Interview With IndyCar Lead Design Consultant Chris Beatty
The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series gets underway in March and there have been big changes over the winter off track as well as on track.
The 2018 season will see a brand new universal aero-kit being used by both Chevrolet and Honda. At the Autosport International Show on Friday, Paddock Eye sat down with IndyCar’s lead design consultant on the new chassis, Chris Beatty who is based in the UK.
I began by asking Chris:
How did you get involved in the IndyCar process of designing and the aesthetics of the new aero kit?
It’s quite a convoluted story, basically I have always been involved in design, my career has revolved around design, it all its various disciplines, but about two and a half, three years ago I came up a concept called velocity which is a closed cockpit concept very little aero on top surfaces which is really designed looking at cockpit safety, a different way of presenting a racing car, in terms of getting away from the sort of aero situation that we seem to be in with F1 and IndyCar in recent times.
It was really trying to come up with what my vision with a car that would race well and would be exciting to watch, what it should look like and how it should function and that sort of thing, and I get heavily involved in how that cockpit protection would work and how you would be able to remove it for medical assistance and that sort of thing.
I was at Brands Hatch, when Henry Surtees had his crash. I was also at Pocono when Justin Wilson had his crash, so it was around a year of my own time in between home work and heard that the initial meeting with the FIA for the Halo was coming up so I thought this is the perfect time so I had to rush to get it finished, launched that the day the FIA were having their halo so it was all over Twitter and all that social media so I was not expecting to go anywhere but it took off.
I hounded all the journalists I was following on social media trying to get this idea across because I wasn’t too impressed with Halo for an IndyCar route, but it is obviously what they are doing in F1.
What is your opinion on Halo?
I think it’s a first step. I don’t think it’s the product. I have done some work with IndyCar on their initial screen concept work, but I don’t know where that gone since then, but I think the screen is probably the ultimate answer to cock-pit protection, whether it goes full canopy or not at some stage in IndyCar and F1 I’m not sure.
The experience I’ve had jumping forwards working with the IndyCar medical guys and hearing their requirements that is fair distance away from happening. I think they want to get the screen test done there have been issues with halo or whatever it is, and it will be a development from that.
Have you been working closely with the Homaro safety team in the design of the new car?
Not so much on that, on the screen initially yeah, but on the aero kit, I transferred onto the aero kit project to help Tino Belli, the aerodynamic director, there was another meeting with the FIA and it was a couple of weeks later I got in tough with Stefan Wilson, who is obviously Justin’s brother, who had a meeting the next day with IndyCar and said basically I am going to show them what you’ve done, I really like it and see if we can get it in front of the guys at IndyCar and off the back of that I got some consultation work for their initial screen working with the IndyCar engineering director so that got my foot in the door.
That initial concept went on to be processed and developed by their engineering team and then I heard the 2018 project was coming up so basically said to my contact Jeff, who do I need to talk to get onto this, I would quiet like to get onto this project, that was my starting getting into IndyCar.
I was put in contact with Tino Belli, who is the director of aerodynamics at IndyCar and basically heading up the project and the aerodynamics, Bill Pappis was heading up the canopy side and then you have Jay Frye above that.
I sent Tino an email and since this is an engineering and aerodynamic project we are not sure who we are going to work with yet and they didn’t want a third-party consultant coming in and got an email back probably a month later, two months later saying, this is where we’re at with the design, we’re looking at going with Dallara, this is what we’ve got, what do you think?
My response was, look it was improvement on what they had before but it wasn’t quiet where it needed to be. It looked like a Dallara, a little bitty car Dallara but didn’t look like an IndyCar and I think the brief that IndyCar had was very much to re-engage the fans. The thing had to look like it was going 230MPH standing still, so basically wrote an email back with feedback sent that back to them and the next couple of days and there were things like angling with the roll hoop forward putting an angle on the front of the side pod. The side pod had already been extended and had already been done by Dallara and things like stripping the front wing back on the super-speedway configuration and they were just some of the suggestions.
Those were just some of the suggestions and little bits and pieces they could look at with Dallara and they sent that back and a couple of weeks later, a week later got back and had incorporated a lot that and some of the detail varied slightly and from that I got pulled in as a consultant for IndyCar to help them feedback to Dallara in terms of that design process.
I wasn’t involved with the aero development so much that was paramount importance with these things doing 230MPH, but it was how could we make those aero elements look better. What could we do to them to make it all hang together to make look more exciting as a car.
So, I mainly got involved mainly at that point in a creative direction kind of role but then we got to the point where initially on the super-speedway kit and then started working on the road course kit and things like the rear wing and making the end plates and rear wing and what height that rear wing should be.
We went through a load of connotations of what that could be. We thought we got one but then it was shown to the drivers at the Detroit Auto show and apparently, they didn’t like it so that got binned and the F1 wings came out and they looked great, so we put a variation of that on the IndyCar or that theme and it just looked fantastic and Tino was very enthusiastic about that. In the meantime we were looking at the tyre ramps that go in front of the car and super speedway and that when I came on board with the project and we looked at the road course and went through about 20 different variations.
The period I was involved was probably, November to February, trailing off in March, we were still getting photos back from the wind-tunnel saying do you think this is right like the angles and that. It was a fantastic project to work on.