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IndyCar reveals number of changes ahead of 2024 season

Written by Archie O’Reilly


With the NTT IndyCar Series season getting underway with the start of track action on the streets of St. Petersburg on 8th March, the series has confirmed a selection of changes made this off-season following their annual review of safety, technical performance and rules.


Rule and procedural changes


There are two major changes set to be implemented on the officiating side of things. Firstly, there will be an alteration to the location of the restart line, which will be designated in the last corner. Before this line, drivers will not be able to pass and will have to remain in single file.


In 2023, there were issues of drivers being perceived to jump restarts and gain an unfair advantage at the Indianapolis 500. There were also a number of restart incidents in the 2023 season finale at Laguna Seca, with drivers all reacting to the green flag being thrown at different times, which has often contributed to restart collisions. 


The second notable procedural change will be the trialling of a split practice format on the opening weekend in St. Pete. There will initially be a 20-minute session with all cars to begin the opening practice session, after which cars will be split into two groups based on odd and even pit box numbers.


Following the opening 20 minutes, the rest of the session will be split between the two groups, with two 10-minute segments for each on an alternating basis. This means a reduction in practice time but less cars on track, leading to more scope for clean laps.


The red flag procedures in this split qualifying session will match those of qualifying, with the clock to stop for the first red flag in each segment.


The series is yet to announce any updates for the Indianapolis 500, including specific details and penalties for multiple blocking moves and going below the line extending from the pit lane attenuator.


Changes to enhance safety


As always, IndyCar continues to try and maintain its status as being at the pinnacle of safety in motorsport. Particularly on the oval side of things, they have made a number of changes to try and continue to keep drivers as safe as possible.


One element of significant concern in 2023 was Kyle Kirkwood’s left-rear tyre breaking loose and finding its way over the catch fence during the Indy 500 following contact with Felix Rosenqvist’s Arrow McLaren car. Thankfully, nobody was harmed and the tyre landed between two grandstands and hit a parked car.


But this is an incident that the series cannot afford to repeat following a hugely lucky outcome last May. They have been proactive and “meticulous” in their investigations into how the rear wheel assembly on Kirkwood’s No.27 Andretti Autosport car was lost during the contact.


A stronger front wheel bearing retaining nut, intended to match the implementation of the updated rear wheel bearing retaining nut in 2023, has been added to the cars. This should prevent any recurrence of the incident from May.


Also pertaining to ovals, there will be a stronger rear retaining ring, new and stronger rear uprights with wheel tethers mounted to the upright rather than calliper studs and updates to the rear wing front clevis to better distribute impact loads into the attenuator.


There will also be the addition of LED lights on the rear wing endplates to allow for better visibility of cars in front when there is rain, which is a somewhat rare occurrence in IndyCar. Brake rotors have also been redesigned to improve cooling. 


An updated, lightweight aeroscreen - featuring vents to increase driver cooling, a top front duct directing air to the drivers’ chest and ducting 3D printed in rubber to prevent hand injuries - will be introduced for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course race in May. This will be used for the road and street course races following its introduction. 


Lighter chassis components


As has been widely documented, IndyCar was supposed to be debuting its new hybrid power unit for the season-opener in St. Pete. But, in December, it was announced that the introduction of the 2.2-litre twin-turbocharged V-6 engine with hybrid technology will now come after the Indy 500.


In anticipation for the late-season introduction of the heavier hybrid unit, modifications have been made to particular chassis components, which it is felt could lead to track records being broken in the early part of the 2024 season.


Changes include a lighter aeroscreen top frame, which saves seven pounds and does not see any durability sacrificed. New magnesium gearbox casing and bellhousing, where the hybrid unit will be stored, have also allowed saving of weight.


It is yet to be confirmed when the hybrid system will be debuted beyond the prior announcement that it will be after the Indy 500. Once introduced, drivers will be given more control, including through different strategies for regeneration and deployment, offering additional overtake options.


The hybrid system, which has been tested over 21,108 miles, will involve manual and automatic regeneration options on ovals, where it will only be able to be manually deployed.


In order to aid the transition to the hybrid technology once introduced in the summer, the series have said teams will not be given any grid penalties for unexpected hybrid unit changeouts due to possible failures in the early period of its use.


“The last few seasons have been unprecedented in terms of records and milestones,” Jay Frye, IndyCar President, said. “Between the massive effort by Chevrolet and Honda with the hybrid unit and the perpetual partnership and input from our owners, teams and drivers, 2024 is expected to be even more competitive and one of the most unique seasons we’ve ever had.”


IndyCar also plans to continue to work on sustainability through development of green technologies. In 2023, there was the first use of Shell’s 100 percent renewable fuel, plus use of renewable diesel for the team’s transporters. The green alternate Firestone tyres used on street circuits were made from guayule rubber.


Also in 2023, IMS became the first sporting facility to achieve organisational certification through the Council for Responsible Sport.


“This is an era of tangible growth and tremendous opportunity,” Mark Miles, President and CEO of Penske Entertainment, has said. “Rising attendance, combined with incredible fan engagement across our digital channels, increased merchandise sales and rising viewership and visibility are all signs of significant momentum.”


Indy NXT, the premier IndyCar feeder series, is expected to feature over 20 drivers - a marked recovery from struggles to even get 10 cars on its grid in years gone by. While there has been criticism over the off-season for issues such as the delay of the hybrid system, IndyCar and its ladder does have plenty to be positive about.

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