our corner, I feel like we have the strongest overall program in the sport."

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Force India should still aim to try and catch Red Bull in this year's constructors' championship, according to team principal Vijay Mallya.

Last year, Force India secured the best result in the team's history with fourth in the standings, beating Williams to best of the rest behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. This year, Force India has built on that success and scored eight double-points finishes from the opening ten races of the season.

While Mallya describes the 2017 performance so far as "fantastic", the team principal wants to keep Force India aiming high for the second half of the year.

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"We should have had nine at least, but eight out of ten is a very good record of double-points finishes," Mallya said. "It's very, very satisfying to see two good, competitive drivers. Esteban [Ocon] has come up to speed really well and a little quicker than I thought, so it's fantastic. You couldn't ask for more.

"Two cars regularly in the points is exactly what we need. We're up to 95 points in ten races, have never had this type of points tally ever in the history of the team that I can remember. [We are] 54 points clear of Williams, our nearest competitor, so slowly but steadily consolidating ourselves in fourth position.

"Let's see what opportunities the second half of the season throw up. I'm not giving up on chasing Red Bull, it's always good to set your targets high because that allows you to really challenge yourself in terms of performance. Whether we get that or not, finishing fourth for the second consecutive year is obviously a very creditable achievement."

Despite his optimism, Mallya admits Force India cannot afford to ignore the threat from teams behind, singling out Williams and Toro Rosso based on past performance levels and resources.

"I have to say that Williams is probably going to be our main rival, like they were last year," he said. "If anybody talks about engine performance or powertrain performance, and it is the general feeling in the paddock that the Mercedes engine is the best, then both Williams and Force India have the Mercedes power unit. So it's close between us.

"Williams has been around 47 years. They are advertising their 40th anniversary but when I met Sir Frank [Williams] coming into [Silverstone] I was told off by him when I said 40 years. He said 'What do you mean? You can't scrub off seven years of my involvement, it's actual 47!' He's a great man, Williams is a great team with huge heritage, history and world championships. So they've got the pedigree, so we need to obviously be wary of Williams.

"But Toro Rosso can also come through the pack pretty quick. They are, after all, a sister to Red Bull. I wouldn't use the word 'twin', but they certainly are close sisters to Red Bull, and can will always produce Red Bull type of performance. So we are not going to rest on our laurels because it's good to be on 95 points in fourth position after the tenth race of the season, but we have to continue to score high."

Felix adam warner LATFelix Rosenqvist grew up watching IndyCar racing in Sweden when his countryman and 1999 Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack served as a crossover star in the IRL and CART. Given the chance, he'd welcome an opportunity to fly his native yellow and blue colors on a full-time basis in America as the next great Scandinavian export.

Rosenqvist made waves last year when he won three times during a partial Indy Lights season with Belardi Racing, and with a glowing endorsement from Chip Ganassi Racing after a pair of successful Mid-Ohio tests – one in July 2016 and another last week – he's keen on the idea of making it his new home.

"It's always been a dream to drive in IndyCar, and now I know that I can do well," he told RACER. "We will have to see a bit further how it goes with all the talks."

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The 25-year-old and his manager Stefan Johansson will sort through offers that come in from Verizon IndyCar Series teams while Rosenqvist puts the finishing touches on two impressive rookie campaigns.

First, he'll complete his debut season in the FIA Formula E series with the Mahindra team this weekend in Montreal, where one win and four podiums has Rosenqvist holding third in the standings. After the Formula E finale, Rosenqvist will return to Japan, where he sits fifth in the Super Formula championship. Fresh off a second-place results at the most recent event, Rosenqvist is well ahead of fellow first-timer Pierre Gasly, the 2016 GP2 champion, who lies 10th in the standings.

Considering his past and present experience, which includes a pair of wins at the prestigious Macau Grand Prix, his FIA European Formula 3 title in 2015, a seventh-place in the 2016 Blancpain GT Sprint series, a half-season of DTM with Mercedes, and 2017 LMP2 runs at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and 24 Hours of Le Mans, it's entirely possible Rosenqvist has logged more miles of competitive driving by the age of 25 than any of his contemporaries.

The fact that he's compiled so much experience in so many championships across the globe could go a long way toward explaining why Rosenqvist has looked like an old pro in his two CGR IndyCar outings.

"It's been a few good years for me," he said. "I put myself on the market a bit everywhere all over the world, and that was the plan. When I stopped doing Formula 3, I wanted to take every chance I could get and see how well I could do. It's coming to the point soon where I have to figure out what I want to do full-time.

"I said after I did Lights last year that I want to come back to America at some point. Obviously, now I cannot really say what will happen next year or in the next years, but it would be good to be there."

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With some of IndyCar's older guard ready to step out of their full-time drives to take new opportunities in sports cars, Rosenqvist says he and Johansson will be targeting those seats in 2018 and beyond.

"Yeah, absolutely; it's really the right time for us young guns to make a move in IndyCar," he added. "I guess that's a good thing and a bad thing. It's nice to have big names but it's a good opportunity to grow some new big names as well."

Rosenqvist is in an enviable position for a young driver. Compared to those who are on the sidelines searching for rides, the Swede is juggling two full-time drives and a steady stream of invitations to test and race in other championships. Unless the door to Formula 1 opens unexpectedly, it appears Rosenqvist will keep his sights set on IndyCar.

"It's the right time now and we just hope that there will be some spots opening up," he continued. "It's quite nice to at least see a realistic chance that you could be there in the future. It wasn't that way when we started talking about it a few years ago."

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Toto Wolff believes the Hungarian Grand Prix will show how much Mercedes has improved when it comes to setting up its 2017 car after a tricky start to the year.

Following a Ferrari one-two in the Monaco Grand Prix, Mercedes was 17 points behind the Scuderia in the constructors' championship while Sebastian Vettel also held a 25 point lead in the drivers' standings. While Lewis Hamilton won the previous race in Spain, neither Mercedes driver finished on the podium in Monte Carlo as the team struggled to get the most out of its car and tires on the street circuit.

Confident that Mercedes has made significant progress in setting its car up, Wolff sees Budapest as a race where he will be really able to gauge how big the improvement is.

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"I would like to feel [Mercedes has the fastest car], but the moment you say that, you go to the next race and you've been slapped in your face," Wolff said. "It is tricky. Our car is not always easy to set up and we have become much better in doing so. I would like to see in Budapest, how the car works, [at a] low speed, high temperature track, and maybe have a more complete picture."

Hamilton's victory at Silverstone closed the gap in the drivers' championship to just one point, and with the Briton having won five times at the Hungaroring, Wolff says "favorite" tags are not important until the end of the season.

"I think we shouldn't be looking so much in trying to figure out the favorite," he said. "It's half-time, 250 points to be achieved and you just need to extract every inch of performance from the car, and out of the driver, and eventually the points will add up. Minimize mistakes like we have done in the past, and then when we race to the end, start thinking about the favorites.

"Yeah, [Lewis] is driving great there, but you need to have a car capable of doing so. You remember Sochi, where it didn't work out for him, just a general lack of grip and worked out very well for Valtteri. Then Monaco was a bit similar. With these new regulations, it's not set in stone that it works what it has done in the past.

"Going into the summer break with a lead is nice. There was a very famous Austrian swimmer; in all of the Olympic Games, he always had the best sector times, he was always sector world champion – but never won the championship. I would like to have the gap before the holiday, but it doesn't mean anything for the world championship."

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Visit Florida Racing team owner Troy Flis has made the second bold change within IMSA's Prototype paddock in the span of a week. Following Mazda's call to curtail its season and place its Riley/Multimatic RT24-P Daytona Prototype international chassis in the hands of Joest Racing for redevelopment, Flis has gone one step further by pulling the plug on his Riley/Multimatic Mk 30 chassis altogether.

RACER can confirm that the team will park its recalcitrant Mk 30 in favor of a Ligier JS P217 for the remainder of the season. This comes after a year of running towards the bottom of a class filled with DPis and WEC P2s manufactured by Dallara, Ligier and ORECA, and little hope that the Mk 30 would overcome its deficiencies before the end of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

The timing of the switch comes at a critical point for Flis after questions regarding the longevity of his Visit Florida sponsorship were raised in June. Although the team has continued carrying branding from the Florida state tourism initiative, the need for stronger race performances – to keep VFR, or to attract new sponsors – has become a pressing item as the championship heads into its final months.

Although it's believed Multimatic, which has taken over the development of the car, is working with the ACO and FIA WEC to implement a wide array of improvements for the Mk 30, the fruits of that work and any approvals from the sanctioning bodies would not come before the last IMSA race of the year in early October.

Faced with an immediate need to improve its fortunes, the move to Ligier should help VFR and give the French constructor another strong team to showcase its WEC P2 model.

Unable to secure a deal to buy a DPi, Flis told RACER in 2016 that the choice of the Mk 30 would at least give VFR a chance to upgrade the car to Mazda RT24-P specification if and when the Japanese brand makes its engine and bodywork available. With that option looking unlikely for at least another year while Joest sorts the Mazdas in concert with Multimatic, Flis had few reasons to believe brighter days were ahead.

In the hands of French ace Olivier Pla, the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 has been fast. Armed with a veteran in Marc Goossens and the impressive Renger van der Zande, VFR could surprise with its Gibson V8-powered Ligier before the season concludes at Petit Le Mans.

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IndyCar competition boss Jay Frye hopes that the new universal 2018 aero kit will lower the barriers of entry for new teams, and potentially, a third engine manufacturer.

The series released the first images of the new bodywork today ahead of its first track test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway tomorrow. Frye estimates that the new aero will be 30-40 percent cheaper than the current version with a guaranteed life cycle of at least three years, which Frye says makes it easier for teams looking at entering IndyCar to make plans.

"We're very fortunate right now, we have four or five possible [new] entries going forward, which is really good," Frye said. "But one of the things from a team perspective [is] that you know you can get a kit now and you can plan a three-year window, so you can plan your budgets three years out. You know what it costs. The price is not going to go up. So we were able to lock in all the costs to the car, so it's a good time to come in."

Harding Racing has already indicated that it hopes to compete full-time in 2018, as has Juncos. Both made their debuts at this year's Indianapolis 500. Elsewhere, other teams including Carlin have indicated a desire to race in IndyCar full-time in the future, although up to this point they have stopped short of announcing firm plans.

In addition to smoothing the path for new teams, Frye hopes that the 2018 aero kit will also remove some of the hurdles standing in the way of the long-desired third manufacturer by removing the cost and complication of an aero program.

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"This whole process started when we started talking to new manufacturers to come into the sport," he said. "They weren't necessarily interested in the aero kit piece, so this was one of the things that we did, so hopefully besides new teams, we have an opportunity to recruit a new OEM partner, too.

"I'm not sure if we're close [to signing a third manufacturer]. I would say we're 'closer', because there were several some hurdles that we had, and hopefully we've removed the hurdles, so there seems to be more enthusiasm about the direction, and they see our five-year plan, they see where we're going.

"That doesn't mean they're coming. It's just maybe there's now an opportunity that they could come. One of the things we did when we went through this whole process is we made sure to let other OEMs who aren't currently our partners know what we're doing, and ask for their opinion because we thought it certainly behooved us to show them where we're going and what we're doing before it came out, get their opinion on it. It wouldn't have been very smart on our behalf to come out with a new plan, and then for them to say that they didn't want to do that, either

"I think we've eliminated some hurdles. I think they see we're doing what we said we're going to do, and they like our direction. They like where we're going. Now we've just got to keep doing it.

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