SI Vault
 
VROOM TO IMPROVE
ELIZABETH MCGARR
May 28, 2012
Since the first daredevils took to the bricks 101 years ago, the race has been on at Indy to find that balance of handling, safety and, above all, speed needed to prevail over 500 miles. Decade by decade, there have been both incremental advances and breathtaking leaps in automotive evolution—concluding with (for now) this year's wholly reimagined supercar
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May 28, 2012

Vroom To Improve

Since the first daredevils took to the bricks 101 years ago, the race has been on at Indy to find that balance of handling, safety and, above all, speed needed to prevail over 500 miles. Decade by decade, there have been both incremental advances and breathtaking leaps in automotive evolution—concluding with (for now) this year's wholly reimagined supercar

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MPH 192.550

1980

Johnny Rutherford's Chaparral-Cosworth, also known as the Yellow Submarine, was one of 15 ground-effects cars in the race. The faster these cars went, the closer their rubber undersides would sit to the track, creating a vacuum that essentially sucked the car to the pavement. As Rutherford said of his '80 vehicle, "This car handles so well, I could probably take my hands off the steering wheel going down the backstretch."

MPH 192.250

1995

Toward the end of the century, the cars became increasingly streamlined, as evidenced by Jacques Villeneuve's needle-nosed Reynard-Ford. He had an airbox above his head, a feature now included on all cars to provide air to the engine and increase power. On this particular model the winglets on the side are angled down in an attempt to achieve greater downforce. "It looks like they were bent," says Davidson, "but they were designed like that."

MPH 228.390

2003

The so-called "third-generation" of IndyCar, introduced after a year of tests, had a reduced weight, with slightly wider sidepods on the driver's right and left, and was held to higher crash standards in an effort to improve driver safety. Tony Kanaan drove his Dallara-Honda to a third-place finish in 2003 and was runner-up the following year.

MPH 228.633

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