Tuesday marked the first of three days of testing for the 2012 Dallara-Honda IndyCar at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The test is the final exclusive run for Dan Wheldon and his Bryan Herta Autosport-led crew of the Dallara-Honda combination before engine manufacturers begin their testing in earnest Oct. 4-5 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Scott Dixon (Honda) and Will Power (Chevrolet) will test at Mid-Ohio in the manufacturers' own chassis. Teams are scheduled to take delivery of their first chassis in mid-December and commence testing after the first of the year.
No speeds were released following Tuesday's test runs.
“We'll wait 'til (Sept. 29) to put the big numbers down,” Wheldon said. “We have to manage our expectations. I know everybody wants to see huge speeds, but it's about doing what's right for the car. This is our final test and it's important that we learn enough so when the customers get their cars we feel we've given them something they'll be very happy with.”
IndyCar vice president of technology Will Phillips said that the sanctioning body next will work with the manufacturers during their test period of 2.2-liter, V-6, turbocharged engines.
“We've gone through all the different types of circuits but one (1.5-mile oval, which will be addressed during the manufacturer test phase) and validated the aero configuration against the speed that we intend to have for next year,” Phillips said. “It's really been a good collaboration from Bryan Herta Autosport, from Dan and his previous experience and from Dallara.”
Observers said the turbo engine featured a quieter tone than the normally aspirated V8s that have ruled Indy since 1997.
"It's not got that kind of deep, throat kind of sound," Wheldon told the Indianapolis Star. "This has got a screaming sound."
Wheldon added that he has been pleased with the car's handling qualities to date.
"At Iowa I was incredibly impressed with our mid-corner speed," he said. "(The car) doesn't necessarily drive different, but it's very reactive. I think that's because of the weight, perhaps, and where the weight is positioned. It feels very nimble, I should say. It feels light and agile."
Aerodynamic and mechanical information has been collected into a spreadsheet that will be delivered with base information to teams. Dallara Automobili has begun assembling chassis at a temporary facility in Speedway, Ind., until their North American headquarters across the street is completed by the end of the year.
“It's been very good to be part of the process – to learn about the car, to be at the track and help in the initial testing and development of the car,” team co-owner Bryan Herta said. “Some things take a bit getting used to, but I would say this car represents an improvement in almost every area and that's what we've been doing. It's lighter, safer, faster, and we've worked to validate the mechanical reliability of the car and making sure the way Dallara has designed and engineered the car to perform that the wind tunnel numbers are matching up on track.”
The program on the 2.5-mile oval also includes a Firestone tire test. Next week, Wheldon will return with three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves and Graham Rahal for tire testing in the current Honda-powered Dallara “to get a good back-to-back comparison,” according to Firestone Racing senior project engineer Dale Harrigle.
The 2012 car is lighter and its oval and road/street aero packages will produce different tendencies than the current chassis. Tire testing on ovals and road courses will be built into the manufacturer test period through mid-December.
“We're doing our due diligence to make sure we don't have any issues,” Harrigle said. “We've been working with Dallara and with IndyCar to confirm the changes to the car, but still nothing beats track testing to make sure we're in good shape for next year's Indy 500.”