New IndyCar kits get high marks on opening day of testing

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia gave the new IndyCars two thumbs up Tuesday.

They'll find out soon enough if anyone else agrees with the early reviews.

After spending the day testing the sleek, stylish cars on Indianapolis' 2.5-mile oval, the two veterans left the opening day screening by insisting the cars run even better than they look.

"I think they definitely made the right move at the right time," said Montoya, the Colombian who won the Indianapolis 500 twice. "I think the core fans will really like the look and, again, I think the racing will be better and allow people to be a lot more aggressive."

It's exactly what series officials needed after spending years trying to develop a high-performance aero kit that also had enough fan appeal to keep it through the 2020 season.

Drivers, engineers and fans pitched in by making suggestions. It now appears as if all that work is paying dividends.

When the first images of the cars were revealed Monday, IndyCar president of competition and operation Jay Frye called it a "home run."

The overnight reaction was mostly positive.

But rather than roll out the red carpet for the first test, Montoya and Servia, of Spain, strapped themselves into the cockpit and got right to work.

With a smattering of fans watching between the Brickyard's first and second turns, Montoya and Servia carefully went through the series' checkoff list and quickly got the cars up to race speed. Montoya wouldn't say how fast they went, although observers clocked the cars turning laps in about 41.4 seconds or roughly 217 mph.

And neither was pushing it on a bright, sunny day with track temperatures hovering around 130 degrees.

"Everyone was trying to be safe because it's a brand new machine," Servia said after completing 104 laps. "We ended up, I think, with very good balance. I think it's going to be a very good racer."

Things went so smoothly that Wednesday's test session has been cancelled.

Still, the reviews weren't perfect.

Allen Miller, Honda Performance Development's race team leader, acknowledged Servia had a software glitch on his first run. Once they found a solution, the rest of the day went off without a hitch.

"We are looking forward to some straight, head-to-head engine battling," Miller said, referring to a competition Chevrolet has been winning lately.

Montoya and Servia still have three more test dates — Aug. 1 at Mid-Ohio, Aug. 10 at Iowa and Sept. 26 at Sebring — to work out any kinks before manufacturers begin testing. Teams are scheduled to receive the kits in November and will start testing in January.

The most noticeable changes are smaller wings, which are placed lower on the cars; the removal of the rear wheel guards; the shifting of more weight to the front of the cars and more downforce from underneath, something series drivers lobbied for.

Montoya suggested that losing the rear-wheel guards has brought back a more traditional open-wheel flavor.

But it could help in other ways, too.

"We never really liked the rear bumpers, I'd call it, because it didn't really do what they wanted," Servia said. "And that took away some of our visibility in the rearview mirrors, too."

The biggest difference might be something fans won't see.

By moving the weight and adding more downforce from under the cars, Montoya believes drivers will run closer together and pass more often — both of which should produce even better shows.

"I really do like it," Servia said. "It's a hot day in Indiana, we're doing laps here, and every time I get out of the car I have a smile on my face."


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