Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe were at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today, as part of a Honda test for the 2018 aero kit. The Chip Ganassi Racing (Dixon) and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (Hinchcliffe) drivers were selected by Honda to conduct manufacturer aero kit testing for the car that will debut next season in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Today’s test was supposed to be an all-day affair, but cold temperatures delayed the session until 12:30 in the afternoon. Both drivers were able to record more than 130 laps before the test concluded at 6 PM. Dixon and Hinchcliffe have earned pole position in the last two Indianapolis 500 races, but Dixon has the lone win between the two, back in 2008.
“It’s just about trying to find that happy medium,” Dixon said. “We’ve lost a lot of downforce from the old car, but I think biggest thing for us is that the weight distribution is moved forward and there’s a lot more weight on the front tires. In traffic, it was more difficult, but that’s standard. When we come back here next May, we’ll know how to make it work mechanically, and it will be very good. But for the first go and working with James, it was all very smooth.”
Hinchcliffe echoed those same thoughts about the goal of today’s test. “On ovals, it’s been such a smooth transition from the previous car,” he said. “IndyCar has done such a good job getting the balance right and getting the downforce level correct, that for us it’s just a matter of finding out what this car likes and what makes it tick.”
While most of the testing was done individually, the two did run together for a few laps. “Scott and I got to run nose-to-tail a little bit, not a ton, and there’s work to do there, but first impressions are really good,” Hinchcliffe said. “One of the big things we’re finding with this car is the rate which it is able to close up on the car in front is much faster. I know we have a ton of passing the racing has been great with the old kit and, but that’s because he had the cars so good that we could drive into a corner half a car length off the car in front.”
Entering his 18th season, Dixon knows how important the testing is, especially for newcomers to the series. “I think if you join the series in a reset year, it definitely helps because you don’t have a lot of people that have a lot of knowledge. But saying that, I think the IndyCar, especially on the short oval and road course, the amounts of downforce that we had made it a lot easier to get close on time.” Dixon is aiming for his fifth series title in 2018.
Both Dixon and Hinchcliffe will have a new teammate next season. James’ close friend Robert Wickens will make the move from the DTM cars, to the No. 7 Honda for SPM. Yesterday, it was announced that last year’s Rookie of the Year and 2016 Indy Lights champion Ed Jones will slide into the No. 10 car for Ganassi.
Jones was at the speedway today, where he finished third in his first Indy 500 just five months ago. The 22-year old is excited for the next chapter of his career. “It was an amazing feeling, something I’ve been working towards. At the same time, it was a surprise. I’ve always been working for this and feel I proved what I could do and I’m confident that, with the right work and the right time, I can be right at the front and deliver what Chip wants.”
The cars looked good, especially with the livery on Hinchcliffe’s machine. The thing that caught my attention was the noticeable size difference in the number on the rear wing plate, which is obviously much smaller.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar