Call it the perfect IndyCar fan scenario.
You introduce a new idea... the fans get frothing in anticipation to see it... they demand a glimpse, even a rough one, of how the idea will be implemented... and then when they see it, they erupt into a firestorm of criticism because it didn't precisely match how they had built the solution up in their minds.
It's enough for the people in charge at INDYCAR to lose their religion on some days.
It was certainly more of the same today as the rolling concept cars representing the 2012 ICONIC IndyCar rules made their appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Thanks to the lightning-quickness of the Internet, within seconds of the images being released they were met with an avalanche of commentary.
Before we go on, it is important to note two things:
- The cars are simply concepts, not the actual prototypes. Like any "cutting-edge" model you'd see from a manufacturer at an auto show, they're built for show, not for "go." The finished product still needs to adhere to a set of rules that are still not 100% complete.
- The aero kits are not the wind-tunnel- or track-tested components that will be used in 2012. According to Dallara's Sam Garrett, the display cars have mocked-up bodywork that represent a theoretical direction; however, their actual aero kit is still in design and preliminary production and will not see the light of day until August.
"The idea behind these is to show two totally different-looking vehicles that underneath are the same chassis," said 2012 IndyCar project manager Tony Cotman. "There is a lot of room for aerodynamic kit development and that's what this platform is about - allowing people the freedom to design as they wish, dream as they wish and come up with a superior product than others. That's what drives competition.
"So will these be exactly what Dallara's kits are going to look like on road courses and ovals next year? No."
That memo didn't get read by many Internet gawkers, who took the occasion to express a variety of doubts about bits and pieces of the display cars that most likely won't even be present on the production aero kit from Dallara.
Still, after the designs percolated in fans' heads for a while, most fans seemed bullish about the direction INDYCAR and the ICONIC Advisory Committee have taken the sport. While the level of acceptance varied from person to person, however, the nearly unanimous consensus was that, based on what was unveiled to the public, the idea of delaying multiple aero kits until 2013 was definitely not an option.
Considering that team owners would spend $75,000 at the drop of a hat if it would buy them a couple of screws or chassis bolts that would make their cars a tenth of a second quicker per lap, the Roger Penske-led owner revolt against aero kits for 2012 seems a bit ridiculous. But now with visual proof of how disparate the 2012 IndyCar body designs can be even with a "spec" safety cell, the fans' patience with the owners' reticence is all but gone.
It's been so long since IndyCar fans had anything truly new to salivate about that naturally, confronted with a new reality, they would overreact a bit more than usual. That was confirmed by the reaction to today's news. But the good news for INDYCAR is that the fans appear to approve of the concept of the aero kits if not the actual execution (based on the mockups at any rate).
As a general rule, if you can get the majority of IndyCar fans to agree on something, it's probably a good thing for the sport. The question now becomes whether INDYCAR and the sport's team owners will recognize that and proceed accordingly.