No conclusion yet on the aeroscreen’s effect on drafting at IMS
Neither today’s Indy 500 practice pacesetter James Hinchcliffe nor 2008 IMS winner Scott Dixon believe any firm verdict can yet be reached on how the aeroscreen will affect the racing at Indy – except that the leader of any given pack will remain a “sitting duck”.
Hinchcliffe in the Andretti Autosport-Honda and Dixon in the Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda both broke into the 224mph zone, but spent much of their day running raceday setups and practicing running in dirty air.
Dixon said his initial impression was that the draft effect had been “much better at Texas [Motor Speedway, which hosted the much delayed season-opener in June]. But I think it's hard on days like this, too, because there are a lot of people kind of in mixed configurations.
“You do see occasionally someone out front that's running quite quick, but they've got a smaller wicker or you can see they're trimmed out a little further on the rear wing. We did see quite a few different aero configurations.
“I think definitely for the first three cars you feel that a little more. Again, I think as you move further through the pack, it just depletes [the draft effect] a little bit more. I think it is there… The car out front is pretty much a sitting duck right now.”
He later added: “The Aeroscreen when we first tested it seemed like it kind of affected the car a little different aerodynamically. I’d say today actually felt more normal. No real difference, and the vision is good.”
Hinchcliffe, who will be making his third and – for the moment, at least – final start in a sixth Andretti Autosport car sponsored by Genesys, said: “To mimic what [Dixon] was saying there, there were a couple times I felt like … that draft effect was a little bit stronger than what we've had in the last couple years. That is one of the complaints we have had, that you get a good run off the corner, really close to a guy, and just not quite pull up all the way.
“Had a few runs today that felt like we were pretty decent. Unfortunately the guy ahead was also in a four-car draft so I wasn't able to get around him! But it was nice to at least get that feeling.
“Like Scott said, the guy up front is always going to be the slowest car on track compared to the next couple behind him.”
The Canadian, who earned pole here in 2016 but has otherwise endured a star-crossed relationship with the iconic venue, said that the aeroscreen had not caused any major differences to the car’s behavior, even if the sensory experience from inside the cockpit was different.
“It felt fairly normal,” he said. “You're still getting used to the lack of wind noise, the difference in where the air sort of hits you, how you feel it. In terms of the car, the handling in traffic, it was pretty similar. It didn't do anything kind of unpredictable or freaky.
“It was kind of a pleasant – I don't want to say surprise. But I'm glad we didn't get surprised, have something weird jump in.
“As far as the quality of the racing, it's still early days. Like Scott said, once you're kind of fourth, fifth back in line, it starts getting a lot trickier. The track got a decent amount hotter this afternoon when everybody was out there doing a group run.
“[But] it's still Day 1. We still have a lot of rubber to lay down before we get to the race. Hopefully that will help. If we have a nice cool, cloudy day on race day, no reason we can't have a great show.”
Indy 500 Practice: Hinchcliffe heads strong day for Andretti
Former Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Edmunds dies aged 89