Monday, August 8, 2011

Mid-Ohio: Past, present, and future

The first order of business is to mention the dreadful parade that was Mid-Ohio and how Indycar should burn the place on the way out and never return. Oh, wait, that would be overreacting. Last weekend's race may not have been the most exciting of the season, but it wasn't all that bad. At least there were some lead changes, some bold moves, and a championship contender winding up where he didn't expect to. I'll admit that Mid-Ohio is a sentimental favorite of mine, and would end up being the closest thing I have to a "home track" if I hadn't moved several years back. In fact, that might explain the race's continuing popularity despite the utter lack of passing opportunities. About a decade ago, the open-wheel racing fan who lived in, say, the Detroit area, could attend the following races if he or she were willing to drive three hours or less:

Belle Isle
Michigan International Speedway

A little more commitment could take that same fan to:
Chicago (Cicero or Joliet)
Road America

In 2011, that same fan has fewer than half the choices. Perhaps the reasons for Mid-Ohio's good attendance is that it's one of few options left for the Michigan/Ohio race fan. With that area being a hotbed of racing interest and enthusiasm, it would be a shame to cut them off and leave a well-attended, popular track that happens to mean a lot to one of the series' main sponsors. Plus I just like it.

In related news, Dan Wheldon took the 2012 Dallara chassis out for its first race track shakedown. I, for one, am excited about the new car. I like the way it looks, including the fairings on the rear wheels and the shark fins (which don't appear to have made it to the running prototype stage).
The wheel fairings seem to be one point of contention with the new car. The argument seems to be that, without them, it is no longer an "open wheel" car. First, that's not true. The tops of the tires are exposed. Second, they are a safety item that has been a long time coming. One of the dangers of "open wheel" cars has always been the potential to lock wheels and send a car airborne-out of control amongst other cars, walls, fences, corner workers, and spectators. This is bad. Completely exposed wheels should go the way of armco barriers and leather helmets.
The other big complaint is the "air box" integrated with the roll bar. (Actually, in the 2012 car, it's more a turbo inlet duct, but that's kind of playing semantics.) Apparently the preference is for a CART-style clear roll bar. Why that is preferable, I haven't heard, other than people seem to think it's holding on to a Tony George-era Indy car design. It's not like Formula 1 cars have run air boxes/engine air inlets in that location for decades... To me, it seems like a logical use of space and a neat integration of the powertrain with the chassis. I like it, and I'll go on record as saying I'm no fan of the '97-and up Indy car chassis. If anyone has any insight, I'd love to hear it.

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