With new racecar designs come new issues, but it seems IndyCar's updated sleds are having more trouble than most. A major weight-imbalance slipup forced teams to scramble a fix, or risk drivers' safety. But, on the heels of a tragedy in 2011, is it working?
As Shakedown's Leo Parente points out, the weight balance of the cars' Dallara-supplied chassis was off by five percent — leaving the cars significantly too heavy in the rear. Dallara blames the engine and gearbox guys for miscalculating their own weights. The controversy was already going at full clip late last year, before the season started, when an ESPN writer related a pit-lane joke that "Dallara is Italian for disaster."
This past week at Long Beach, drivers like Rubens Barrichello and Takuma Sato were naturally upbeat to the press about the fixes in place, but then came another problem: A glitch with the generic engine computers has reportedly been turning off the engines and screwing up gear selection. A third issue regarding Honda single vs. twin-turbo setups that teams were allowed to use cloaked the annual Long Beach street race in uncertainty. Add to that, seven out of the top 10 drivers in qualifying were tagged with grid penalties.
Whether or not any of that came into play when Marco Andretti's car took to the air over Graham Rahal's car as the two approached a corner, wasn't immediately clear. What was clear was that, as the car vaulted upward, it left a heart-stopping flashback of last season's crash that killed Dan Wheldon. Lucky for Andretti, the car stayed upright.
Can IndyCar afford to go so pear-shaped, when GT racing is becoming such a draw for manufacturers as well as fans? We'll find out later this month in Brazil — if not during the rest of the season.