News & Multimedia

What Makes One INDYCAR Faster Than Another?

With the exceptional talent behind the steering wheels of the 26 cars on the grid, the decades of engineering experience on most timing stands and countless hours of R&D spent on aerodynamics, handling and engine performance, the differences between a pole-winning car and one that struggles to crack the top 20 are becoming harder to distinguish.

It’s often down to little things like a pound of tire pressure or a click in one direction on an anti-roll bar. It could be raising or lowering the rear ride height by a few thousandths of an inch, or changing the width or height of a wicker on a front wing element.

Knowing that most IZOD IndyCar Series teams come incredibly close to finding the right chassis setup, watching someone like Will Power claim second place in qualifying at Barber Motorsports Park can be attributed to marrying his preferences on the small handling details to how the car is adjusted to perform.

If it feels right, not only will Team Penske driver Power push the Chevy-powered No. 12 car to its limit on each qualifying lap, but the car, as shown from the on-board footage, and his effort inside the cockpit will flow smoothly.

By the numbers, Power’s on-board video should look night-and-day different from that of JR Hildebrand, who qualified 24th.

Without watching the footage, one might expect Hildebrand’s Chevy-powered No. 4 car to be undriveable or for Hildebrand to make errors that rob him of crucial time on the stopwatch.

The most fascinating part of the equation is how similar the on-board footage is between Power and Hildebrand, between Team Penske and Panther Racing. Once the knockout qualifying session on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn Barber track has ended, Power was a half-second faster than Hildebrand--.506 of a second to be exact, and that .506 turned out to be a difference of 22 positions on the grid.

.506 of a second … 22 positions…

How insanely competitive and tight is competition in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series? There’s your answer.

Measuring the time gained or lost on their laps is the subject of this post-Barber video feature, and we’ve added in a running timestamp to help gauge where Power and Hildebrand differ on the road throughout a qualifying lap.

 

(The timestamp is for reference only—it isn’t an exact counter depicting their actual lap times. For the record, Power’s best was a 1:07.334 to Hildebrand’s 1:07.836.)

Watch their respective hand movements and listen to how and when each driver applies the throttle or brakes (I’ve put Power’s audio on the left channel and Hildebrand’s on the right).

What you’ll pick up right away is how stable Power’s Verizon Wireless-sponsored car is on corner entry, at the apex, and corner exit. His hands and steering wheels movements are sharp but smooth. There are no major instances where he’s fighting the car to turn in or to keep the back from sliding. It’s a fast, subtle lap.

Hildebrand is dealing with a more lively rear with his National Guard-sponsored car on corner exit, and often after needing to give repeated extra inputs to turn the car on corner entry and at the apex. His hands are making small corrections on a more frequent basis to get the car to rotate or to keep it from rotating, but nothing is drastic.

And for every one of those corrections made by Hildebrand, Power inches ahead.

The two teams also took a different approach to gearing, with Power using a longer ratio in fifth to carry the faintest bit of extra speed and momentum through Turn 7 (the right-hander coming up at about the 00:00:28:00 mark) and again in Turn 9/10 (the flat-out section after the Turn 7/8/8a complex at roughly 00:00:40:00).

Hildebrand’s car was geared to shift into sixth just before Turn 7 and before he arrived at Turn 9/10, giving up some engine revs and a few more inches to Power.

The biggest difference on the lap comparison comes in the final set of corners, Turns 12 through 14a.

Power, feeling a rock-solid car beneath him, charges over the crest at Turn 12, and the right-right-right Turn 13/14/14a. To attack Turn 12 and the subsequent corners through Turn 14a, a driver needs to feel the back of the car will stick as it gets light, and as the footage and audio reveals, Power is loaded with confidence.

For Hildebrand, and with the slightly tail-happy handling of his car throughout the lap, attacking Turn 12 with the same vigor as Power would most likely result in a spin. To compensate, Hildebrand isn’t as aggressive (starting at about 00:00:50:00), works with what he has, and makes it cleanly through the rest of the lap.

Hildebrand’s car control is among the best in the series, so while it might be tempting to say he needed to push harder over Turn 12 and deal with the oversteer, it would have resulted in a slower lap.

Watch the video a few times and pick out the minute items that add up to why one car went P2 and the other went P24. For all the time and money spent, that half-second advantage doesn’t look like much, does it?

Show More Show Less
Now Viewing
What Makes One INDYCAR Faster Than Another?
 
What Makes One INDYCAR Faster Than Another?
With the exceptional talent behind the steering wheels of the 26 cars on the grid, the decades of engineering experience on most timing stands and countless hours of R&D spent on aerodynamics, handling and engine performance, the differences between a pole-winning car and one that struggles to crack the top 20 is becoming harder to distinguish.
Read More
Related Media
Takuma Sato Marmom Wasp
 
Sato Revels in Indianapolis 500 History with Marmon Wasp
On the eve of seeing his likeness unveiled on the Borg-Warner Trophy as the latest Indianapolis 500 winner, Takuma Sato had the opportunity to sit where it all began.
Read More
Kyle Kaiser
 
Kaiser, Juncos Racing Reveal Four-Race Verizon IndyCar Series Plan for 2018
Kyle Kaiser will remain in familiar surroundings when he makes his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in 2018. Juncos Racing, the team for which Kaiser has driven the past four years as he climbed the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder, announced today that it will field the reigning Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion for four Verizon IndyCar Series races next season.
Read More
Robert Wickens
 
Wickens Joins Hinchcliffe at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for 2018 IndyCar Season
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced its lineup for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Oakville, Ontario native James Hinchcliffe has renewed his contract with the Indianapolis-based team in a multi-year extension, and the 2011 IndyCar Rookie of the Year’s teammate will be countryman and friend Robert Wickens, a native of Guelph. The duo marks the first all-Canadian lineup in North American open-wheel racing since 2004 (Champ Car; Forsythe Racing: Paul Tracy, Patrick Carpentier).
Read More
Takuma Sato
 
Sato Shines with Gratitude during Unveiling of Likeness on Borg-Warner Trophy
Sato repeated what he had told sculptor Will Behrends when examining a clay likeness during a visit to the artist’s workshop in Tryon, N.C.: “He’s actually a better guy.” It’s the 28th likeness Behrends has sculpted.
Read More
Martin Sonka
 
Sonka Keeps Cool As World Championship Showdown Looms on Race Day
Martin Sonka doesn’t even want to think about the obvious, let alone discuss it. But there’s only so much reality he can block out. Sonka, the Master Class points-leading pilot from the Czech Republic, can claim his first World Championship with a victory in the Red Bull Air Race on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Read More
Items 1 - 5 of 2,799
Reserve one of our hospitality suites for your next event!
To start planning your event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway please fill out our Information Request Form or contact IMS Sales Department at (317) 492-8739 or email at hospitalitysales@brickyard.com.
Latest Tweets
It's Pole day on @CrownRoyal Armed Forces Weekend & we can't wait to see you! Check out details on the day: https://t.co/yKQ6Db3YRK
May 21