The latest test for the new Dallara DW12 IndyCar began Tuesday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where Scott Dixon (Honda) and Ryan Briscoe (Chevrolet) were tasked with sorting the car for manufacturer testing on the 2.0-mile oval.
For each of the drivers in the two anchor teams, Fontana provided a different experience for the two days of testing. Dixon ran the car on an oval for the first time, while Briscoe enjoyed his initial day in the car.
Various elements of the car are being tweaked, and the newest addition in the first of two days of testing at Fontana are new flow conditioners placed on top of the underwing but in front of the sidepods (ABOVE).
“It's hard to tell how that will affect things,” Dixon said. “We had to fix it to the underwing, and you can't take it on and off. We couldn't do anything about it. I'm guessing it's mandatory so we won't have the option to do that. But it didn't seem to affect things too much.”
The car's balance is also something to be addressed, with a heavier weight distribution toward the rear of the car. Briscoe said his car handled fairly well for the type of track, while Dixon elaborated on where the car needs to go.
“Weight distribution is a funny thing, and it's a combination of a lot of things you need,” Dixon said. “There's been cars in the past that have had more rear weight distribution, but different tires to grip. If we could move it forward, we'd try to move it forward quite a bit. The front entry of the corner does seem to stick pretty neutral or loose. It's hard to get weight or force on the front tires. From this, I think the Homestead test will have a lot of other options.”
“We got the car pretty close to where I'd want it for this track, but I'm not sure if this track is the best indicator,” Briscoe added. “It's a big two-mile oval. We got it pretty good for here, but it's not Indianapolis and not a road course. So it's probably easier to get a good balance compared to running on your own. We have a good balance today.”
Briscoe noted some improvements after getting his first opportunity to drive the new car.
“The turbo felt good and smooth, the electronic clutch worked really well, and you can do launches out of the pits – no problem in spinning the tires as you normally would,” he said. “Visibility is better with this car, that's a great safety aspect. The only thing that felt abnormal was getting used to the feeling, but there was no real drama.”
Despite more than five hours of running, and with no mechanical issues that sprouted up, all runs were single-car. Both manufacturers played with various downforce levels, rather than running a set wing angle for the duration.
Dixon said it was a fairly long day, and as he termed, “not the best,” while Briscoe expressed gratitude for being part of the manufacturer testing program for the first time. This is his first time driving at Auto Club Speedway, as he was injured when the IndyCar Series last ran in Fontana in 2005.
“It was pretty good, to be honest, and we got up to pretty good speeds – close to what we'd run a race at,” Briscoe said. “The car ran flawlessly all day long. I'm really thrilled to be part of the development finally, working with Illmor and Chevrolet engineers, and doing tire testing for Firestone.”
Briscoe didn't give a number but in an encouraging sign, Dixon guessed he hit 220mph for a top speed in the day of testing. Initial estimates from previous oval testing at Indianapolis ranged from 208-216mph, so that would clearly be a step in the right direction.
It's a critical stage for the series in determining how to achieve the proper balance for the car and for the manufacturers to make their necessary strides in this phase of testing before teams receive their cars on Dec. 15.
“A lot depends on what we're trying to achieve here, between doing the manufacturer days or figuring out the formula we need to be running,” Dixon said. “The formula we need to run is quite important, and I think we need to figure that out first.”
“It's still possible to do whatever to the car and reach higher speeds, we just need to do it safely,” Briscoe added. “We have to make the car where we run fast speeds, but not on the white line, and not in pack racing. That's a lot of what the testing is now, trying the aero configurations, and make the racing as good as we can make it.”