TEST DRIVERS LIKE FEEL OF 2012 INDYCARS
By MICHAEL MAROT, AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS — Scott Dixon likes the sound and safety features of the new IndyCars.
Dan Wheldon prefers the way they handle.
Will Power is all for the turbochargers.
Each of the three drivers who have been testing the 2012 cars over the past week has favorite aspects in next year's model, but they agree on one thing -- the new cars will be a welcome change for drivers and fans.
"We've got a totally new package of technology, it's closer to what people use in their cars," Dixon said after Tuesday's session at Mid-Ohio. "It's a lot lighter, it's more nimble and to me, it's more up-to-date."
There are many differences between this season's version and next year's.
Turbochargers return to the series for the first time since the 1990s, giving drivers a more powerful and efficient V6 engine.
There will be less noise at races, and track records may no longer be just a thing of the past at Indianapolis, the series' highest-profile venue.
Fans will get to see competition among engine manufacturers. Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus are all on board for next season, and teams have begun deciding which one they'll choose.
And safety will be upgraded, too. In fact, Dixon, a two-time IndyCar champ and the 2008 Indy 500 winner for Target Chip Ganassi, believes the new car is built better to handle crashes -- no matter what speeds drivers achieve.
"The seating is a big safety improvement," said Dixon, a New Zealand native. "There's 3 inches of foam surrounding the cockpit before you even put the seat in, so things like what happened with Justin Wilson at Mid-Ohio earlier this year, I think, will be eliminated and you won't have those big forces being pushed through the drivers."
Wilson broke a vertebra in his back when he spun off the course and hit a bump between Turns 1 and 2 in August.
Dixon is all for the changes, and he's not alone.
Power, second in points heading into next weekend's season finale at Las Vegas, was scheduled to test with Dixon on Tuesday and Wednesday in Ohio. Dixon ran the Honda engine, Power took the Chevy.
Bad weather shortened Tuesday's session and organizers are not allowing the drivers to discuss how fast they're running, though the drivers say these sessions are more about working out bugs than going fast.
Still, they ran long enough to get a feel for what will work.
"I like the turbochargers," said Power, an Aussie who drives for Team Penske. "When we ran them in Champ Car, you could really tell how much force you had on them and the sound is really cool."
Nobody knows these cars better than Wheldon, the two-time Indy winner and 2005 points champ.
Without a full-time ride this season, series officials hired the Englishman to do most of the tests. He's run on Indianapolis' road course, last week spent three days as the first driver on Indy's historic 2.5-mile oval in the new car and is convinced series officials and engineers got this car right.