If you think I exaggerate regarding engineers, you're wrong. Just consider how designers have become extinct in IndyCar racing, swept away in a tidal wave of homogeneity. More depressingly, there is no swift resolution to that, at least on the chassis side, because the series' current Dallara deal runs to the end of 2016. Meanwhile, the aero kit debate grumbles on and… I'm at a loss to understand why. Chevrolet and Honda, who both want aero kits for highly visible brand identification, will doubtless wish for all of their teams to take their kits. But if there are teams who can't afford to upgrade, they should be allowed to continue with the current Dallara bodywork.
Having three different-looking cars on an IndyCar grid would be a step in the right direction, but the bigger picture, the long-term view, needs to be more radical. A large percentage of fans and potential fans make it abundantly clear on an almost daily basis that they want IndyCar to allow more diversity, that another spec car era will eventually drive them away for good. For many spectators, that's already happened. Many even go as far as to suggest that defining a box for length, width and height is as defined as chassis/bodywork technical regulations need be. (A mandated safety cell, would be necessary too.) For sure, this would bring about a return of the spirit of innovation that was once a hallmark of Indy car racing.
However, there is an equally valid point – who pays for this? Maybe the regulations that currently apply to the engine manufacturers – that they must be able to supply a certain percentage of the grid at a guaranteed price – could be modified and applied also to potential chassis suppliers. And for those who point out that team owners would, over ensuing years, naturally gravitate toward the supplier with the best solution, the only answer is, “So what?” That's the nature of competition: each participant wants the best of everything. It's up to the designer with the less effective chassis to do better next time; it is not up to the governing body to mask his/her shortcomings by tampering with the better chassis to reduce its advantage.
As mentioned, the Dallara deal renders this a moot point until 2016, but how about a short-term compromise… such as turning the Indy 500 into a run-what-ya-brung event? Points would only be awarded to full-season cars that ran in their “regular” Dallara-, Chevy- or Honda-designed aero kits, so those who couldn't afford a one-off special kit would still have a very real goal to strive for, as well as outright victory. Those who chose to run an Indy-specific aero kit and one-off entries of any kind would not be eligible for points but, this being the “500,” everyone would want to be there, regardless of the championship.
Some of the more affluent teams might mix and match: for example, Roger Penske could leave full-season drivers Will Power and Helio Castroneves in their usual cars, so they could garner points for the long-term goal of the IndyCar championship, but he might also run a couple of cars with specially-commissioned “one-off” aero kits for say, Ryan Briscoe and AJ Allmendinger. Add in all the one-off teams that would emerge or re-emerge to compete in the most prestigious race in the world but with innovative and imaginative ideas, and I think you'd have at least 40 cars competing for Indy's 33 grid slots. And there'd be a hugely varied-looking field once more.
And why stop at chassis? If another manufacturer wanted to badge the old Ilmor-built 3.5-liter V8s and put them up against the current 2.2-liter turbo V6s, they should be allowed. And if Honda and Chevrolet responded by cranking more power out of the current 2.2-liter V6 turbos – with all its attendant risks, mileage- and reliability-wise – then they should be allowed to do that, too. Such a loose brief might also attract Ford, Chrysler-Fiat, Hyundai, Toyota, BMW, bringing financial investment and marketing expertise.
Am I letting my imagination run too free? Am I being overly optimistic? Not sure. For now, I'll settle for aero kits, to be introduced a.s.a.p.. Aside from anything else, the Dallara DW12, though looking more modern than its predecessor, isn't pretty from any angle and tolerable only from a few. And my opinions on this matter are relatively mild; some fans have implied their eyes are so tortured by the DW12 that they wish to report Dallara to Amnesty International. Certainly it's strange to think that the same company that designed such an aesthetically challenged machine also produced the World Series by Renault car, probably the best-looking open-wheeler on the planet at the moment.
However, and this is a major caveat, there's something that needs to be done at the same time as body kits are brought in, maybe even before…