The RACER Mailbag, January 25

Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to [email protected] Due to the high volume of questions received, we can’t guarantee that every letter will be published, but we’ll answer as many as we can. Published questions may be edited for length and clarity. Questions received after 3pm ET each Monday will appear the following week.

Q: Everyone has questions about a new IndyCar. Why doesn’t someone re-engineer the DP01? After the Katherine Legge crash at Road America, it does have a robust safety cell, and if remember correctly, it was designed with possible oval use in mind. My opinion is that it was the best-looking open-wheeler.

Dino, New Hanover, PA

MARSHALL PRUETT: And every driver who raced Champ Car’s 2007 Panoz DP01 that went to the IndyCar Series and the old Dallara chassis and then the new Dallara DW12 said the DP01 was the perfect car.

I’m rarely a ‘let’s go back in time to solve today’s problems’ kind of guy, but I do think the designers of the DW29 or whatever year it arrives would be wise to buy a DP01 and study everything about it. Sublime aero and mechanical balance; looked great and made for great racing. Updating a car from 2007 isn’t the answer, but if Dallara could bring its spirit forward into it’s next chassis, that would be amazing.

Q: Why isn’t the ‘Ed runs ovals and Simona run the rest’ arrangement not happening again? It seemed like ECR was the perfect place for the female-forward Paretta Autosport. ECR evolved from Sarah Fisher Racing, and it was Carpenter who gave Danica Patrick her last ride at Indy, so obviously ECR has no issue with running/working with women. It would be a smart set-up even if Ed hired Simona directly.

IndyCar in general is missing the boat in this area. Last time anybody checked, women account for just over 50% of the population, and wouldn’t it be nice to recruit a whole new fanbase of girls and women? Was it five or six women that ran at Indy one year? No need for tokenism, either. While none except Patrick got a top-tier ride, there has been good success by women drivers given the chance. Sarah Fisher ran well, and given a good car Simona would have stood on the podium numerous times.

I’m starting to violate my own pet peeve about mailbox questions being more soapbox rants, so I will leave it with, “why not a bigger effort towards female drivers?”

Rob Stone, Culpeper, VA

MP: I hear what you’re saying, Rob. What comes to mind here is yes, IndyCar should be doing more to support women racers through the extremely specific ‘Race For Equality & Change’ program it chose to create to address such things. What also comes to mind is IndyCar also has 10 full-time teams, many of whom have sponsors and partners who would benefit from initiating their own RFEC-type programs to develop women racers—and that’s everything from drivers to mechanics to engineers and every other role—and racers of color.

So, yes, IndyCar’s kicking ass when it comes to developing and advancing Black racers through the RFEC, but it hasn’t taken the same aggressive approach to developing more women racers. I hope that improves, obviously, but rather than place an expectation for IndyCar to solve every issue, this seems like one that improves rapidly if all 10 teams join in and help the series.

Simona De Silvestro has been flying the female driver flag alone in IndyCar over the past few years – and even she’s only been able to race part-time. Motorsport Images

Q: Penske, Ganassi, and Shank have all been involved with IMSA prototypes, joined now by Rahal and Andretti. I would think they have all seen how the new GTP regulations have led to an increase in manufacturer involvement and excitement, and they would be pushing for similar changes with IndyCar. Are they pushing? If not, why not? They certainly have seen the results.

My cynical side also wonders if Penske bought IMS and IndyCar only for the Speedway, which is the most valuable asset. If IndyCar lags behind NASCAR and F1, oh well, he still has IMS.

Lastly, a heretical thought. Would IndyCar be better if NASCAR owned the series, since they at least seem willing to market, experiment, and change regulations as they have with IMSA prototypes? I live in the Miami area and this is the most excited I have been for IMSA since the Miami GP days with the Porsche 962, Jaguar, Mazda, Nissan, and Toyota.

I agree with your comment in last week’s Mailbag: IndyCar needs some leadership from people not born last century, or at least not before 1990. IndyCar has to take the initiative and not wait for new manufacturers, etc. As a previous reader wrote, I also would like to see 20 cars with more manufacturers and technology than 27 spec racers. Thoughts?

Rick, Homestead, FL

MP: The reason we have half of IndyCar’s full-time entrants involved in IMSA’s new GTP class is because of the money those manufacturers are spending to have them run factory teams. And it’s good money. That’s just the facts. If those manufacturers wanted IndyCar teams to race shopping carts on their behalf and wrote the same big checks, drivers would be strapping in and racing shopping carts. That the GTP formula is awesome and has attracted a lot of manufacturers is just a bonus.

I came up in the sport where spec cars really weren’t a thing, so I’ll always lean towards individuality, customization, and letting one’s creativity be the core of what you build or develop. I’ll take that 20 with freedom over 27 that are spec every time.

Q: This relates to your response to the January 18th letter from ‘Bruce’ regarding Formula E, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway historically being a proving ground for automotive technology, and whether there could be an opportunity for FE to run at IMS. Specifically, your comment that FE is a ‘spec series’ so there would not be much to prove at IMS.

This may be splitting hairs, but your comment could possibly be re-evaluated. Yes, FE utilizes a spec chassis and battery. However, it has seven (yes, that’s seven) OEMs constructing and using their own drivetrains (engine, inverter, gearbox, electronics) in the series. And, they all go to great lengths to use the series to showcase and promote their technological engineering prowess (efficiency/range) to compete against each other in the consumer marketplace. Often, this leading edge technology gets transferred from their race cars to their road cars. So one could conclude that Bruce’s thought process isn’t totally off-base.

From closely following the letters, comments, and answers in this space regarding IndyCar’s inability to secure a third engine manufacturer which is hindering its viability within the sport, perhaps the path FE has taken that has led to seven engine manufacturers participating in and promoting the series could be applied to IndyCar? Sure, the cost to run a FE car is higher. But with the FE cost cap, it comes in around 30% higher per car than it is to run a competitive IndyCar for a season. That’s not insignificant, but also not too much of a stretch if the goal is to have more engine manufacturers in the series who, in turn, would use it to promote their road cars, leading to much more extensive coverage/awareness (and national/global viability?) for IndyCar.

Would FE gain anything now by running at IMS? That’s a larger topic for discussion. But Bruce’s suggestion that IMS could be a proving ground for FE’s automotive electrification technology certainly holds some weight.

Daniel Colombo, Toronto

MP: Thanks, Daniel. Lots to unpack, but I’ll keep it brief. Yes, I’m aware FE has more freedoms than ever. It still doesn’t land with me as being particularly interesting, nor would I ever look at the new cars and say that running them at IMS would connect with the Speedway’s original spirit of innovation. Today’s IndyCars do not celebrate that spirit, so my pushback isn’t restricted to FE.

As for all the manufacturers who are involved, it’s the world’s only all-electric open-wheel series. Where else would they get involved?