I guess it's no surprise the vast majority of questions I get regarding the 2012 car are about the aero kits. So, let's start this by talking about those.
For 2012, IndyCar wishes to again attract technical competition, not just with different engine manufacturers, but also on the chassis. To avoid the pitfalls of typical chassis competition, aero kits will be restricted to the visible bodywork. This allows diversity for the fans due to renewed technical engagement from commercial entities, yet within a sensible cost envelope.
2012 Indy cars will be known simply by the name given by the bodywork developer, permitting exploitation of one its most valuable assets – the car name itself. Outside the bodywork, the car is absolutely identical for all competitors so that a contained cost platform is established.
This provides an opportunity for technical and automotive companies to take part at a fraction of previous costs when entry demanded a complete car. IndyCar has the ability to balance the appearance of the vehicle along with creating new challenges every couple of years or as demand dictates, but still fitting the same base chassis.
The difficulty from IndyCar's perspective, as regulators, is how do you regulate aero kits?
In a perfect world, we'd like to see four or five different aero kits. But when you try to quantify what the knock-on effects will be to the series and teams, you get into a whole matrix of questions. A team's questions are selfishly (and rightly so) oriented around the team aspect – the competition, level playing fields, what happens if they pick the wrong kits, etc. I think our job is to go through and answer these questions and work those answers into the draft of the aero kit regulations that we're currently formulating and come out with a conclusion that's best for all. From the series' point of view, those team issues are taken into account but we're also asking how we can provide more opportunities for sponsorship revenue for the race teams.
There may be opportunities for teams to work with an aero kit manufacturer and thus reduce their costs. Naturally, the fewer the choices of aero kits, the more kits one company may have to supply. If there are several aero kit options, the supply criteria may be reduced.
There is an argument that everyone's going to migrate to the same kit – which is true if rules allow it but, as I said before, IndyCar needs to be creative and continue to develop the rules. We need to provide a set of regs that gives teams the opportunity to catch up at certain points during the season, and encourages aero kit suppliers to stay involved within the series.
All kits will be homologated with manufacturers having to provide drawings, surfaces, dimensions etc., and, once a design is homologated, it can't change until the approved time frame. The difficulty, from a series perspective, will be enforcing the regs but I'm confident we're on the right track. We'll provide a set of parameters that include the spirit of the rules along with punishments made public if rules are broken, and I'm comfortable we can do that.
Next we must consider how these aero kits will affect the racing. As a series, we have to make these calculations, and my feeling is that the racing is going to change.
We've been stuck in an environment where everything's been equal – the same chassis, same engine, same tires and a mandated set of parameters. Yet you notice two teams are still whipping everybody else. It follows that any time you have rules which invite multiple manufacturers to participate – with engines, tires, or in this case, aero kits – no one will come out the other end exactly the same.
There will always be good and bad decisions. In the past, when you decided which chassis supplier you were going to use, if you picked the wrong one, you either lived with it or got out of it at some point, but it was a $600,000 decision! Other than cost, I don't see the decision-making process being much different – there are going to be good and bad decisions. I still think that the good teams will rise to the top for many other reasons – they hire quality personnel, they run good programs and they employ talented drivers.
So how do we provide opportunities for the smaller teams to get it right? We give them a choice of multiple aero kits.
Teams are going to have to make a decision based on the knowledge they have, and what makes racing good is people making wrong decisions or acts of randomness that come into play. It's like racing in the rain: it's good because people can't calculate for it, so it's exciting! The fans are going to want to see that. We must provide a base vehicle that is really good on every type of circuit and can entice close racing – good for drafting, minimal wake. It's an intricate process and our job is to consider everyone's input as we make a decision best for IndyCar's future.