FORT WORTH, Texas – As Ryan Briscoe waited on Texas Motor Speedway's pit lane for the morning track safety inspection to be completed, he glimpsed in the rearview mirror Tony Kanaan snapping photos of the newly-minted bright green and yellow livery of the No. 11 KV Racing Technology machine.
"He'll tweet that in no time," Briscoe noted, which indeed it was disseminated on social media.
Fat Tuesday at Texas Motor Speedway, while laid back, was conducted with a sense of purpose as teams, drivers and the sanctioning body attempted to define the aerodynamic package for the new IZOD IndyCar Series car on high-speed ovals in advance of a scheduled March 13 Open Test at the 1.5-mile facility.
The daylong session included Briscoe, Kanaan and Alex Tagliani -- driving the Lotus development car -- working on individual programs through midday and then running multiple stints running side by side and in drafting situations.
“Today’s test is the first step in determining the right aero package based on team and driver input and data,” INDYCAR vice president of technology Will Phillips said of the session called at the behest of INDYCAR. “Today’s test is the baseline. Nothing negative has really stood out.”
Dallara-provided aero bits that were tested in the full-scale wind tunnel last month in North Carolina were utilized on all three cars, which had varying setups. The production car is slightly different from the prototype that was evaluated on the Homestead-Miami Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, Iowa Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway ovals in autumn (different mirrors, different rear wheel fairings, subtle differences in chassis construction and better integration of the Zylon side intrusion panels).
“The production car is more slippery (moves the air better) than the prototype,” Phillips said of the wind tunnel results that he wanted to confirm on the breezy day at the speedway. “That lifted the speed as the car was run. We then looked at how could we improve the aerodynamic force of the car? Basically, by optimizing the aero set-up, re-balancing the car and then putting on some aero development parts, it showed that using a nominal assumed horsepower of 575 the car is capable of 225 mph.”
Altogether, less drag was noticeable.
"It all feels pretty normal right now -- normal in a good way," said Briscoe, the 2010 race winner at Texas Motor Speedway with Team Penske. "We're really just getting a feel for different downforce levels and the different suspension options that we have. We're able to get below (downforce level) where we ran with the old car. With the old car we were limited to a 10-degree free wing angle, and with this car we're free to trim out like Indy-style. We have that freedom and we're trying to explore the limits. The balance feels really good around here."
A road/street course Open Test is scheduled for March 5-6 and 8-9 at Sebring International Raceway (the middle day for Firestone Indy Lights testing), with the mid-March date in Texas the next testing scheduled. The season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is March 23-25. Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the first oval event on the schedule, following four street/road circuits to start the season. The Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway is June 8-9.
A Chip Ganassi Racing team test last week on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval with Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball also provided “some good feedback with weight distribution,” according to Phillips.