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.
Also when you look at that component, we're talking superspeedways here. But there's also another component, a street race. What we need at a street race isn't necessarily what we need at a superspeedway. We're not trying to keep moving the goalposts with cost. Don't be anybody surprised if Will isn't doing some juggling with the downforce to improve the show.
In 2015, providing our manufacturers are still motivated to stay in our series, we're going to introduce these aero configurations. They're aero changes in the car. That change is going to be across road courses and ovals. You're going to hopefully have a Honda and a Chevrolet version. If there's some other manufacturer comes along, it all fits and can be done in an organized manner, the door is open for others.
You'll see a significant jump in speed at Indianapolis. The rules to that are currently being scripted. We had them pretty well 80 percent done until we finalized this outline. The manufacturers within a couple weeks will have the written rules as to how they can compete, what they can and can't do.
That takes you to 2016, which happens to be the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. So an important team and ceremonial event. When you look at the speed increases, the improvements in the car, you can realistically expect that we will possibly break that record unless we make major changes to backtrack, we're probably going to crack the record.
It's not a must do. It would be a nice do, but it's not a must do. When you take a look at the changes in the car configuration, it's logical to think we're going to get a rise in speeds. In that, as the car develops, we're working with our partner Firestone to develop the best kind of tires for our cars. Everybody would have to agree to date we've had super support from them, a lot of great, safe racing. They know how a build a car for 240, 250 miles per hour, if you can go that fast. The capacity is there.
When they see this plan, they've got something to work to. We're not sitting there saying maybe, maybe, we're going to do that. A big part of that is working with our Firestone partners and adapt the car to what it needs to be.
In addition, engine power will increase. For qualifying, the qualifying situation at Indy, anywhere else for that matter, we have the ability to turn up the boost, to give more power if that is needed. It's just saying there's a potential. Not saying a must do. At the end of the day, the longer we turn up the boost, the more the engine needs to be rebuilt and the more it costs teams. It's a difference between going crazy and going fast.
Taking you out to '17, you can see aero upgrades. The process of racing, IndyCar racing, like all racing series, is a continual change. Nothing ever stays forever in racing, nor should it. We can realistically expect there could be some upgrades in the future in 2017 to continue to grow, because we'll learn what our aero kit does and how to optimize it. You can expect some changes there. Again, working with our partners, not decisions made in a vacuum. The engine manufacturers can make a bigger change in their engine configuration in 2017.
Here is a new one -- team development. We're going to open up areas of the cars, and we're going to try to get back to a little bit more of a variation in our competition. In a controlled way, because all the teams want to see us monitor the show, make sure there's no cheating going on, no bending of the rules, when we open up areas, we're losing a lot of control in a sense because we're allowing the teams to do non-Dallara parts or modified parts. We need to keep the competition fair for everybody.
You'll see the speeds drop down after 2016. I think that's just a speculation and it's also a possibility if it's required. I'm not sure that we as IndyCar need to be doing the sound barrier all the time every year, we don't need to break that barrier. I think you will see changes in specifications to the car that will influence speed. The quest to be quick is certainly an objective.
Then taking it out to 2018, a very important year, because the current car, with aero kits, 2018, it's probably the end of its current form in competition -- or could be. We're saying it probably is, or is rather, not probably. If you look at the current platform of the pieces we've got, even with the aero kits thrown in there, the basic package has been on the shelf for quite a long time at that point. There will be a lot of other ideas coming along, safety ideas, all kinds of things that come along, that will say that we need do some bigger changes.
2018 you're probably looking at the end of era of this current car. Then we're really faced with a situation, if we were so lucky, going into 2019 by saying, do we go with another new car, get the latest technology, or do we find another way?
We're proposing -- and we think it's probably what's going to happen, because of the economic environment we're in -- we're probably going to extend the life of that car another three or so years. How we're going to do that is take the basic spine -- chassis, gearbox, other key components of the chassis, the rolling chassis -- and say let's not do a kit, let's do a complete facelift, a complete body styling, which would give you several things.
It would build in more safety, build you a car for the future to extend that car's life. It would help the teams by not making everything obsolete. More fans, more sponsors coming in, ultimately being able to afford to look at other variations.
For the time being, we're looking at a lean, mean economy out there, so we're going to keep some longevity in our path.
It would give you a different look, a different performance. It should be about the car of the future. It should be a car -- probably heard that word before, but a car that looks like a modern racing car. When you look at it, you will say, "That's an IndyCar." We can build a complete wing package, underfloor, look like a completely different car. Whether we run into some safety issues, we'll have to reverse that.
The process to do 2019, it's going to be coming around the corner here soon. We're going to work over a few years to this point, start with some basic concepts, again, not in a vacuum, including as many parts of our community as we can. In 2019, we're saying it has to be a major improvement in the car, a different styling, performance.
Then when we come to the engine formula. We will have run in formula right through 2019. There's nothing says we can't look at other engine formulas along the way, but obviously we haven't said that in this chart. We've not intimated that. Any new formula change in the engines we're going to get with our current partners, Chevrolet and Honda, say that we have a potential to do this, how do you feel about it. We don't want to alienate anybody. But certainly 2019, I think it's far enough out to say we look at other technologies, other engine sizes, other whatever.
What we're saying here is obviously we want to build a car that's not only fast, not only IndyCar, but we want to build a car that's got a green element to it, a variation in the formula that adds more variety, brings more people into the sport, enhances the competition.
We're putting that out there. Why it's very useful to have that as a statement as where we're going to go, as we talk to other manufacturers, interested parties, we can say, here is our plan, if you want to come in with your different technologies, 2019, we can go back to our current partners, introduce it sensibly sooner, I don't think it's likely, we can do that.
All the changes up to '19 are all a combination of working together. It's not us making decisions in a vacuum.
Then '19 through to '21, we parted those years out. I think these old dogs by '21 will be old dogs and we'll be changing them. How do we make this thing last longer, save money for the teams and build in some longevity. That's our plan.
We have one more chart here to show you, then I'll take questions. On the right hand top corner, my left hand, you've got the speedway configuration. All the components in red are components, two current engine manufacturers, can make their own body panels, own styling, to individualize that car and compete in 2015.
There is a note. As you can see the arrows to the wings, if you don't make any changes, currently right now these wings that we run at the superspeedways are getting some weird angles to achieve the lap times we want. If we didn't change anything else, we'd probably come back and change the wings, make them operate in the traditional way they work, get the balance better for the teams.
But if we're changing before, there's a good chance that wing configuration is something that we're looking at. May be the same wings. We're not saying these components are automatic. Once we have some floor data, have a better idea, we'll be telling the manufacturers whether they are a component or not a component of the aero kit. We're trying to keep as many things consistent and not just change for change's sake.
Then you go to the bottom right corner. That is the road course configuration. You can take everything you have there up in the left, with the exception of the wing main plate, you can fit them on your road course car and knock yourself out.
So that in simplistic terms is the plan. There's a lot of work to go with that. Will has already started on a lot of the writing of this thing and we'll be closing out as soon as we can and then we'll be looking for the manufacturers to tell us where we are.
If one manufacturer of our current group decides it's not what they want to do, doesn't want to participate, or if the majority of the teams say they don't want it, forget it, we're not coming, we're not doing it, then either of those situations we'd say, forget it, we'll take it off the table. It is a rule going forward -- it is going to happen, but it's with consent of our partners. Without them buying into it, what are we doing, we're dreaming up rules that don't go anywhere.
Once we get the manufacturers committing to it, we'll announce who is onboard with what we're doing.
* Walker answers questions on his plan