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2023 IndyCar won’t take major toll on tires, says Firestone

motorsport.com logo motorsport.com 16/10/2021 David Malsher-Lopez
a blue car on a track: Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda © Chris Owens Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Yesterday’s test at Mid-Ohio by Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda’s new champion Alex Palou and two-time champ Josef Newgarden of Team Penske-Chevrolet saw the pair run over 500 miles – a combined total of 123 laps – on behalf of Firestone.

IndyCar’s exclusive tire supplier for over two decades, Firestone was not only testing tires from its new facility in Akron, OH., to the specification used in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio this year, but also two additional compounds that the company is considering for introduction in 2023.

“Our practice is to do short runs to get a baseline, then run the best options for about a fuel stint, or in this case, 20 laps, unless there is some other issue,” Cara Adams, Firestone’s director of race tire engineering and manufacturing, told Motorsport.com.

“Firestone conducts tire tests with one car from each manufacturer. Whereas we’ve had many chances to work with Josef and know that he gives excellent feedback about the car, setup, and the effect of the tires on the balance and handling of the car, testing with newer drivers to the series such as Alex gives a fresh perspective. Both cars ran the experimental tires in the cars’ current configuration, against this year’s tires which were our control.”

Regarding the performance characteristics of the red-sidewalled softer compound tires and the harder black primaries, Adams said Firestone is aiming to at least maintain current gaps.

“The experimental tires we ran were both primary-type compounds and not too different from the 2021 tires,” she said, “but the intention of them is to improve grip and confidence in the front end of the car.

“Overall, we are trying to keep similar primary-to-alternate gaps, or increase those gaps. Obviously we test to ensure the tire performance continuously improves, but with a view to 2023, we’re ensuring the tires are up to the task of the added load of the brakes, and that we can match the tire performance with any vehicle changes.

Having acquired data on its experimental tires, as per last week’s test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Firestone again switched to helping IndyCar assess the effects of the 2023 regulation changes, which will see the Honda and Chevrolet engines increase from 2.2-liters to 2.4-liter engines and acquire hybrid units. For road and street courses, these changes will see the cars gain 90-100hp and increase in weight by approximately 120lbs, with weight distribution moving up to 1.5percent rearward. These alterations were simulated with ballast, and by the BorgWarner turbos being wound up to deliver just under 1.7-bar boost.

Newgarden told Motorsport.com yesterday that in this form the cars had noticeably more power but were more clumsy in terms of changes of direction, and with braking distances increased up to 30 feet on the longest straights.

Yet when Firestone ran this year’s compounds on the approximated 2023-spec cars, the engineers were left pleasantly surprised.

“With the increased power and loading on the car, we had expected a more significant difference of the car on the tires,” Adams admitted. “But whereas it didn’t change balances drastically, the additional weight and power did exaggerate any existing drivability concerns, including front brake lockup.”

Firestone will reassess its data once the 2.4-liter hybrid engines start testing in the first quarter of 2022.

In the mean time, Adams said that the reduced latitudinal and longitudinal forces in wet conditions have convinced all concerned that a revised wet tire won’t be necessary for the 2023 cars. Asked if any thought had been given to, introducing an intermediate tire, as per Formula 1, Adams replied, “Not at this time. We do so little running in the wet, that it is hard to justify an additional set of rain tire types.”

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