Chevrolet showed journalists photos of its aero kit for the 2015 IndyCar season during IndyCar’s official media day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday. Chevy said the aero kit allowed them to “differentiate our look, drive innovation, look for ways to improve performance and speed, lap times,” and was one of the main factors behind their decision to re-enter IndyCar in 2012.
Chevy designed the kit using CAD software and tested it using a computer simulator. They then built a 50% scale model and tested that in the wind tunnel, which was followed by a full-scale model and more wind tunnel testing. From that point, they tested the car on numerous American road and oval courses including Homestead Miami, Circuit of the Americas and Phoenix International Raceway.
Of course, this is an oversimplified explanation of all the hard work Chevy put into the aero kit over the past few years. Director of GM racing Mark Kent, Chevrolet IndyCar program manager Chris Berube and director of Chevrolet motorsports Jim Campbell explained the new aero kits much better during the press conference. Read their lengthy yet interesting remarks below.
THE MODERATOR: It’s an honor to have everybody here today. I must say that the Speedway looks much different than what we’re traditionally used to seeing during the month of May. One word I continuously heard this morning in some of our conversations was how special this facility is. We all know that it’s hosted so many special moments of automotive history.
We are honored to have a number of our key partners with us, distinguished guests from Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing, CFH Racing, and KV Racing Technology.
A number of key colleagues that have joined us today.
In the back of the room we’re joined by Michael Stouffer, one of our new team members that joined us in January. He’s working on the markets side for IndyCar racing.
Also in the back of the room is Judy Dominick. I think many people have worked with her over the years as they supported our trackside communications.
Also in the back of the room is Jimmie Brumfield, he’s our senior manager of communications.
Then up front, Chris Berube, our program manager for IndyCar.
Chris is joined by Mark Kent, our director of motorsports competition.
Then finally it’s an honor to introduce Jim Campbell, our vice president of motorsports.
JIM CAMPBELL: It’s great to be with you all. It’s special to be at the speedway every time we’re here.
Our group, Chevrolet Performance, focuses on high performance vehicles, parts and racing. Today we’re pleased to give you an update on our updates in IndyCar.
We have some great teams. We’re proud to be partners with Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing, CHF Racing, and KV Racing Technology. All the drivers, thank you for being here. It’s so good to see you. It will be even more fun to see you on the track.
2014 for Chevrolet was quite a special year. In fact, we had six drivers championships including Will Power’s championship here in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Kevin Harvick in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Chase Elliott in the Nationwide. Christian Fittipaldi in the Tudor prototype class. It was a special year.
Of course, for IndyCar and Chevrolet, our teams, what a special season it was. 12 wins, three from Will Power, one from Juan Pablo Montoya, two from Scott Dixon, one from Ed Carpenter, two from Mike Conway, Tony Kanaan delivered a big win for us, Sebastien Bourdais a win, and Helio Castroneves as well. It was a terrific season. A manufacturer’s championship for a third year in a row. We’re appreciative of all their efforts, what they did.
In addition Chevrolet won five manufacturers championships last year through all these various series. So it was really a special year for Chevy in our history.
Speaking of history, this place for Chevrolet means a lot. I always refer to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as our home track because the co-founders of the company Louis Chevrolet. Him and his brother used this place as their proving ground. His brother Arthur raced in the first Indianapolis race, and Gaston won it in 1920.
Special place for us. Even at the museum, there’s a bust of a guy named Louis Chevrolet. Very Special to be here.
For the IndyCar Series 2015, when we decided to come back into the series leading into 2012, we really worked with IndyCar on a few things, a few priorities. We love the engine formula in this series, smaller displacement engines, direct injection, boosting, turbo charging, use of smaller V6 powerful engines, then use of a biofuel.
We came with a 2.2 liter twin turbo direct injector V6. That was one of the key reasons we came back in the series and why we still love the series. It relates to what we sell in the showrooms that delivers that great combination of power, fuel economy and durability.
Secondly, we were looking to bring world class racing to the city of Detroit with Belle Isle. We appreciate the support of IndyCar to make that happen. We’ll be kicking off our fourth season.
We extended the track a bit. It’s 2.4 miles, 13 turns. We’re continuing to invest with Charles Burns and Bud Bud Denker, the chairman of the Grand Prix, in the infrastructure. New pavement went down in the fall. The improvements continue. It’s going to be a great race.
Finally, we wanted to come back in IndyCar because we had the opportunity to develop aero kits. It was our opportunity to differentiate our look, drive innovation, look for ways to improve performance and speed, lap times. That’s exactly what we’ve been doing. We’ve been working with Mark Miles, Derrick Walker to bring this package to life. Obviously our competitors are doing the same thing. Today we want to talk about that.
I’ll turn it over to our director of racing for Chevrolet, he also supports our Cadillac effort Mark Kent.
MARK KENT: It’s a pleasure to be with you to highlight some of the key steps of where this aero kit is today. It’s been a long journey. We’re glad to be where we are.
The first step that we took along the process was doing some baselining of today’s car to fully understand what the DW12 does on road courses and short ovals to ensure our kit performed to a level that exceeded today’s car.
Once we understood where we were starting, we developed numerous design concepts. This is probably the biggest challenge, to balance the requirements for the kit. It’s not all about downforce, it’s not all about drag, it’s not all about engine power. It’s developing that optimal combination between those three to ensure at the end of the day we are providing our Chevrolet teams an aero kit and engine combination that can let them win week in and week out.
Once we established these goals, we had some design concepts, some renderings that we had on what we thought the car could look like. We had a very focused, dedicated team that worked on this aero kit program that then took these renderings and put them into the computer through computer-aided design, which we then took one step further and did structural analysis of the components.
The new Chevrolet aero kit has more downforce capability. So in addition to ensuring that parts are light, we need to ensure they can withstand the higher loading. The FEA analysis with key that our parts would perform in that environment.
We then took those parts to the next step, which was to use the computer to simulate the aerodynamic properties. A lot of our up front work was done on the computer. It’s a very efficient and effective way in order to run through numerous designs before you even start to produce parts.
So once we ran through this process, and I’m going through these in linear steps, but this is obviously a cycle. We go back a lot and start over based on learning along the way.
Once we got to this point, the next step was then to create rapid prototype parts. Today’s technology is amazing. You can take a 3-D printer and produce parts like this that is carbon-filled parts that are strong enough toactually go on a racecar and be tested on speedways and ovals and road courses. It’s an amazing technology that allows us to rapidly learn what our parts do and rapidly allows us to go back and make enhancements as required.
Once we had the parts, our next step was to go to a scale model wind tunnel, 50% scale model of the car. 50% testing offers us a great opportunity to learn quickly and more efficiently, producing parts that are half the size of the real parts represent a cost savings and allows us to test numerous iterations more rapidly.
Once we were satisfied with those results, the next step was to go to a full scale wind tunnel test. We produced rapid prototype parts, took them to a full scale rolling wind tunnel, conducted numerous tests to confirm what we learned in the scale model tunnel and the computer.
From that point we moved on to testing a prototype aero kit on various circuits. We tested the kit on various tracks.
Chris, can you tell us where it was tested and who test dollars it?
CHRIS BERUBE: The validation phase of this whole thing was the track testing phase. Our goals there were really about making sure we had correlation all the way back to the CFD, the beginning of the process that Mark talked about. It’s very iterative. We went through it here in a single pass. But this is a very iterative process.
So once we got to the point where we produced full-sized prototype parts, we tested this road course and short oval components on real cars on Homestead, at CoTA and Phoenix for a short oval.
We were glad to have Helio and Juan Pablo help us at Homestead. At CoTa we had Will and Simon in the car. Then at Phoenix we had Scott and Tony running for us. Got a number of team Chevy drivers through this that helped us keep making progress in the validation phase, which is what the track testing is all about.
Let me take you through some details of the kit. I’ll give you some close-up shots and help you out with the terminology.
We have a brand-new endplate, unique technology design there. The front flap adjustor will be very visibly different than the DW12.
The front upper very prominent feature in the new front wing design. Inboard fence again, another new part, that ties it together. Seven parts in our new front wing assembly compared to four on the Dallara side.
Moving on, we look at the center of the car, towards the rear we have a wheel wedge in front of the rear wheel, compared to the Dallara where the side pod carried all the way over to the front of the rear tire. We have a new side floor kick that you’ll see behind the pod wing. A new part on the side pod that we call the upper flick. Our side pod and side pod inlet are also new.
Moving over to the engine cover now, we did maintain the overhead intake as is in the DW12, but you’ll see a much more shrink-wrapped tight engine cover without that vent in the back. It is quite a bit of a tighter package in there.
To the back of the car, we have new bumper pods. We’ll use this as all events. There’s another part on top of it we call the top flick, which will not be there at all events. It will be an optional part.
New end plates with louvered features in them. Our upper rear wing development is a dual flap design as opposed to the single flap that the DW12 has.
Without further ado, let me hand it back to Jim Campbell for the actual reveal.
JIM CAMPBELL: Chris is an engineer that worked on the vehicle side of our business. We’re thrilled to have Chris onboard. When he goes back to the production side, he’ll be better from his experience with IndyCar.
We reviewed the aero kit for the road course and the short ovals. We will come back at some point in the next month, month and a half, and do the speedway kit.
Let’s run the video that summarizes the things the guys talked about. We’ll show you the full view.
JIM CAMPBELL: Jim Brumfield, over to you.
JIM BRUMFIELD: We’ll go ahead and take some questions.
Q. How many parts involved in this aero kit?
CHEVROLET: There’s 123 new parts.
Q. That’s a lot of fitting, isn’t it?
CHEVROLET: Yes, sir.
Q. Are any of them adjustable as they’re driving or is this a fixed thing?
CHEVROLET: No. By regulation, none of them are adjustable while driving.
Q. How many years ago could you not have designed all this the way you have with computers and everything? How has that evolved?
CHEVROLET: Aerodynamics is an extremely technical field. It’s accelerated quite a bit over the last decades, not only driven by racing, but certainly by fuel economy goals in the production car world.
The test methods evolved continuously. The computer technologies behind the analyses are also progressing. Just makes everything faster and faster. Sounds like you could get more work done, but it also generates more work because you can ask more questions and generate more answers to those questions.
We definitely used the leading edge technology from the standpoint of wind tunnels, CFD. As Mark alluded to, it’s the combination of those tools and the achievement of this optimal balance of drag, downforce and engine performance that really focused our efforts.
CHEVROLET: Those are the same rules, same processes that we’ll use to develop a car, crossover truck anywhere around the world. It’s faster and more efficient on the resources. The tools translate one to the other, racing to the showroom.
Q. (No microphone.)
CHEVROLET: Very quickly. With the prototype thing, you can prototype it, go testing. We do a lot of that testing in the computer, wind tunnel.
CHEVROLET: Now that we have a validated cycle all the way from the track back to our models, we can be even quicker than in the past.
Q. I’m going to give you a chance to respond to how I know the Facebook crowd is going to talk about this. Please don’t shoot me. A lot of the fans love a beautiful car. Some of the uppers and flicks and the rest are not exactly aesthetically pleasing as some they like. How would you respond to those comments about the appearance of the car?
CHEVROLET: It’s always a combination of form and function. We have to deliver both. I personally think the car is beautiful, so I think there are going to be debates on both sides of it for every racecar that comes into the series.
I think it looks beautiful, but it’s form and function. If you’re all form and no function, you’re not going to win on the track. If it’s all function and no form, you don’t get the balance of the visual along with the functional.
It’s function and form together for us. So I think it will be interesting to see the debate. One of the reasons we like of having the ability to do an aero kit is there’s another storyline for this series. Engines and now the aero kit for Chevrolet working with our teams. That’s going to be in comparison to the competition, what we do on the engine and aero package.
I think it’s exciting. It’s about innovation. It’s about speed. It’s about faster lap times. That was what we looked for as we looked about coming back into the series. We looked at the engine package. Then the ability to do an aero kit was something we were very interested in doing.
Q. As for the future, both for the engine and aerodynamics, what additional areas would you like to see opened up for individual manufacturer development?
CHEVROLET: Those were the two areas that were most important, how the engine technologies relate to what we do in the showroom. A lot of the portfolio on the power train side is going to smaller displacement, use of direct injections and the boosting. Not every power train is going that way, but a lot of them. That’s why we love this direction.
We’re already boosting, and that helps us on the production side. Chris came from the vehicle side. We also have power train engineers that are working on the IndyCar side with our partners at Ilmor.
The same tools we use for our production we use over here in racing. The learning cycles apply to both sides. Those are the two areas that were most important to us. We’ll continue to look at areas that make sense, working with the sanctioning body, at what could be next.
Q. In looking at the new design, have the new changes been crash tested? How does the compressibility affect the new design?
CHEVROLET: Within the regulations, we have certain test parameters, test conditions that we have to prove. We have passed those.
As far as traditional crash testing in the sense of a production car, that’s not necessarily done here. But we do meet all the requirements that IndyCar has set in front of us.
Q. You mentioned 3D printing. We’re seeing 3D printers involved significantly into a lot of different areas. How significant was that with regard to your design process?
CHEVROLET: Well, the ability to take a part from the machine to the wind tunnel or the track is huge. Several years back you couldn’t do that. You could produce a part to verify fit, but you couldn’t take a part you could take from the machine to the track.
That technology has been a great enabler for us to speed up our learning processes as we developed this kit.
Q. Is there an approximate percentage increase in downforce that this configuration makes over last year’s car that you would give us?
CHEVROLET: The car, it’s definitely more efficient aerodynamically. The details of that, we haven’t revealed all that. It’s a competitive advantage to have that.
Just know that these cars will have faster lap times on the road courses. Because of dialing in that combination of downforce, drag and engine performance, you’re really trying to optimize those three. You get too much of one or the other, the car will not be as quick on the track.
The details of how much more downforce, it has more downforce. The drivers will tell you that have done the testing as well.
Q. Of all the parts we have, what is the cost to the team?
CHEVROLET: The cost of the aero kit to the team is set by IndyCar in the regulations. It’s a fixed cost that we designed to. I think that’s public knowledge. $75,000 for the first two kits, and $90,000 for every subsequent kit.