Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Car FYI Car of the Month for May 2015: James Hinchcliffe's Dallara-Honda IndyCar

Photo Credit: Chris Jones

The past few months have been a busy time. It has been my deepest regrets I fell behind on the Car FYI Car of the Month updates. One occupation of time has been the rapidly moving 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series. A tight season started in late March and ending in late August, the 16-race schedule quickly flooded towards the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 99th Indy 500. A race won by a brilliant performance by Juan-Pablo Montoya, the Team Penske organization secured its 16th win in the race.

However, up until the green flag flew for the Memorial Day weekend classic event, The majority of focus for the Month of May activities at the speedway was foreshadowed by a wicked Monday practice crash. The accident resulting in a broken right front suspension component on the #5 car fielded by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports sent James Hinchcliffe violently into a wall. Thankfully by no small effort of the Holmatro Safety Team, Hinchcliffe received prompt medical treatment that in many account saved the Canadian's life.

For May, the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara-Honda driven by James Hinchcliffe the Car FYI Car of the Month. The reasoning for it is capturing both strong positive and negative outcomes following the activities for the 2015 event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The positive side reflects on a skillfully built racing car. Under the Honda body kit (an addition for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar season) is a fourth-generation Dallara IR-12 chassis. First introduced to the IndyCar Series in 2012, the Dallara monocoque was developed as an advancement in open wheel racing vehicles. Through almost 100 runnings of the Indianapolis 500 at the 2.5-mile race track, speed proved to be a deadly adversary for drivers. 41 drivers have lost their lives in Indy-type vehicles at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While safety was an afterthought until some exceptionally fatal accidents in the 1970s caused promoters and engineers to shift focus away from raw speed. The Dallara IR-12 chassis used for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar season has been developed through dummy-based crash testing in a manner like passenger cars. Dealing with potentially more extreme speed and performance than found on the street, the car in concert with driver protection features such as a helmet and HANS device has greatly improved the chances of survivability in open wheel racing.

As a downside to the May 2015 Car of the Month recipient is some teething problems with the all-new body panels issued by both Honda and competitor Chevrolet. The first year of what was a long-promised adaptation of unique bodywork on the Dallara chassis, the 2015 Indy 500 premiered the oval/superspeedway configuration of new aerodynamic packages. The body kit packages produced by Honda and Chevrolet both garnered unappealing headlines over the month of May activities on the Brickyard oval. After several IndyCar crashes where cars went airborne at some point, the series zeal for near record-breaking track speeds appeared risky. After Ed Carpenter's practice crash just ahead of Saturday qualifying, teams were regulated to abandon a qualifying-only aerodynamics package. James Hinchcliffe's crash occurred in race day prep but still involved wheels leaving the ground. Despite concerns, the Indy 500 race was a safe event with the Chevrolet/Honda body kits combined with the Dallara chassis providing an competitive, entertaining spectacle.  


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