Test, Testing, TESTING, 1,2,3…..can anybody hear me? Over?

28 Feb

First gen DW-12 at the factory in Speeedway

Mid Ohio
Sebring again
My head will not quit spinning from all of the testing sessions conducted to date with the DW12 automotive racing vehicle. Is it a dog? Is it a hog? Is it just a pig dressed up in lipstick, waiting for a prom invitation? Is it the freaking prom queen, herself (as opposed to the affectionate term ‘himself’ that Pippa Mann refers to her main squeeze as)?

Let’s examine some of the tests and determine if we can see a modicum of improvement in the car, shall we? Back in the fall, it was noted that the soon to be named DW-12 had a penchant for swiping the wall on entry with its big, ugly a$$. It was further noted that upon exit of the turn the car just…went….straight, directly into the wall. Is that called a 2-fer? After the initial oval test in Indy, it was pretty common knowledge that the vehicle was also dog slow, to the tune of being in the 210 to 215 range. Dreams of doing 230 came crashing down, and open wheel fans everywhere hung their collective heads down in dismay. The desire to hear the posthumous voice of Tom Carnegie announcing a new track record many had wished for appeared to be slipping away.

Along about January, testing moved back to Sebring. Incremental improvements were being made to the Honda / Chevrolet powered cars and Dallara stepped up work on resolving the balance problems with the car. Most of the focus was on shifting the center of gravity up a bit to help stop the pendulum affect that exhibited itself on entry and exit of turns. A ton was written on this topic and it seemed that the solution was for Dallara to produce new “A arm” suspension parts that shifted the weight bias a bit to help dampen the loose rear end. Do that, or just add more ballast to the front of the car but who would want a heavier vehicle? Strangely, this phenomena was not as prevalent on the road courses and the car actually was faster on them than the previous Dallara, but the hopes of 230 at Indy were dashed.

Lotus finally produced a few engines and theirs was actually lighter than the other two offerings. This development has led to even more speculation about the possibility of Lotus being able to add weight to bring the car up to spec. The ability to add weight where they needed it potentially makes the playing field no longer level. Kudos to Dallara for the new suspension geometry, thus negating this supposed advantage. Lotus remains the little engine that (possibly) could.

After much gnashing of teeth and overcoming teething problems, a DW12 car was sent to Wind Shear (the full scale wind tunnel located in North Carolina) and it returned some very interesting data sets. On January 17th, Indy Car News posted this discussion by Will Phillips on their website:

“We then compared the 2012 car as it was run at its fastest during the (November) testing at the Speedway,” Phillips said. “We showed that aerodynamically the car was limited to 218.4 mph, so the (drivers/teams) did a good job of reaching its potential. We then compared the production car, which is slightly different from the prototype in terms of different mirrors, different rear wheel fairings, subtle differences in chassis construction and better integration of the Zylon (side intrusion) panels.

“Basically, the production car is more slippery (moves the air better) than the prototype. 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.” Crisis Averted????

Finally, on February 16th, a much anticipated test at Fontana seemed to show that the corner had finally been turned and speeds were, in fact, picking up. Renowned auto sports writer Marshall Pruett detailed the results in a fine piece and you can find it here . Getting the car up to speed, or at least getting it to a point where it is as fast as last year’s model appears to have been accomplished.

The ensuing Rubens love fest at both Sebring and Sonoma, along with the gnashing of gears at Texas, Sebring and soon to be Barber Motor Sports park (a gorgeous facility) are all setting the plate for the opener at St. Pete. As one mechanic said; “this is worse than giving birth”. I wonder how HE came to that conclusion, as if he could ever do so! I till want to know who can provide the actual number of miles that have been driven in testing? That number has to be staggering!

Now, onto a topic that is very near and dear to my heart; Winter Indy Tweetup. In my last installment, I gave well deserved props to Elizabeth Wurtz and Monica Hilton. These two ladies work their hearts out to make this a success and the 2012 edition of WIT was a smashing success. The twittersphere lite up like a Christmas tree and stayed in the wings back mode (thanks Pressdog!) all day and well into the evening. Starting early in the morning on the 25th, we all met at the new Dallara factory for a behind the scenes look at the first chassis. It is unbelievably interesting to see that beast up close and to actually lay on the hands……. Please enjoy the amateurish video!

Later in the day, the WIT attendees went kart racing at Fast Times Karting Center. The top 3 drivers got to race against none other than hizzhonour, the mayor of Hinchtown as well as Logan Gomez. Logan was kind enough to drive the 2 seater all morning for those that purchased an insanely discounted ride around the town of Speedway, Indiana. It was 26 degrees when the first rider took off and Logan hung in there all morning. Talk about cold feet! At any rate, I could not help but pull out my old Flip camera and take some video of the trouncing given to the wannabes…..Big fun for sure! Thanks for the great time and of course, see YOU next time.



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