I like the fact that the automakers are willing to pony up with big bucks to develop the sport. The gain for them is the bragging rights that they are technologically "in the game" and ahead of the other car makers, and that's worth it for them (or else they would cut off the money).
The trick for IndyCar is to finess the rules to harness that money and effort in a productive way to encourage real innovation (the way Indy used to be) and make it more than just a bunch of cars driving in a circle. Unfortunately, judging by this (how many angels can you fit on the tip of a needle [bearing] ?) IndyCar is not succeeding.
I understand why IndyCar had to step in and place controls on the technology side of this. When Toyota spends $1 billion in five or six years, then, yes, I suppose controls have become necessary. What I don't understand is why everyone kept upping the ante until that became necessary. At some point, I would think these automakers and race teams would have behaved the same as anyone in a high stakes poker game and simply said, "It's too rich for my blood."
For real racing innovation and fun one only needs to attend a local short track where backyard mechanics still thrive. Shoe string budgets, making do with what you have, and close competition is seen in the lower divisions. For the fan, you can actually see the cars go by and relate to most of the vehicles. The drivers love to talk with fans and actually have time to show people their cars.
I'm old enough to remember the fun days of Can AM racing where almost anything went – The innovation was exciting. We could hardly wait until the next race to see what guys like Jim Hall would bring to the track.
Over regulation just give us cookie cutter cars that are boring!
As I think about it, the even greater shame is the lost opportunity to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists. Without a visible platform to demonstrate the technology, it really is just a bunch of cars going around in a circle.
That is how so many problems are caused - lack of balance. Where does striving to improve enter the realm of overreactive control? Not easily answered and often the folks behind an initiative have the best of intentions...this issue is common in so many endeavors and it is often not until the distance of history that the error is recognized.
I don't know if I should be appalled or depressed. Or both. Probably both.
This is a problem of the Indy controlling authority micro-managing the engineering in all the wrong ways. OK, I understood when they outlawed active control surfaces because people were dying when they failed. But this level of hamstringing (spelling?) Engineers is beyond absurd. Specifying which bearings can be used? Tuning lubricants to specific tracks? Let's vacuum all the fun out of racing, then vacuum it out some more.
Besides, human beings drive these vehicles, so any effect that a lubricant may have on the outcome of a race is lost in the noise of operator limitations, error, and habit.
Since the money that goes into this industry is obscene, let the Engineer's loose and see what they come up with (like it used to be). The whole benefit of having Indy (socially) is that it's bleeding edge technology that winds up (slowly) available to the rest of us (i.e. a technology incubator).
Want to make it really interesting? Spec out the driver completely. Then they will have to start Engineering better sensors and processors, improving reaction times, which will wind up (in a decade or so) in our street cars and save countless lives.
End of my rant (and don't even get me started on Nascar of the NFL).
George Leopold's talk at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis helped restore astronaut and engineer Gus Grissom's role in the beginnings of NASA, and outlined how Grissom played a pivotal role in winning the Space Race.
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