While F1 adds the ‘halo’, Europe condemns internal combustion and Porsche tries to murder the WEC; its IndyCar and the Land of the Free which shows what it means to be a true motorsport. Stelvio Automotive looks at the new DW12 in all its beauty.

By Sean Smith

About 4 months ago, Dallara, the Italian chassis constructor which probably makes more race cars than anyone else in the world (creating vehicles for F3, GP3, Formula V8, GP2/F2, LMP2, Super Formula, the Haas F1 cars, Indy Lights and IndyCar) revealed CAD renderings of the Dallara DW12 – 2018 edition. This is IndyCar’s now nearly 6 year old machine which has undergone extremely heavy surgery to the chassis and the bodywork as the series moves back to a single aero kit which Dallara will be making for both Chevrolet and Honda.

This week both engine manufacturers were at Indianapolis conducting testing with the new bodywork for the ovals so we finally got to see the car in the carbon fibre for the first time. In 1 sentence, it’s every bit as stunningly beautiful as the CAD images suggested.

The DW12 (named after Dan Wheldon who developed the car in 2011 but died at the final race before its debut) was considered to be a bit of an ugly duckling aesthetically by many American fans but is still popular with many fans and drivers overall for being very quick, safe in the vast majority of accidents, and a provider of incredibly close and fair racing between all the teams on the grid.

Honda and Chevy both released aero kits back in 2015 but developmental convergence has resulted in those kits turning into a relative waste of money to the manufacturers and teams so they asked Dallara to create a new standard design which would further improve racing and be kinder on the general person’s eye (I personally loved the look of the original DW12 above but never mind). The result was this; the 2018 edition.

The official name is the “standardised aero kit” but 2018 edition sounds better so I’m sticking with it.

With testing this week being conducted at Indianapolis Motor Speedway,  naturally the low downforce package is the one being run on track.  IndyCar will have 3 more tests which are generally for data  collaboration purposes before they give them to the teams. The big  change areas are 3 fold, safety, the floor and the bodywork/wings.

Safety first; 3 years ago, IndyCar was the first series to bring up the windscreen concepts for single seaters, however the 2018 edition will not yet feature such a device until Dallara and IndyCar are 100% happy with every possible situation the screen will be subjected to in any crashes or accidents. After Justin Wilson’s death in 2015, IndyCar want the device as soon as possible but not at the cost of any other potential danger they hadn’t foreseen. The 2018 edition car is ready to test or apply the screen when it is ready, but I doubt we will see it still for another year, possibly two.

The side impact protection is the big area of safety development that Dallara have implemented. The side-pods are a completely different shape to the current design and have been developed largely to reduce the kind of lower body injuries that affected James Hinchcliffe and Sebastien Bourdais in recent years both in crashes at the Indy 500. The Dallara DW12 has also been further strengthened all around the chassis tub in all potentially vulnerable areas shown up over the aero kit era and all in all is easily the safest car IndyCar will have ever raced.

The car floor is possibly the 2nd most important change to the cars. It is largely similar to what we saw in F1 this year with more air being sent underneath the car increasing ground effect and reducing reliance on bodywork produced aerodynamics. This will make the cars far less dependent on clean air which is always ruined when they follow closely to each other.

The cars should now as a result be able to get even closer to each other for longer (great for pack racing fans like me) It will particularly help racing on the non-ovals which has undoubtedly been where IndyCar needs to focus on improving the show as the current aero kits just aren’t great at racing together on Road and Street courses.

And lastly we get to what visually is the only important change, the bodywork and wings. Dallara have removed almost all the layers of winglets on the front wing and the entire array of little vortex wings that creeped onto the Aero Kit era cars. The new Speedway package has almost no wing at all and will depend almost entirely on mechanical grip from the tyres and the underfloor aerodynamics.

What makes the big change to the bodywork important is in helping the cars running close together as discussed but also in its image. IndyCar’s American fans who didn’t like the original DW12 have always said they wanted back the look of the 90s IndyCar and CART machines (below). 

The 2018 edition does this by removing the rear bumper pods and majorly re-profiling the engine cover and roll section of the car to be lower and reminiscent of those old cars. It makes the car look a lot faster even while stationary and paired with the new aero ducts in front of the rear wheels the car looks classic and modern at the same time.

The whole image of the car is just great and fans seem to universally agree. If the car can improve the show over what is already one of the best in motorsport then IndyCar could hopefully be in for a new golden era.

That would be caused by them gaining a third engine manufacturer, a factor lacking since Lotus pulled out after a disastrous single year in 2012. By the series moving to 1 kit and chassis, the engine manufacturers only have to work on their 2.2ltr V6 twin turbo powertrains and that can only be an advantage to a potential OEM looking to join but having to convince its investors and those in command of the purse strings.

The Indy 500 has the single largest TV viewership of any motorsport event in the world and the series in general is more watched over in the US than F1, the WEC, FE, the IMSA Sportscar series and sometimes even Nascar. It makes sense to join!!

 IndyCar needs to continue its growth trend over the last couple of years to really prosper and become as popular as it once was. I hope the 2018 car is able to be a factor in that happening. If it isn’t, it’ll be a true, pure beauty gone to waste.