LIVE BLOG: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on August 1, 2014 9:09 am

3:32 PM ET — I’m back from taking my very long walk around the track to gather information for our Spectator Seating Guide, which I’ll get started on once I’ve got you all caught up on the news from trackside here today.

There’s a lot of information to get through, so I’ll do it in a couple of updates. First, Honda set up a media availability with Steve Eriksen, Chief Operating Officer of Honda Performance Development, who brought us up to speed on the situation with the aero kits. Here are some key quotes from the transcript.

STEVE ERIKSEN: Aero kits are proceeding to the schedule that IndyCar has laid out. There’s quite a bit of work involved in them. I think when you guys see what the aero kits look like in person, you’re going to be surprised how open the rules are. IndyCar has defined some boxes, and you have to work within the boxes. But apart from that, it’s pretty open. So I think the target of having distinction between a Chevy car and a Honda car is going to be achieved because it’s so open on the rules that you’re going to see quite a bit of variation I think between the cars, the details particularly. I think you’ll end up in sort of like a sports car situation where people are going to be looking at all the little details on the car, and it’s going to generate quite a bit of interest.

We’ve got a test window coming up October through January. IndyCar allows six days to each manufacturer to go out and do track testing. Obviously that’s going to be pre-production testing before you actually get to the final stages of the aero kit. Teams have to place their orders by November 1st to get receipt of aero kits on March 1st. So the teams will have to be squared away, signed up, place their orders November 1st, then the aero kits show up on March 1st. The first races with those will be the domestic races here in the U.S.

THE MODERATOR: You talked about the timeline a little bit for on-track testing. Can you give us an idea of where we are in the process? You’ve done some virtual testing and some other development in advance of the on-track component. Give us a little bit of that chronology.

STEVE ERIKSEN: Just as we’ve done in IndyCar aero development years ago, just as we do on the sports car side, the bulk of the development is done in the digital domain. Then we have had a series of wind tunnel tests to verify that the correlation between the virtual world and the real world is where we need it to be. We’ve done quite a bit of that testing. That so far has shown very good correlation, so we believe that the projected performance targets that we’re seeing are going to be met in the real world.

Q. Is the expectation that all Honda teams will run the Honda aero kit?

STEVE ERIKSEN: The teams are allowed to run the Dallara current kit or the manufacturer’s aero kit. Teams have that option (to run the Dallara kit), but I can’t imagine them selecting it. There would be no logic for that.

Q. When you begin supplying aero kits for next season, will there be ongoing development, a piece that can’t be touched, as some of the other engine components can be?

STEVE ERIKSEN: The answer lies in what changes happen in the regulations in the coming period. If I look at the regulations as they are today, the 2015 aero kit, when you homologate it and introduce it, it remains unchanged through the 2015 season, then you are allowed three boxes. Basically if you look at the regulations, there’s a series of boxes. The boxes surround certain sections of the car. You might have a side pod box, you might have a front wing box, a rear wing box, engine cover box, et cetera. In 2016, you’re allowed to do three boxes, take three of those boxes, and revise them further. If the rules stay the same as they are now, you’ll see a 2015 car, then you’ll see an updated 2016 car. As long as a team stays with the same manufacturer, the base components would stay the same. Then just those three boxes, whatever you chose to update, you’d buy those new parts.

Q. They had to revise some of the standard parts on the DW12 as they were developing the aero kits. How difficult is that?

STEVE ERIKSEN: Yeah, certainly there were some fairly last-minute, past-last-minute changes made by IndyCar which definitely impact the whole aero kit. But the changes they were making were being made for the right reasons. I think it affected both manufacturers in the same way. I think the decision that IndyCar made to do that was the right thing. We supported them in that. We just said, Okay, we’ve just got to get on with it, and that’s what we’re doing. It’s definitely a reset. Development in the digital world is wonderful because you didn’t have to throw away any parts, so…

Q. Back to aero kits. Do you have a set target for performance gains provided by aero kits in 2015?

STEVE ERIKSEN: Absolutely. It’s the same as what we do on our engine program. We go through and set a performance target that we expect to achieve. We monitor, just as on the engine program, our progress towards that target over time. Based on that you can impute an expected performance at the end of it. We’re doing the same thing with the aero kit. We do a tracker of the performance of the aero kit. You can watch over time as it approaches our target. At this point it looks like we’ve got every likelihood of reaching the target we set. It’s going to be a pretty impressive performance.


10:09 AM ET — Good morning! It’s a beautiful day to start the Honda Indy 200 weekend here at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. I arrived trackside last night and will be here all weekend tapping out live updates. Please bookmark us and check in frequently for all the latest news and notes. If you’re looking for the weekend schedule, weather forecast, track records, etc., you can find all of it in our Honda Indy 200 Event Summary.

This weekend is a bit of a different one for me as I’m getting back to my roots and camping here at the track for the first time since my initial visit in 2009. I’m on my own this weekend, which is a bit of a sad story on its own. Some of you have heard that my husband was waiting for his Canadian permanent residence application to clear before he could leave the country. Well, it did, and we were excitedly planning a family camping weekend here as his breakout post-acceptance international trip. We started getting everything together, and… it turns out that in the rush to get his paperwork done we failed to notice that our daughter’s passport expired three months ago and didn’t have enough time to renew it. So, that means Jacob didn’t get to leave after all, my daughter’s missing her first Mid-Ohio race since she was born, and I’m here camping solo.

That said, although I love my family enormously, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself so far. I left home at about 11 AM yesterday, made a few stops for meals and supplies along the way, and arrived at the track at about 7:30 PM. (That made it a bit of a longer drive than usual; my timing unfortunately had me hitting Cleveland pretty much bang on rush hour.) The drive to Mid-Ohio from Toronto is one of my favorite trips of the year. It makes for an easy drive when you cross state lines every hour or two and feel like you’re making progress. Plus it’s really pretty country, especially south of Cleveland as you enter the central Ohio region. I’ve come to look forward to it.

Once I got here and settled in, I quickly decided that camping here at the track is the only way to experience this race if you’re on any kind of budget. Let me be perfectly frank: unless you’re willing to either pay $150+ per night or drive more than an hour each way every day, you’ll be dealing with just as many creepy crawlies in most of the hotels around here as you will by camping, paying a lot more for the privilege, and finding them to be of a far less desirable variety. In contrast, last night we had a beautiful night in which the mosquitos really only bothered us for about 20 minutes immediately before sunset, and the only other bugs around were the fireflies flitting around above the grass and putting on a show as the campfire raged.

Plus, you never know who you’ll run into. I posted a picture of my campsite on Twitter last night and was joined shortly thereafter by fellow camping Canuck Steve Wittich, who does spotting work for the ABC and IndyCar Radio crews and runs among many other things. We spent a couple of hours just sitting around the fire enjoying a couple of adult beverages and catching up. It was a great way to start the weekend.

Getting organized this morning wasn’t even so bad. I woke up to the sound of Pirelli World Challenge cars heading out for practice, got myself upright and presentable (a much easier job than my first trip here now that I know where the decent showers are), and even managed to find myself a decent cup of coffee. So far, I’m loving this. If (when) the rain comes that’s being predicted, I’ll probably be singing a different tune.

And now, it’s time to get to work. Several times this week I’ve thought that this will be an easier weekend because it’s not a double-header like my last few races have been, but then I have to remind myself that couldn’t be further from the truth! We’ve got Sunday’s IndyCar race plus two Indy Lights races, two Pro Mazda races, and three USF2000 races to cover ourselves, and the fans here will get to enjoy Pirelli World Challenge as well. There won’t be much time for sitting around!

The first IndyCar practice of the weekend just got under way. I’ll be staying in the media center for that and then heading over to a press conference being held by Honda. After that, you might not hear from me so much for the rest of the day — I’m going to earn my calories for tonight and hike my way around this place to gather photos and information for the next in our series of Spectator Seating Guides. We easily get more questions about seating and facilities for this track more than any other, so I’m looking forward to organizing those thoughts and putting them all down in one place.

I’ll no doubt be posting updates all day on Twitter, though, so please follow along @MoreFrontWing. I’ll be back here to post about anything of significance that comes up throughout the day, and I’ll begin populating our Event Summary with time sheets and other notes throughout the day as well.

One last thing before I sign off this update: if you’ll be at the track tomorrow, please join us for the Indy Fans Tweet-up! We’re meeting at the seating area behind the souvenir shop just inside the main pedestrian bridge at 5:30 PM tomorrow. The tweet-ups at this track are always excellent, so I’m looking forward to seeing lots of great IndyCar fans there!

Click here for IndyCar’s report on the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, including quotes from throughout the field:

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