Derrick Walker, IndyCar's new president of competition and operations for IndyCar, met with the media at Detroit on Sunday morning to discuss the series' long-term competition strategy and timeline. The following is a transcript of his opening address:
DERRICK WALKER: Thank you. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. First of all, as is no secret, I've now joined IndyCar. Crossed over to the dark side, as I like to say (laughter). I took this job because I wanted to and it was offered to me and it represented a huge challenge, a huge opportunity for me. I'm more than happy to be here. We're here to talk about one of the many favorite topics of conversation over the last year or so: the infamous aero kits.
When we started thinking about aero kits, Will Phillips (Vice President, Technology, IndyCar) to my left here, we started hunkering down on how do we go forward. We had a lot of input, talked to the manufacturers, the teams, Firestone, Dallara. Will had done a considerable amount before I joined on.
It was coming in and laying it all out on the table, what does it mean, how do we do it, what's the best thing for the series. As has been said, some of you may say today, why screw with aero kits, we're racing. Hopefully where you see where we ended up, you'll get an idea where we are doing what we're going to do, which is obviously introduce some modifications to the car over time.
We started looking at it, how is it best to do it? We kept getting drawn into the concept, where is it going to go. It's easy to pass a rule and say, it's aero kits next year, knock yourself out. What does it really mean, where is it going to go. Since we've got such good foundation in the car and competition now, we need to think about this carefully.
The more we thought about it, the more we had to look out long-term. We went as far out as could imagine. What is the lifespan of this car realistically, the main components. What could we do that would maintain stability of that package.
Also we had to look at the manufacturer's participation, what they were looking for. We listened to the fans because the fans are a big component of this. The fans -- whether you [media] get it or not, we do -- they want some kind of change. They like what they want, but they're still crying out for some other things, good old days, bring it back. We had a series of objectives. We looked out as long term as we can.
When you see this chart we're going to show you, it covers a lot of different aspects of that puzzle. What we're trying to do is introduce change, I'll come back to why we need to introduce change. We need to do it in a fiscally responsible way, because change costs money as we all know. We had to do it in a way that we listened to the people who are going to probably spend the most money on this thing, the manufacturers. We had two manufacturers who had interest in doing aero kits, and a deeper participation in IndyCar. We wanted to listen to them because they're a big part of this component.
When we looked at it, we developed this chart. I'm going to walk you through it. I'm sure you'll have lots of questions. If I can ask you to hold that to the end and we'll come back to your questions when we're done.
In 2012, 226.484mph was a pole position time. You can see increases in speed as you go through. Some of those have already been done and some of them potentially could be targets depending on how we could reconfigure our car. Depending on which side of the equation you sit, it's our belief that speed does count. Speed is a differential that IndyCar has. They are the fastest cars in the world, in the closed circuit competition, if we want them to be. They have been and they still have some considerable records.
So when you look at that qualifying speed, you're looking at Indianapolis only. You're taking a snapshot of Indianapolis and saying if speed is a component, what do we do and what's the effect. These are just calculations. Don't get hung up on the numbers.
As you step through it, we introduced the current car in 2012, we're halfway through 2013. Here is where we really started to look at it very carefully and say, what do we need to do. What we need to do and are going to do is we needed to look to, first, safety. If we're going to ramp up the speed, as we make these changes, as the teams get more familiar with the car, as the engine manufacturers continue to invest money into the series, we're going to have to go quicker.
What's out there we really need to think about. Safety came up on the radar. One component of this car is the capability of lift. It has a huge flat bottom. We know it needs that perfect storm to create lift with these cars. We said we have to address lift. We're going to look at that aspect. Open-wheel cars in general, and even NASCAR, all have had to deal with that. In the good old days when I started racing, they didn't have flat bottoms like now. It wasn't an issue. You'd probably roll over before you take off. Nowadays the component of downforce and the larger area underneath the car, we have a lift component.
We said, "Wait a minute, if we're going to do these aero kits, change the bottom, what sense does that make? The manufacturers are going to waste all their money." We said safety is number one. We need to get that floor situation under control.
So we said let's look at it from multiple angles. Do we reduce it, put trap doors in it? We haven't got the answer today. All I can tell you, we, IndyCar, are going to spend a bit of money researching a floor as soon as we can that reduces the lift potential of this car. If we're going to have a speed potential, you're going to increase the lift four times every mile an hour, whatever it is. We're going to start a development program. We're going to get with Dallara and engine manufacturers, our advisory committee. A lot of people with a lot of ideas.
We're going to start working on a revised floor. Hopefully it will be done for the manufacturers to build into their aero kits. 2014, there is no change in aero kits. The engines will be modified, already planned. We're going to have a reduction in downforce. We're going to have to continue to modify that balance of the amount of downforce for the avoidance of wide-open racing.