We have reached the end of another brief Verizon IndyCar season. So now that the few IndyCar enthusiasts have had a chance to take a breath from all the excitement, and for the majority of the American public to wonder who Will Power is, and if IndyCar is the same as Formula 1, we look ahead to 2015.
There are many new things to discuss in the sport which hasn’t really been the case for the past 3 years since the new spec car was introduced. New ladder series cars, more innovation, new venues, sights set on yet untouched speeds, etc…and therein lies the problem. Because none of it matters for two reasons, which I will get to at the end of the article. First let’s scan over the latest news for the sport.
New Dallara IL-15
This extremely sexy racer is the new Indy Lights car, which serves as the entry series to IndyCar. It is much better looking than it’s all-pro older brother, the Dallara “DW” IR-12. They haven’t incorporated the nasty under floor, or hideous rear bumpers, and it’s ditched the unsightly over head air intake for a discrete aero efficient side pod turbo intake, harking back to the screaming fire-breathing rocket IndyCars of the mid 90’s. I was in the shop while they were assembling this beauty, and every angle on the car hints at speed. Just during testing this car has gone over 200 mph, and it’s not even the pro level car! Eat your heart out Nascar.
This is where the innovation will be seen by most fans in 2015. The pieces in red are the current body panels. From what I understand from talking to some of the people involved is that the new aero kits can be designed within the parameters of the blue boxes. The kits will be designed by Chevrolet and Honda for the teams that use their engines, and they will have superspeedway and road course packages. They might also be able to do some updates during the season. Any engine manufacturer that comes into the sport also has to provide aero kits to their teams in the future.
According to Chevy and Honda the kits have shown in tests to reduce drag and increase downforce. It will be interesting and refreshing to see new and varied designs rather than a total spec series. These kits are ushering in the era of record breaking speeds. The series has already broken records at some road courses and smaller ovals, but now has sights set on the big ovals specifically IMS. That is something that hasn’t been done since 1996 due to safety regulations and insurance.
So why does none of this matter?
People watch football, baseball, golf and other sports because generally there is a home team to generate interest, and they can go play those sports in school or for recreation. There is one hard to face fact that racing gained popularity because of what I call the “gladiator effect”. The fans watched in awe, not because they desired to be fighting the lion or driving those dangerous machines, but because of the adrenaline rush of watching a hero do acts that were seemingly superhuman. It was the danger and innovation that drew the masses. Yet every time there is a crash they drone on about how safe the car is. Way to shoot yourselves in the foot, like the fans really want to hear that. I’m not saying their bloodthirsty cretins. My point is there are still masses that respect the danger and inherent risk and they want to have something to watch!
Entertainment is only as great as it is portrayed. Build the hype. Marketing in America is simple. You saturate the media, shove it in peoples faces constantly, tell them it’s amazing and that everyone is already watching it. You do that continuously and after a while people just watch it. It’s very simple, your product doesn’t even have to be good, you just tell everyone they need to see it! IndyCar has an amazing product so it’s even easier. You put someone in front of two TV’s, one with an IndyCar race and the other with a Nascar race. They will quickly see how much more exciting it is.
Improve the broadcast, bigger victory lanes, more fans allowed in them, more confetti, more of a show and hype, give it a real party atmosphere. Make the drivers seem like rock stars. Televise a live podium celebration, let the fans be present, and have the champagne spraying at the end. No more awkward interviews with empty backgrounds. The drivers aren’t very obliged to be excited after a win if the only people there to cheer for them is their own team. If you build the hype, the viewership will come.
This is a sport that used to attract F1 drivers across the pond to compete. Sponsors aren’t going to advertise using IndyCars or their drivers in commercials like they used to, let alone sponsor a car until the sport starts advertising itself.
Many of the drivers have been vocal about wanting the cars to start producing 1000 horsepower again. 20 years ago they were going faster, 14 years ago they set the closed course record. There isn’t any reason that these much safer cars should be producing less horsepower and pacing slower than they were in those unsafe missiles. I work in the factory where the cars are assembled and know the superb construction of these safety cells and how strong they are. Performance Director Derrick Walker is not turning out to be the hero everyone thought he would be. Maybe his hands are tied, but simply put these cars should be going MUCH faster than they are.
This is the time to capitalize. Nascar is reportedly reducing the cars horsepower in 2015 for fan safety and insurance reasons. Formula 1 has apparently gone eco friendly, on top of the FIA continuously banning new innovations, so those cars have slowed down quite a bit from 10 years ago. It cannot be stressed how critical the next few years are for IndyCar.