f2 leadAndersen Promotions, the team behind the Mazda Road to Indy, has revealed the first renderings of the Tatuus chassis that will serve as a combined replacement for its USF2000 and Pro Mazda models starting in 2017.

Under the current plan, the Tatuus USF-17 will replace the current USF2000 cars at the end of the year, and for 2018, the same chassis, badged as the PM-18, will be used to replace the aging Pro Mazda fleet.

"The first prototype will arrive stateside in May, and will be unveiled at IMS during the Indy 500 weekend," Andersen told RACER. "Testing will follow in June. The first 15 cars will be delivered in September and the next 15 in December. It will come with a high-end Cosworth data system and wheel, PFC F3-style brake package, American Racing forged aluminum wheels similar to those on the Dallara IL15 Indy Lights cars, paddle-shifter, carbon nose/front wing assembly, and upgraded driver safety protection – an enhanced bulkhead for U.S. circuits."

Concentrating on the 2017 170hp Mazda MZR-powered USF-17, Andersen is confident it will be a worthy upgrade for the current, tubeframe USF2000 chassis.

"Tatuus builds the best F4 in the world and we've stepped it up from that to make it a great USF2000 car," he added. "It's got better brakes, better wheels, better dampers, better data, better driver protection and more of everything."

The Tatuus PM-18 is expected to carry a Mazda engine producing 270hp, and with the same chassis underpinnings, teams would have the ability to convert the car between the first two MRTI classes, depending on driver or sponsor preferences.

According to the series, "the cost of the USF-17 chassis – not including engine, wheels and dampers – is $51,400."

Click on the thumbnails below for larger images.

{igallery id=7614|cid=457|pid=9|type=category|children=0|addlinks=0|tags=|limit=0}

lead2Direct comparison views of the new aero pieces debuting this week in testing at Sonoma Raceway with last year's versions. Click on the thumbnails below for larger images, and click here to view the full photo gallery from the Sonoma test.

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 W2Q5342Formula 1 bosses will meet in two weeks to determine whether they can put competitive differences aside and agree a mutually beneficial path forward for the sport. With a deadline of February 29th to decide the technical regulation package for next season, time is running out for the powers that be, with many now believing that a delay until 2018 for these new rules may now be the most likely result of a set of protracted negotiations which had first been unveiled to such positive fanfare.

The headline targets for next year's proposed regulations had, of course, frothed the internet up into something of a lather. From next year, you see, the cars would look sexier and would be over five seconds a lap faster than their current iterations. The proposals made headlines but were - as with so many such suggestions drawn from boardroom negotiations - missing the point.

The cars would be made to look better via a new aerodynamic package with a return to low, wide wings and a level of downforce not seen in almost a decade. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel both questioned whether the sport's rule makers actually had a clue what they were doing. An increase in downforce, they quite rightly ascertained, would surely reduce from the spectacle, not add to it.

The issue, of course, is that when one starts with a conclusion and seeks a method by which to reach it, one should be sure that the final outcome is what one really wants in the first place.

I'll give you an example. Over the past two years, there has been an ongoing call for Formula 1 engines to be made louder. Indeed, in the last few days the online community has been awash with the supposedly wondrous news from the Mercedes boys that the noise coming from 2016-spec power units will indeed be louder.

But, dare I say it, louder engines are not what people actually want. In spite of their certainty that they are. What fans miss, both in terms of a longing and in terms of grasping the point, is not so much the sheer scale of noise, but the pitch.

V8s to me were always noise for the sake of noise, but as high-revving naturally-aspirated engines, they held a higher pitch and thus produced a more audibly exciting sound than the current V6 hybrids. V10s and V12s were higher shriekers still, and thus even more thrilling. But what one must remember is that if the sound of a V6 is dislikeable, increasing the volume simply makes that same dislikeable sound louder. It doesn't change the actual sound.

It's not a difficult concept to grasp. At least I would never have believed it to be. Volume is not the issue. Making the cars louder doesn't solve the fact that the sound they make, however loud, is unpopular.

This same miscomprehension is true, then, of the search for faster laptimes. No matter what the general consensus might be, quicker cars don't necessarily make better racing. Just as the search for louder engines, the headline of faster cars is a false target.

SNE27853These skewed objectives are being set by the business heads. Some, like Toto Wolff (LEFT) and Christian Horner, were once racers themselves. But with corporate responsibility both seem to have long forgotten what produced the thrill they sought as younger men, strapped into their racing machines. Those on the decision-making bodies are looking for a headline that will please the mass populous. And "faster, louder cars," seems to fit the very general, barely researched bill.

What drivers actually want is less aerodynamic grip and more mechanical grip. If we want better racing, concepts such as ground effect and simplifying the construction of both rear and front wings so as to reduce disrupted airflow and permit cars to follow one another, are the paths we should be following. But that would require the boardroom within which sits the Strategy Group to realise that the headline target of "faster cars" needs to be replaced with that of "closer racing."

And yet, amongst the confusion and indecision of recent weeks, we have seen positive steps for the future.

I have long called for the FIA President to take control of a situation in which an F1 strategy group of competing interests is unable to agree on mutually beneficial rule making. I have chastised his oft-seeming fecklessness when it comes to negotiating with those over whom he at one point held power. And so it would be remiss of me not to praise him when he does indeed step up to the plate and make a positive impact.

Going into the last round of negotiations, all the talk was about the re-emergence of refuelling on the agenda and the looming threat that if agreement between the teams was not reached, Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone had been granted the power to push through whatever rule changes they wished.

With this warning hanging over the teams, Todt managed to press through an agreement on dropping the engine token system from 2017. Engine manufacturers will now carry the burden of cost in developing their engines, with the thawing of the engine freeze allowing all manufacturers the opportunity not just to catch up with the all-conquering Mercedes outfit, but to compete with them. Costs will drop to customers. All in all, from an F1 sporting perspective, this is one of the great resounding successes of Todt's Presidency.

Of course, the engine freeze was designed to keep costs down and so its removal has caused dismay in some quarters, not least from Red Bull's Adrian Newey, who has warned of a financial arms race from the engine manufacturers. But one must expect this from a man who has dedicated his life to design. Why would he want to see the sport become one based on engine performance? Especially since the team by whom he is employed has proved themselves to be so utterly woeful at maintaining positive relationships with engine partners.

 89P0678It seems, in this regard, that Todt's threat of discussing the reintroduction of refuelling was a bargaining tool. It was a tactic employed regularly by his predecessor Max Mosley: show those with whom you are negotiating the possibility of something they despise, in order to get them to agree on something they don't hate. While I don't believe Todt to be quite so Machiavellian as to have planned his entire Presidency around lulling his combatants into a false sense of security over his first term, only to bring out such political savvy in his second, it is positive to see he has learned how to swim the Piranha-filled waters of Formula 1's political seas.

It's a huge positive for F1, as the inability for manufacturers to improve their product could only ever have acted as a deterrent to those thinking of entering the sport. Looking at how spectacularly the mighty Honda failed in its first year back in F1 in 2015, what sane corporate head would have wished to put their own brand through something similar?

 79P7469The current regulations will thus remain for a good few years yet, and that is also a positive move. With a performance step between 2015 and 2016 expected to be as great as that which we saw between 2014 and 2015, and the technology being developed for the track filtering down into the road car divisions of the manufacturers present in Formula 1, there is genuine road relevance.

In 2015 Mercedes produced the most powerful engine in its F1 history. Their unit produced over 900 horsepower from a 1.6-litre V6, a figure which bested that of their 2005 3-litre V10. It is expected that thermal efficiency will exceed 50 percent this year. At the end of the V8 era that figure was less than 30 percent. The advances in engine tech are staggering.

But if we return to the headline of those 2017 technical regulations, it is from the drivers themselves that the most simple, but important requests have come.

While those with the power to formulate the rules have dithered, an emboldened Grand Prix Drivers' Association has made two simple demands for the new rules: firstly to have tyres on which they can race and secondly to see the introduction of increased cockpit safety measures.

The issue of tires falls hand in hand with the drivers' requirement to have cars based around the concept of mechanical over aerodynamic grip. While fuel flow rates have been maligned for the "lift and coast" constraint of the past two years, it is Pirelli's tires which have taken the brunt of the responsibility for the decrease in a driver's ability to push flat out from lights to flag.

Pirelli has said it has no issue with creating tires on which drivers can push, although there are various schools of thought over whether the substantial degradation of the Italian rubber is an intentional or unintended consequence of their design, but in order to develop new tires on which a driver can push consistently, they will need to be afforded the opportunity of carrying out extensive testing. This is something which, at present, they are unable to do due to the regulations of the sport, but a simple flick of a pen could see a regulatory change to facilitate such an essential undertaking.

The second facet then, is head protection.

The deaths of Jules Bianchi and Justin Wilson brought the notion of driver protection into sharp focus, with the GPDA now set on pursuing the much-publicized Halo concept. But the issue with the development and testing of the vast majority of concepts seen thus far is that, by nature, they have had to be retrofitted onto an open-cockpit racing car.

As time has marched on, it has become obvious that only by including cockpit protection into the design of the car from the outset can the concept truly become workable. And in recent days, the aligning of two separate ideas has hit the headlines as a very possible avenue for the near future. Self-supporting canopies hit trouble from their earliest tests due to the thickness of material required to form an effective barrier. The curvature of this thick material created a 'goldfish bowl;' effect and blurred sight in the cockpit.

The Halo concept created no real issues in upward vision given that drivers see through such a narrow aperture in their visor anyway, but did cause visibility problems due to the central strut required to hold the very Halo in place. But by combining the two, one could potentially create a thin enough semi-canopy/screen, strengthened by a retractable Halo above so as to remove the central strut.

The drivers, therefore, could and should have both of their requirements as the starting blocks for the 2017 (or 2018 as it may be) regulations. Engine costs have been reigned in for customers and freedom returned to manufacturers to compete. Laptime will flow as a result. If we start from a place where a driver can push from lights to flag in a car powered by engines zeroing in on relative parity, in an increasingly safe environment, what follows requires only common sense.

The history of this incredible sport that created heroes and legend was not made in a boardroom, but on the racing track. If Formula 1 truly wants to get back to what it always used to be, it needs to remember that. At its root, this sport is incredibly simple, and over-complication long been its downfall.

It's time to forget the false ideals and remember why we do this.

It's time to set racing as the only target for which we ever need to aim.

Button, Alonso, McLaren, Brazil

It would be fair to suggest McLaren surely cannot sink any lower than was the case in the 2015 Formula 1 season.

honda blowIn reuniting with Honda, McLaren ushered in what it believed would be a bright new era with the Japanese manufacturer. What unfolded could not be further from the truth as dark clouds hung over the partnership, primarily as Honda suffered with its power unit.

Between them, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button embarrassingly recorded just four more points than engines used – 27 to 23 – en route to finishing a miserable ninth in the constructors' championship. On that basis, surely the only way for McLaren and Honda has to be up.

Honda, in particular, now has a year's worth of experience behind it, and over the course of the winter has targeted the areas where it was weak last year.

Honda motorsport boss Yasuhisa Arai confirmed at the end of last season the Japanese manufacturer would be retaining its "size zero" system.

The tight-knit nature of the power unit was understood to be an area of concern, but as Arai told Autosport: "We will keep the philosophy of our concept."

What Honda has done is change the turbine, compressor, and most notably its Achilles heel, the MGU-H.

Honda began its development of this season's PU last year, focusing primarily on the deployment of the MGU-H part of the ERS that was so lacking in performance it left its drivers "like a sitting duck" on the straights, as Button remarked in Russia.

Arai, who earned a somewhat dubious reputation for over-confidence last season given his penchant for bold predictions that never materialized, has claimed that deployment deficit to the top teams will be "non-existent" this year. Again, it is quite a statement from Arai, but assessing the coming campaign he said: "It's quite a different situation – 2015 and 2016.

"We didn't have any experience with the complex system, so you can imagine the challenge, but we learned a lot and we have the confidence we can catch up."

There is also nothing off limits this year when it comes to the development of the power unit as all the "black box" areas that were blocked off under the rules are available again after an agreement late last year between all the manufacturers.

There remain, though, a maximum of 32 tokens to spend, still offering plenty of scope at least for Honda to make the gains it feels it is capable of.

Certainly the likes of Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arriabene and Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains managing director Andy Cowell are fully expecting Honda, with its all manpower and resources, to rebound this year.

McLaren's racing director Eric Boullier is naturally a little more guarded when it comes to the team's prospects, but certainly feels his outfit and Honda are at least on the right path.

Boullier, Arai, 2015

"The expectations of many fans, and maybe within both companies as well, was a little bit wrongly set up [in 2015]," said Boullier (RIGHT, with Arai). "But the year of pain has definitely set things at the right level, and a revised target has been drafted.

"We've spoken about what we can do, and there is an understanding about what we need to achieve, which is important.

"How long it will take to get there, I'm not sure we have all the answers yet, but at least we know where we have to go to be competitive and win races."

Although McLaren and Honda predominantly sang from the same hymn sheet last season, there were odd occasions when the relationship appeared slightly strained due to different cultures and methods of working. Boullier insists those differences, caused by the strain of the problems faced, have been ironed out.

"The pain of the situation obviously created some stress at some level," confirmed Boullier. "But the end result is there was understanding and respect for both cultures, and our own way of dealing with things. We now understand how we can help and respect the Japanese ways of working, and vice versa."

Alonso, BrazilWith an unchanged driver lineup – the most experienced on the grid – McLaren and Honda also have the perfect pairing in Alonso and Button on which to rely. Yes, there were occasions last season when the duo voiced frustration, which was understandable bearing in mind they are accustomed to fighting at the front, rather than the back.

But for the most part they kept their counsel, believing in the long-term viability of the project, and that this season will be a considerable improvement.

It is certainly hard to imagine we will see Alonso sat sunning himself on a deckchair at any point this season.


Originally on

2016IndyCar MarshallPruett Sonoma210 063aaChevy's single-day test at Sonoma Raceway on Wednesday gave fans and media a chance to see six cars in action and a few new aerodynamic pieces break cover.2016IndyCar MarshallPruett Sonoma210 029

Six cars from Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske conducted engine and aero kit testing on behalf of the four-time IndyCar Manufacturers' champion. Defending Verizon IndyCar Series title winner Scott Dixon drove his No. 9 CGR-Chevy bearing the retro Target lightning bolt livery, 2004 series champion Tony Kanaan had the new blue No. 10 at his disposal, Charlie Kimball unveiled a fetching new black and green scheme on the No. 83, and team newcomer Max Chilton (RIGHT) pressed the No. 8 into service for his maiden outing in a Dallara DW12. Helio Castroneves represented Team Penske in his familiar No. 3 and Simon Pagenaud was in the No. 22.

A mix of Firestone tires from 2014 and 2015 were used at Sonoma, and with some teams reportedly employing the horsepower-adding push-to-pass button on certain laps, lap times varied depending on which sets were bolted on and whether extra turbo boost and RPMs were involved. The fastest lap time was said to be a 1m17.0s, and all six cars are believed to have lapped the 2.2-mile, 11-turn road course between 1m17.0s-1m18.0s.

Media were specifically asked to refrain from photographing the Chevy engines in the back of each chassis, leaving aero kit development as the primary source of intrigue to document.

Based on spy shots of Honda's 2016 road course aero kit, which uses brand-new sidepods, engine covers, and has outer front wing developments that mirror what Chevy used in 2015, it appears Chevy is evaluating the use of certain aerodynamics Honda employed last season, and the end result could see a field of Dallara DW12s that look mostly identical on road and street courses.

"I'm telling you, the only way most fans will be able to tell the cars apart is the sticker on the engine cover," one driver said while expressing his frustration at the anticipated lack of visual variety.

IndyCar's aero kit rules allow three primary development 'boxes' (regions on the car for modification) for each manufacturer to update this season. Unlike 2015 where the brand-new aero kits were submitted for approval and homologation prior to the season, Chevy and Honda can make use of the three update boxes at any time in 2016.

It means the items seen on the Chevy cars at Sonoma could be introduced between next month's season opener in St. Petersburg through the season finale at Sonoma in September; it's entirely up to each manufacturer.

Chevy could also come away from Wednesday's test and decide some or all of the new 2016 development pieces did not meet their expectation, and could go back to the drawing board to create more items to evaluate for potential use. IndyCar's rulebook allows teams to pick and choose between existing aero kit pieces and any new items Chevy or Honda supply from within the three boxes.

IMG 7516a"A manufacturer could do nothing but front wing flaps - do three upgrades on front wing flaps and nowhere else on the car - and that would be it for them through the 2016 season," IndyCar aerodynamic development chief Tino Belli told RACER in a 2015 interview. "And the new parts don't obsolete the previous homologation.

"Let's say a manufacturer comes up with a new front wing-flap configuration and a team decides they prefer the original flap, they can keep one in the old configuration if they want to, while another team may elect to use the newest flap. Both are legal. There's options on top of options, which adds variety."

Using reference images from both brands in 2015, and the new Chevy test, the aero similarities aren't hard to spot. All six Chevy cars started the test with 2015-spec rear wheel pods and upper ramps, but most moved to the Honda-style multi-winglet upper elements after initial running (LEFT). Where Chevy's 2015 rear wheel pods - minus any appendages - are rounded, the stronger, fortified 2016 pods are square. Chevy's tall mid-sidepod wing/flow conditioner from 2015 was not seen being used in conjunction with the higher downforce 2016 wheel pod wing arrangement.

Chevy also tried an outer front wing treatment similar to Honda's package from 2015. Heavily curved, anhedral wing elements, which mount to the stock Dallara front wing mainplane, and the Chevy upper wing elements, were fitted late in the morning - first on Castroneves' car. Different from the Honda installation, Chevy has added a blade-style vane that, from the side, looks like a traditional endplate, but is in fact a thin, contoured, knife-edge piece that directs airflow on both sides of the elements.

Drivers were instructed to avoid detailed commenting on engines and aero kits, which left the six in attendance to provide general assessments of the test.

"It was a good day for us," Pagenaud told RACER. "It was good to get back in the car and see what we're going to get this year for the aero and engine package. It was a test about trying to understand all the bits and pieces, see what they do, to calibrate things, and to focus on ourselves on the 22 car to give as much feedback as possible to Chevy. We weren't focused on performance; it was about sanity checks and creating good information. The cars have a lot more downforce, they have more grip, and they're more efficient in a straight line, so there's a lot to learn from the driving side, as well."

IMG 7517a


    Kimball's new livery received a lot of positive feedback once it was shared on social media. Some asked whether it was only going to be used in testing, and if the absence of long-time sponsor from the sidepods and engine cover meant changes were afoot. "Novo Nordisk is still completely committed," Kimball said after the test. "The livery you saw isn't changing, but it may evolve a little bit throughout the year. The green and black won't change. It will be on for the year and Novo Nordisk and will be on the car."

    It's amazing how something as simple as a yellow bolt of lightning can create so much joy. Dixon's revised Target livery also earned plenty of praise. "We started out with it in 1995, and I think it looks fantastic sitting here in front of us," said CGR managing director Mike Hull.

2016IndyCar MarshallPruett Sonoma210 215a

  • Team Penske's mechanics have started a new tradition that is awesome, yet looks entirely out of place on pit lane. "It's a little challenge they put together; I believe Helio started it. Every time I leave pit lane, they do a push-up! Pagenaud said. "When I leave the first time, they do one. The second time, they do two. I'm really worried about them because I'm scheduled to do 37 outings today!" With Penske's large testing team at Sonoma, the number of crew members doing push-ups when Simon pulled away filled most of his pit box.

  • Knowing there were only two teams present, and without naming the team, it was interesting to observe one senior member taking copious amounts of digital photos of the other team's cars as they rolled by on pit lane. Those photography efforts were far from hidden - the person was standing in plain view of the oncoming drivers - which is in contrast to the more secretive efforts some teams practice to shoot and review the aero and chassis setup configurations used by their rivals.

  • Max Chilton's team stayed late Wednesday night and returned to Sonoma today to prepare the Briton's No. 8 car for his first oval test on Saturday at Fontana. "We'll turn the car around here then drive down and enjoy ourselves instead of rushing down there to do it," said CGR team manager Barry Wanser.

  • As Chevy held its Manufacturers' test at Sonoma, Honda did the same at Fontana where new superspeedway aero kit pieces were used. The Honda test was closed to the public and media.

    {igallery id=6389|cid=454|pid=9|type=category|children=0|addlinks=0|tags=|limit=0}

lat levitt tex 0615 02246Larry Foyt predicts a strong 2016 from Jack Hawksworth as the young Brit works to capitalize on the experience gained during his first two season in IndyCar.

Hawksworth arrived at Foyt last year as part of the team's expansion to two cars after a solid rookie season with Bryan Herta Autosport. However Foyt's struggles to cope with both its expansion and the arrival of the new aero kits contributed to both Hawksworth and Takuma Sato finishing the year well outside the top 10 in the championship.

However Foyt is confident that those problems have now been overcome, and he expects the 24-year-old to take strides this year.

"I'm looking for Jack to be very competitive," he told RACER. "He still doesn't have a ton of experience on ovals. He still doesn't have a ton of experience in big cars, if you look at it. He really is a raw talent. But one of the things we love about Jack is that is he 100 percent committed.

"He is here at the race shop three days a week, driving the pitstop car as the guys practice pitstops and working on them himself ... he eats and sleeps and dreams racing, and that's what you want in a young guy."

Foyt said that he was especially encouraged by the progress that Hawksworth made on ovals last year, especially with his tenth-place at Fontana.

"He is definitely a hard-charger, and I was really impressed at how much he improved on ovals last year – Pocono was one of his best drives on an oval I've seen.

"He's got a lot of raw, natural ability, and he is really applying himself. We all know he is quick on road courses, but I was really impressed with how he was maturing on ovals throughout last season. He's a guy who will be championship contender in the future, and I think we'll see that more and more as he spends time in IndyCars."

Image359 copy
Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, and Simon Pagenaud speak at Sonoma Raceway during their first road course test of 2016.


Image355New Chip Ganassi Racing driver Max Chilton turned his first laps in an IndyCar at Sonoma Raceway on Wednesday, and contrasted the experience to piloting the Marussia Formula 1 car or Indy Lights chassis he's used in recent years.

"It's a serious bit of kit. A lot more downforce than I'm used to," Chilton told RACER after his first morning of testing the Dallara DW12-Chevy package. "They're not overly powerful. The brakes are not great, but the actual downforce allows you to brake well. I've only done probably 25 laps but I've already experienced the speed. I'm already up to speed, which is a nice sign. I wasn't expecting to be here so quickly. Amazing bit of kit; I think it makes it feel even faster than it is because of the track."

Chilton posted lap times within one second of his teammate, defending IndyCar Series champion and 2015 Sonoma Raceway polesitter/winner Scott Dixon. The test also presented Chilton with his first taste of the 2.2-mile, 11-turn road course nestled in the Northern California hills.

"There's not much room for error here; it's a lot of undulating hills, high-speed corners," he said. "It's a challenging place to get used to a car, but if I can get used to it here than I should be able to get used to it anywhere."

According to Chilton, the track's old-world feel added to the sensation of driving a twin-turbo V6-powered Dallara-Chevy.

"It feels very Seventies to me, but it makes the overall experience a little more adrenalin-rushing and when you nail a lap around here, it's amazing because you're turning in blind to apexes, exit curbs you can't see until you feel the vibration of it," he added. "If you're really happy with a lap around here, you know it's a good lap. Hopefully we'll have some success here at the end of the year."

The Sonoma outing also gave Chilton and his former Nissan LMP1 colleague Brandon Fry a chance to start their relationship as driver and engineer on the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy.

"We worked together on the Nissan program," he said. "He was put right up against it with the Nissan because there was not a great deal you could do with it. I've heard great things about what he's done in the past, He's got great attention to detail, and I think he's the perfect engineer for me in my rookie year."


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