Firestone expects different tire demands from 2018 IndyCar 

Cara Adams, chief engineer and manager of race tire development at Firestone, says the company’s preparing for “quite major” adjustments to IndyCar tires as the series enters a new era next season.

Firestone expects different tire demands from 2018 IndyCar 
2018 IndyCar aerokit concept drawings
Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet
Cara Adams, Bridgestone Senior Project Engineer, Race Tire Development, Kevin Blanch, IndyCar Technical Manager
James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
Team Penske crew members at work
Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet
Visit at Firestone garage
Tire marks
Sébastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing Honda
Conor Daly, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet
Firestone tire engineer

The Verizon IndyCar Series will replace manufacturer aerokits with a universal kit for 2018, and this is expected to substantially cut downforce and also relocate its source, emphasizing the underbody rather than topside. An IndyCar equipped with the new kit is expected to go on display at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May before testing begins in summer.

Adams told Motorsport.com that Firestone is going to be relying on simulation data well ahead of time to decide which tires to take to the inaugural test.

“We work closely with IndyCar and when they get us information about what their performance expectations are, we’ll be able to define what our targets are,” she explained.

“We’ll also work with teams once they have some modeling and can inform us of the loads and the speeds they’re getting from their simulations. That will determine our approach to what tires we decide to bring to the test. And obviously any time the new car is on track, we will be there for verification purposes.

“That simulation data is fairly accurate and gets us in the ballpark. Then we take that data and do some virtual tire modeling back in Akron [Firestone’s Ohio base], find a target construction/compound combination and then conduct our experiments virtually, so we can actually decide which are the best candidates to take to the track.”

Firestone is set to continue supplying harder-compound primary tires, along with the red-sidewalled alternate compounds, and is aiming to make them more significantly different from each other.

Said Adams: “There are targets we’ll try and hit. When we design our IndyCar tires, we want the alternates to go off quicker than primaries, and we give our feedback to IndyCar, and get the team’s feedback.

“Personally, as a tire engineer, I would like to see tires be consistent all the time, but that’s not necessarily what’s practical for the series or challenging for the drivers, so we try and work to give them what they’re intending.”

While there are several road courses and ovals where IndyCar can test its 2018 product, Sebring Raceway’s short-track remains the closest real-life simulation of a street course. That, says Adams, throws up a challenge in itself, given the rapidness with which the track’s surface – concrete with asphalt patches – gains grip.

“We’re probably in the same camp as the teams – you’re limited as to what you can learn there,” she admits. “You know, we’d all prefer it if we could test on Belle Isle or Long Beach or St. Pete…

“But Sebring is the closest we’ve got that’s available, so we scan it, and then correlate what we see the track doing to what we think our tires’ properties are going to be. It changes and so it’s very difficult because you need multiple control tires for start of the day, middle of the day and end of the day.”

The initial testing of the 2018 car is expected to be in isolation, however, or with just one current car, which should reduce the rate at which grip increases.

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