IndyCar | How dampers are key in IndyCar’s development battle

We take a look at a key area in the battle for supremacy in IndyCar.

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IndyCar | How dampers are key in IndyCar’s development battle
Fuente imagen: IndyCar

By Connor Bacon

Despite being a semi spec-series, where teams all run the same Dallara DW12 Chassis, with either a Honda or Chevrolet engine, teams are allowed to freely develop their dampers for different tracks, or even specific drivers, depending on their setup preference.

In simple terms, the role of the damper is to turn the energy placed on the spring into heat when the spring is compressed or extended so it doesn’t continuously bounce up and down. This allows the platform of the car to be stable to best optimise the aerodynamics and allow the tyre to have the maximum contact patch with the road, to allow the tyre to best exploit its grip and manage deg and wear over a stint.

As the damper is one of the only things that teams are allowed to freely develop, its importance is amplified as it’s one of a few crucial ways that a technical advantage can be gained.

In an interview for The Race earlier this year, IndyCar’s vice president of competition and Race Engineering Bill Pappas said: “The evolution of where the dampers have gone is to optimise the tyre performance, whether that’s switching the tyre on and getting grip quickly or keeping the tyre from wearing out.

“The teams show up and can do a pretty good job of tuning in their dampers for the conditions, for the track, for the tyres.

“Teams have really opened up those departments quite a bit to optimise that device.”

Most teams have traditionally run either Ohlins dampers or Penske Racing Shocks (a different company from Team Penske), with each damper’s methods and characteristics being different.

However, within the damper the teams are making their own internal parts, which is where the key performance difference is found, and ultimately where the big teams come up trumps as they can employ the best engineers and pump more resource and money into Research and Development.

In an interview on The RACER Channel on YouTube, Simon Pagenaud’s former Team Penske race engineer Ben Bretzman commented on the key role dampers play in IndyCar: “All the teams are basically making their own internal parts to go in the damper, at least what I would call the successful teams.

“That’s very bespoke, very secret information that goes on in there because that’s how you get the advantage here, it’s an open box we can do whatever we want.”

An example of R&D that teams the use is, for what is known by many as the seven- post shaker rig, which simulates the aero loading and bumps the car will experience. Through the simulation the teams can gather data and fine tune their suspension settings for a particular circuit and analyse what they potentially could have done differently if they went the wrong way with their setup.

Furthermore, the dampers are key in giving the driver what he wants. For example, teams will have a variety of different damper settings for each driver to try on a race weekend, and over the course of a season can fine tune the settings to their driving style. Ultimately, this can play a major role in a driver struggling when moving across to a new team with a slightly different way in setting up the damper and can often take a while to adapt.

In essence, in a series so close and competitive any technical advantage anyone can gain over one another is crucial and this is why the role of the damper has become a key battleground for all the teams in the IndyCar series.




























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