A number of Verizon IndyCar Series drivers have gotten their first taste of the 2018 cars after having conducted pre-season testing during this week. Testing of the new cars, that feature drastically different body styles compared to last year, took place at Sebring International Raceway on their shorter circuit layout.
All four drivers from the Andretti Autosport stable got out on track in Florida as well as Chip Ganassi Racing‘s duo of Scott Dixon and Ed Jones. Sebastien Bourdais, who was sidelined for much of the year after being injured during qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, also made an appearance for Dale Coyne Racing. Indy Lights driver Zachary Claman DeMelo was also scheduled to drive in the test, but the paperwork that needed to be completed and in order was still outstanding and prevented him from taking part.
Andretti’s new-for-2018 driver, Zach Veach, loved his new car and how it looked, stating: “I’m just blown away with the new car. The aero kit makes it feel like a proper race car again. … Honestly, it’s incredible to look at.”
His team-mates were a little less caught up in the excitement, it seemed. Ryan Hunter-Reay commenting,“It’s definitely more alive. It’s been a busier car to drive. We still have a lot of work to do. We only just started.”
Hunter-Reay’s team-mate Marco Andretti also commented on how much work they had to do, saying, “We’re at Day 1. We’re super green.”
“We don’t really know if these new characteristics are permanent or not. We’re still going to try to mechanically fix them. If not, then we adapt.”
“It still has four wheels, but it’s a different car,” Marco continued, “There are a couple of inherent things that it does differently. I think we’re yet to know if it’s something we can fix or something we’re just going to have to get used to as drivers.”
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ed Jones also commented on the challenges of the new car:
“You’re always looking for new challenges,” Jones said, “Everyone is in the same boat. Obviously, some people have done more testing with it, but it’s going to be good. It’s good for the series to change things up after a while. The cars will be a lot more challenging to drive. It should equal out the playing field a lot more in terms of the difference between teams.”
Whilst most of the drivers, like those above, were complimentary of the way the new 2018 cars drove, criticism came from Sebastien Bourdais, who wasn’t a fan of some of the mannerisms of the new car and it’s lack of downforce compared to previous years:
“We got around two hours on track – obviously better than nothing but there are still quite a few things that need to be worked on,” Bourdais said after his running in the new Dale Coyne car, “It’s a bit of a head-scratcher for everyone – very different, as you’d expect. Take 20-25 percent of downforce off the car and it doesn’t handle the same at all.
“It’s going to be challenging for sure, very tricky, but we’ll keep trying until we put our finger on the sweet spot. But it’s clearly extremely rear ride-height sensitive which has a big side-effect of instability on corner entry and some rear locking.
“On the street courses, it will be extremely difficult to make the car behave because you naturally have to run a higher car to deal with the bumps. It wasn’t terrible – but it wasn’t very good either.”
Further 2018 pre-season testing at Sebring is scheduled for later this month. Following that, testing will move from the East coast to the West, with teams heading to Sonoma Raceway in California for more road course running. After that, all teams will get some laps under the belts on an Oval at the ISM Speedway – formerly Phoenix Raceway – in an official full series test from February 9 to 10 in Arizona.
The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series will get underway with its first race of the season on March 11 with the Grand Prix of St Petersburg.