Q: We've announced aero kits, I think this is the third time now. We've had the owners basically reject the concept on financial grounds. How much building of relationships have you done in your short time already to get a feel for whether we're going to have a third rejection?
DERRICK WALKER: Believe it or not, up until yesterday, the manufacturers didn't know anything what we were going to propose. We did a meeting yesterday.
They were the first partners with IndyCar that actually had a chance to see this. Up until then it was Will [Phillips] and I and Mark (Miles) were the only people who knew what IndyCar was going to do. There were a few more boards that addressed cost from our standpoint in our presentation. We didn't think it was right to bring it out here because it wasn't relevant to this meeting. Met with the drivers, gave them the same sort of presentation. We met with the manufacturers. We're here with you today.
We tried to get to everybody as soon as we could because we wanted that feedback.
So far, there are suggestions on how we should think about this, think about that. I haven't had anybody come up and say, no way. I've only seen one owner that wanted to go out there and get his name in a paper and say other ways should be better, which is his right. In that meeting, it was constructive. I think we got general support, at least right now.
Q: Once they introduce the changes in red, how often can they change those pieces or is it locked in once they introduce them? Will there be price caps on it as to how much they can charge the teams for these kits?
DERRICK WALKER: Good questions. Once you've made 'em, you own 'em -- they're yours. The league always looks at the competition and looks for inequalities in the rules. There's no guarantee every manufacturer, every team, engine is going to come out and be even. Some of it is very challenging from a league perspective, to be able to manage that, get that balance, 'cause there's nobody wants to see half the teams be totally disenfranchised because they have an aero package that can go wrong.
We'd step in and would be trying to offer some help to allow that manufacturer to make some additional changes to try to rectify if he has a big problem. That's not going to be day one. We're going to take a long time to look at it. We know how you can play that game. We're not going to be sucked into changing the rules every time somebody says it doesn't work.
The second part, my answer would be, I hope so. We're going to put forward a group of recommendations to the manufacturers of what we want to do. We do want to put realistic caps on it. When we look at the car components, the manufacturer is making small quantities. He's going to make quality pieces, small quantities. He's not in there to sell a bunch of these, make a bunch of money. He can't afford to probably give that away. He probably doesn't want to because he already spent a lot of money on developing the stuff. We will be meeting with the manufacturers and giving our final rules package, which will specify what costs and whatnot, what won't be cost.
The last thing we want to do is increase the inflation to the teams. So we definitely have to try to manage that. We want our partners to understand that and help us with it.
Q: At the moment, how are you proposing the lap speed is generated to get a record lap at Indy while you're also trying to take away downforce? At the moment they're virtually flat-out, especially in qualifying, which is what you're trying to prevent where driver talent plays a greater part.
DERRICK WALKER: Just because we bring in aero kits doesn't mean it's going to go slower. The killer is the drag. When you make those aero kits, you're going to potentially lose a lot of drag. It's a go-faster pill.
Q: When this new car first came along, the big story was maybe this would get the cottage industry going. Will any of this be available for cottage guys to build things? Will it still be a closed shop? When you get to 2017, would you encourage competition from a chassis manufacturer or just have one chassis?
DERRICK WALKER: I think to the cottage industry question, I think we'd all like to see that come back. I think when the team development areas open up, we've yet to totally define what those are, we can think of them and have a short list, but we have to knuckle down and do the due diligence, that will produce some capability to be farmed out locally.
If you look at where we currently are, the current car as is, our supplier, we have a partnership with Dallara and we need them to get through to a period in time -- which in this case is going to be 2017 -- before we start opening up in a careful way. The cottage industry issue will be addressed as we gradually open up. But everybody thinks that's a panacea to everything good, when you open it up. Our partnership with Dallara, everybody says it's great racing, and it is, very competitive, very close. Actually, just remember the Dallara component in there has helped create some of that very close racing. So there's some good to that. We've just got to manage it over time.
To the other point, I think we'd all love to have more competition from different chassis manufacturers. Again, longer term, when the windows open up for that consideration, we wouldn't turn anybody down. We'd obviously look at it and see if it's viable and the best thing in the interests of IndyCar. If it was, we would. That's a bit further out. Right now we're partnered with Dallara, and that's where it's going to be for the next few years.
Q: With your experience in ALMS, you know how the green racing side of that brought in fans. Could you sort of pull back from the technical side and talk about how you think all of this package will maybe pull in more fans.
DERRICK WALKER: Well, from a big picture view, racing, it's hard to see racing as a development platform sometimes for green. We're using a lot of resources to do what we do. The one thing about racing, it helps you develop those products quicker. It's a fast track to develop those products, fluids, whatever. I think we need to be on that page a lot more than we are.
We're not clear on what that needs to be, but it needs to be a component in the future. Again, we build it in over time, because it takes time, but we have to be going that route.
Whether the fans attach to that or not, I would think they would think it's good. We're responsible for what we do. But really the fans, we need to wake 'em up in more than different ways than just green, although the green is a good thing. We need to let them know there's some good stuff going over here and we need to find a way to reignite them and get them background. Without them, we're just doing a technical exercise here.
Q: How much room is there really to move within these parameters? Are they really going to look that much different, much variation involved in terms of the appearance?
DERRICK WALKER: They will look different to start with. Like monkey see, monkey do, whatever has the best package, they're going to migrate that way. Because of the restrictions they have in the rules, how many panels, it may lead them all to a similar place. It may. But they're going to spend a lot of time trying to be different, trying to be better. We may get some surprises there. I think we will for the introduction of these aero kits. When you look at what we have to do, how we do it, this is one of the easier ones in terms of beginning the process to change our cars and our specifications.
I think it's one of the more cost-effective ways to do it.
Q: Isn't there an opportunity here to take particularly the Indy 500 back to its roots?
DERRICK WALKER: It's certainly a valid question and a position to take. I don't think we in IndyCar can really afford to do that. I don't mean just in a money sense. It would take several years to build that back up where it became a show, became an event. You would see a heck of a lot less people up there winning the races. You would see the big-budget teams, the big players being the winners because they have the resources, they always do.
It's a balance -- what do you want, close racing or a disparity across the field? I think what we've got is pretty good. We need to continue to be ahead of that curve and try to further enhance it. But I don't think we can realistically jump that far back. I just don't see it being the right thing for IndyCar at the moment. I'd love to be able to try that and if it didn't work come back to where we are, but they won't let me do that.
Q: My estimation is the technical interest from the average fan about IndyCar today is probably as low as it's ever been. With everything proposed here, I love the ideas and sound of it, but I think most of these things only excite folks that already care, which doesn't add anybody to the party. What elements of promoting these things, new technical innovations are coming, will excite folks?
DERRICK WALKER: We didn't get here overnight. We evolved here. Where we go from here will also be a process of evolution. If we're going to go to a completely different place ultimately, we'll take time to do that. I don't care who comes in and takes this job and has the challenge of moving the sport one way or another, it's always going to take a lot of time. It always comes down to resources and time.
When you look at the aero kit, which I almost hate the words, it has an impression of being some sort of body bit you put on there and you've got a different car, but it's really the same. These will be major design changes. This is a deal-changer. There's a lot of things this is going to affect, by going away from the traditional running car. If you look at the aero kit, branding is a big component. When you look at promoting, I'm sure Chevrolet and Honda, because they're going to have their own image, their own car design, albeit under the spine of the running chassis we have. So there's a promotion element. They're going to promote that. Why else would they do it?
There's also a speed element. It will certainly change the game when it comes to speed. It will also affect the road courses which we don't need a huge increase in speed -- we need more overtaking and a car that is on the limit to drive, the guys are learning take a little bit longer. We have cars that are fairly easy. We have a power range which is fairly low. The balance of grip and power is maybe not where we want it to be. These aero kits will allow some of those things to be addressed over time.
The fans want to see some differentiation. As much as I would like to turn the clock back, I'm not so sure back to the future is the best way to do that. I think we need to keep stability, keep rubbing on it. So this is a very conservative step, for sure. This is not earth-shattering. But there is some newness in it. It's going to look a little different. It's going to introduce an aero race with the two manufacturers, which they want. It's going to give some differentiation for the teams and their cars, and the fans hopefully will recognize that.
It's not the magic bullet that's going to fix IndyCar. I just don't think you can see that realistically happen in that sort of time. You have to think further out. If you want to get adventurous around 2019, 2021, possibly. We have a plan here moving in that direction. We're working on what is the next step, all part of an evolution.
Q: Was any consideration given to allowing the teams and manufacturers to relocate the radiators?
DERRICK WALKER: It would be a considerable advantage if we said radiators are free, whatever. Change costs money. New components. Also, if you did away with the duct, you're doing away with a large component, which is a safety item stuck out there.
It would be nice to remove the duct and let the manufacturers go. There's no guarantee as the sidepod design ends up, how much driver protection you're maybe taking away. For us to go back and relook at every manufacturer's kit, think about the crash structure there, how it performs, we thought for cost reasons and for those reasons, we'd leave those, maybe something in the future, but not right now.
Q: I wanted to confirm basically the team owners, even the ones that aren't in the big league, they have said this is a gradual enough process for them to be able to afford it. When Mark Miles took charge, he said that we need technical innovation but don't want to blow a fuse. Even the guys that won yesterday, they are actually OK with this step-by-step process and feel they can afford it.
DERRICK WALKER: No team likes to spend money. What we're doing is we're spending it over time to give them time to work into it. We're doing the least impact on their budget we can do. Change is going to cost money. Also if we're not going to change, then we can save a lot of money. I guess the question comes, do we need to change. In my opinion, we do.
If you look at the current car, nobody wanted to buy that, at least at the time most of them didn't. They hunkered down, made it happen. It was a tough pill to swallow, the cost of reinvesting in a car.
Now we're at a better place. We're looking a bit further out saying, where do we go from here. We're not throwing the whole car away. Our engine partners are willing to carry the brunt there. The team owners are going to pay their fair share. If we don't feel we need to develop IndyCar in this direction, obviously we don't need to be doing this. The league thinks we do. We've gone to great lengths to explain why we think that's necessary and we're going to move forward with that plan.
If the team owners disagree with it, there's not a majority there that keeps it going, we'll drop it. We won't ram it down their throat. We need everybody in the game, we need everybody to bring into this and make it happen.
Q: You mentioned the need for the manufacturers and team owners to buy into that. What is the time frame for that before you have to move forward?
DERRICK WALKER: Mark (Kent) from Chevrolet is here. I'm going to say Monday, of course (laughter). We need to give them time to digest the rules. We're going to try to get these things finalized in at least two to three weeks. The manufacturer will have something ASAP. We're going to ask them basically. We want it ASAP. If they have a process internally, they have to go through and consider these things, obviously we're going to say, what is your timeline for making your decision. We'll try to get them both on the same page to release it. As the clock ticks, we're going to be developing this underbody. We'll be doing this.
We have to do something on the floor area, reduce that. There's other things incidentally on the safety aspect. We're going to do a lot more of safety, period. That's not just the driver. It's the pit crews, the fans in the stands. You probably all know that Indianapolis, working on a current plan to make significant changes at that place, not just safety, but safety included. There's a big initiative on trying to be fiscally responsible with not only how do we spend our money but how do with we add protection as we try to ramp up and be the series we want to be.
Q: What about Audi, Dodge, Ford? Have they indicated there's an engine they would be interested in in two or three years?
DERRICK WALKER: I know IndyCar two years ago went out looking, knocking on doors to see who were interested. At that time they weren't. With a more long-range plan, the door is open for other engine configurations, not immediately, but if any manufacturer said, I like this idea, let's go do it, they're going to have a two- to three-year build-up plan. It's not something that is going to happen overnight.
The door is open for competition. We're grateful with the current manufacturers because they provided great competition between them, great engines. They fit the bill, they work. I'm sure they would like, too, more competition. If the formula can change in the future that doesn't disenfranchise anybody, works for the better good of what we're trying to achieve here, I'm sure they'd welcome the competition as much as anybody. The door is open. Once we level off here with this job, it's going to be one of the things that Mark and I are going to be doing -- going out there knocking on doors. We should have three manufacturers at least -- we lost one, and we need to replace that one. That's job number one. We'll all be better off all around if we had a better manufacturer there.
Long term, that technology door, that green door, could be open relatively soon provided it's within the framework of what everybody is doing now. We can't disenfranchise anybody because we're off on some exercise of whatever.