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Electronics & Test

At Indy 500, Rules Make It Tough to Gain Competitive Edge

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Beth Stackpole
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Breaking free of constraints
Beth Stackpole   5/7/2012 7:17:55 AM
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I'm pretty surprised to hear that the Indy rules leave such little room for engine modification. It seems like everyone is competing on pretty much the same ground. That said, it's amazing how simple tweaks can cause the break out. I'm curious how the pit crews sift through all that data collected--is it a manual process, simply deciphering print outs or are they able to employ some modern data mining technology to help unearth the nuggets that will give them a competitive advantage?

naperlou
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Re: Breaking free of constraints
naperlou   5/7/2012 10:15:49 AM
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Beth, one effect of the tight rules is that driver skill, and luck on the track, is very important.  Another is that the cost of the cars is kept within some limit.  I saw a special where a famous driver talked about his cars in three series, Formula 1, Indy and NASCAR.  The Formula 1 car cost ten times as much as the Indy car.  Formula 1 has strict rules, but no standard for engines and chasis.  This results in the high cost. 

The engineering challenge in this highly restricted environment are still interesting and fruitful.  It is just another twist on getting the most out of your mahcine.

jhankwitz
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Re: Breaking free of constraints
jhankwitz   5/7/2012 11:25:07 AM
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At least Formula 1 has more freedom to experiment with technology.  Options are limited if someone wanted to introduce their new flux-capacitor powered engine to the world. 8^)

TJ McDermott
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Re: Breaking free of constraints
TJ McDermott   5/7/2012 2:57:54 PM
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The intent is to make it a driver's race and not a technology race.  I AM surprised the engine is so small though.

Charles Murray
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Re: Breaking free of constraints
Charles Murray   5/7/2012 6:03:59 PM
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Beth: Jones said that the 200 data channels include some "math channels," which can crunch some of the numbers and help make sense of it all. That said, I think there's still a lot of manual data mining by the engineering team and the driver, too.

Bradshaw from Primier
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Iron
Racing innovation
Bradshaw from Primier   5/8/2012 10:01:52 AM
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Pure racing car design has been stagnant for the last 20 years.  From 1959 to 1979 was perhaps the most revolutionary time of car developement as mid engine cars, wide tires,disc brakes,spoilers, wings,ground effects all appeared in this time.  The racing often became a parade of the fastest cars ahead of the rest and lost fans. Best example of this was the unlimited rules Can Am class, dominated first by Mclaren then by the Porsche 917 Can Am Turbo.  I believe the 917 still holds the record for fastest closed circuit lap...Talledega at 240+mph.  However the series soon died when all knew the Porsche would always win.  Nascar meanwhile has just gotten rid of the 1957 Holley carburetor in favor of fuel injection!!

ChasChas
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Socialized racing
ChasChas   5/8/2012 10:27:23 AM
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Timely article, Charles.

This is socialized racing that smacks of communism. I don't know how the teams can stand it. They know what they need to do, but cannot do it - this most certainly encourages "cheating". (just like in any communist country)

Remember when the turbine engine was tried at Indy? Was it too successful, too costly, or too imperialistic?

The rules should encourage broad competition, not secret slyness.

Charles Murray
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Re: Socialized racing
Charles Murray   5/8/2012 9:13:40 PM
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Ironically, ChasChas, Parnelli Jones' turbine car was legislated out of Indy after the car failed to win. It dominated the 1967 Indy 500 but had to drop out with a few laps to go because of a transmission bearing problem. It was legislated out of the race after 1968, I believe.

William K.
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Indy 500 rules
William K.   5/8/2012 10:46:44 PM
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The claims are that these rules are to make it more a test of driver skills rather than carbuilders skills.

BUT, really, it is all about MONEY.

These rules cut the costs that would be asociated with the race being an engineering contest instead of a driving challenge. The result is that anybody with some money has a chance, and there is not the extra money spent in making cars so much better than each other. So by setting up these rules and reducing innovation quite a bit, the supporters have cut their costs. Of course the race has now become just a drivers match.

RICKZ28
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Re: Indy 500 rules
RICKZ28   5/10/2012 9:04:39 PM
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I love watching a good drivers match!  What's the point if one driver has a much faster car?  Go to an air show if you want to see that.  Imagine a football team winning just because they had superior equipment.  I like the racecars, but it's really about the driver and the race teams.  There is an exciting entry of drivers in this year's Indy 500.  I want to see how those past F1 racers perform.  It takes a great driver to win such a race with very even equipment.

Watch this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZQZ6MjtGPQ

I've heard many professional drivers say that handling is more important than a bit more power.  If the driver can't get the car around the turns fast enough, then straightaway speed may not matter.  It can be said that suspension tuning is more important than the engine.  All the IndyCars will use the same chassis and suspension, with adjustments allowed within the rules.

I'm happy that the new IndyCar engine rules have been developed so that there will be three engine suppliers in this year's Indy 500.  So far, Chevrolet has shown Honda it's not so easy to win a race when it's not all Honda's!  I'm hoping Chevy can win so to equal Ford and Honda in all-time Indy 500 wins with eight wins each.

http://www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com:8080/var/assets/stats/500/2011-winning-engines.pdf

 

Jack Rupert, PE
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Re: Indy 500 rules
Jack Rupert, PE   5/12/2012 8:19:06 PM
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That's what has bothered me about these races.  There is no emphasis on making better and faster cars because the rules prevent any new innovation that isn't open to everybody.  Maybe the racing teams need to purchase the cars as a group and then randomly select who drives what car.  That will take the technical component out all together.

Charles Murray
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Re: Indy 500 rules
Charles Murray   6/1/2012 6:15:55 PM
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Jack, I agree with you. The problem, though, is that the engine makers and the teams themselves are trying to control the costs. After Toyota spent $1 billion in five years, it seemed like all the manufacturers started backing off.

Charles Murray
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Re: Indy 500 rules
Charles Murray   5/22/2012 8:55:26 PM
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The team members I talked to concur with your assessment, William K. Even under these strict rules, they say that the team with the most resources generally wins.

William K.
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Indy 500 rules
William K.   5/11/2012 12:20:55 AM
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My somewhat limited experience on a circle track has been that handling is indeed vital, but thatvery good handling is neither simple nor cheap. But winning races takes a combination of skill, power, and handling. As one pit crew chief explained to me, "If you never have to let off on the gas, then you don't have enough power." I have been in that position, where the car was certainly "a handfull", but I could run all of the laps with the pedal to the floor and never back off. But it also meant that others with more power could pass me at times. 

The conclusion is that innovations in handling may still need a bit more power to win.

William K.
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Race cars all the same.
William K.   5/12/2012 11:38:49 PM
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There is, or at least was, a different kind of racing, called "world of outlaws", which was just about as opposite as can be from the Indy500 type of thing. Of course the cars are smaller and not as pretty and they don't go as fast. But tickets were less than $10, much cheaper than Indy now, and the racers were much closer to being human, not rich dudes.

Absalom
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Gold
No longer very interested in "canned" racing
Absalom   6/1/2012 11:14:59 AM
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Indy used to be very exciting in the days of Offenhauser vs Ford pushrod v-8s, Chevy engines, turbines, 4 wheel drive, and the chaparal type suction systems.

To me these days, it's like watching a staged presentation put on by the racing industry. For real excitment street racing is, again, where the fun is. Sure it's illegal and dangerous but, today, absolutely everything fun is illegal.

 

P.S. Meet me on Pierce Road with your hot car/4wheeler/motorcycle and I'll bring my Yamaha Warrior. Loser buys the beer.

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print flyers
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