With the IndyCar Dallara DW12 coming to Project CARS 2, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ assistant race engineer Kenny Krajnik found time during prep’ for the Indy 500 to talk all-things Indy, and how his team, who started last year’s race at the Brickyard on pole, assisted in the development of the in-game Dallara IR-12 …
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports come into this season’s 101st running of the Indy 500 as one of the favorites to lift the most coveted title in all of motorsport. Last year their driver James Hinchcliffe started the race from pole; this year the team is aiming to take that raw speed all the way to the top step of the podium come Sunday afternoon. They come to the race in good form, having already won the second most important IndyCar race of the season at Long Beach.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports was instrumental in assisting with the development of IndyCars in Project CARS 2. The addition of Indianapolis (and other ovals) into the game meant that real-world team data and technical assistance was an absolute must for the development of the cars in-game.
With that in mind, Vehicle Lead Casey Ringley led a crew from Slightly Mad Studios to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 100th running of the Indy 500 in May of 2016. With a pit-side seat in the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports garage, Casey was given free rein to wander about collecting data as the team worked throughout the week in the build-up to qualifying.
That meant Casey had access to every inch of the Dallara IR-12-Honda, including tyre wear, tyre pressures, boost, engine mapping, and even the gear-ratio used by the team. Full access means no guesswork: having the entire telemetry of the team at his disposal was absolutely key in creating the Dallara IR-12 for Project CARS 2.
Casey’s job was made the easier by Kenny Krajnik, IndyCar Assistant Race Engineer for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Spending the week alongside Kenny and monitoring every detail of the way he worked is the kind of insight that feeds back valid data to the Project CARS 2 Dallara.
Meantime, even small incidentals such as Firestone brining a whole new tyre for the 100th running of the race, with all 66 previous winners inscribed in white on the outer wall of the tyre, were carefully photographed for reference, as was every piece of the car.
Understanding the process whereby a team sets-up for Indy is vital to getting the car right in-game. How the car responds to setup changes, and how the team goes about dialing in understeer and oversteer to find an overall balance on an oval such as Indianapolis loops back into the game and provides the kind of real-world validation that makes every car in Project CARS 2 so accurate.
Even better, of course, was that Schmidt Peterson Motorsport’s driver James Hinchcliffe stuck his car on pole for the race. As far as validation goes, you don’t get a lot better than spending a week with the fastest team at Indianapolis.
The Dallara DW12 (DW for Dan Wheldon, the driver who lost his life at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 16, 2011, and who was actively involved in developing the chassis, and 12 for the year the chassis was first introduced into IndyCar) is sold to IndyCar teams at a cost of $349,000 per chassis, and all are identical in spec’. There are, however, significant differences in the aero’ kits used by the teams; the two engine manufacturers that power the cars—Chevrolet and Honda—are responsible for the kits that were first introduced in 2015.
Both the Honda- and Chevrolet-engined Indy cars, with their respective aero’ kits, will come with Project CARS 2, in both speedway and road-course spec’. The road-course spec’ was taken from Casey’s visit to the Long Beach IndyCar Grand Prix.
The speedway car runs a lower boost pressure—1.3bar vs 1.5bar, roughly a 100hp difference—and has the distinctive low drag aero’ kit. Road course aero’ is good for upwards of a vertigo-inducing 5500lbs (2267KGs) downforce at 200mph (320kmh), while the speedway car is all about drag reduction: to attain the top speed up over 240mph (390kmh), the downforce is reduced by nearly 50 percent.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has been involved in IndyCar since 2001, this less than two years after team founder, Sam Schmidt, had become a quadriplegic after a testing accident in Florida. The team—Sam Schmidt Motorsports—fielded driver Davey Hamilton in 2001 at the Indy 500 and, a decade later, Hamilton joined the team’s ownership when the team was briefly rebranded as Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports. In 2013, Oculus Transport CEO Ric Peterson came on board, and the team was again rebranded to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
With seven titles in the Indy Lights feeder series and over 70 wins along with multiple wins and poles in the Verizon IndyCar series (including two poles at the Indy 500), Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is one of the elite teams in the sport and a title favorite for 2017.
Assistant Engineer Kenny Krajnik was the point-man when it came to the development of the Dallara DW12 in Project CARS 2, and he kindly found some time to answer a few questions in the build-up to one of the most anticipated Indy 500s in years.
Q: Kenny, thanks for taking the time off what must be a crazy schedule.
Kenny Krajnik: Yeah, no problem, I’m happy to do it based on the great experience I had with Casey [Ringley, Vehicle Lead on Project CARS 2] and the gang. I’m happy to do this for sure.
Q: The chassis from Dallara, the IR-12—how does that feel, out of the box, so to speak?
Kenny Krajnik: The current spec’ Indy car come as both Honda and Chevrolet packages, and I can only really speak about the Honda package, because that’s what we use here at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. I’m certain that the other package is a completely different ballgame compared to what we have to work with on this car. But the car, the IR-12, as it comes out of the box, is essentially the same from team-to-team. There are small things we can change on our own such as damping, corner springs, third springs and so on, and there are also some other areas that are open to development, and you’ll find these are different team-to-team, but as far as the Honda package is concerned, there’s a lot of different things we can adjust, a wide variety of options that are at your disposal to tune the car as you need to, both aerodynamically and mechanically, from what comes ‘out of the box’.
Q: Can you explain how certain teams are faster than others while using the same package? Does it come down to setup, or is there some magic component somewhere?
Kenny Krajnik: There are a few factors involved in this. One of those—probably the largest of those factors—is simulation testing. Larger teams that have bigger budgets will be able to spend more on simulation, especially off-track testing such as on seven-post shaker rigs and wind tunnel testing. Teams that have those resources at their disposal are going to be significantly more prepared, and probably more successful than a smaller team that might not have those resources.
Kenny Krajnik: You know, the funny thing is, a lot of people might think that a game is just a way to have fun and isn’t really representative of a real car. But really, what’s going on in the background is very much the same as the simulation tools that we use. The game needs to generate a representation of the physical model of the car, and we need to do the same in our simulation models. So really, what’s going on with all the math and the coding in the background is very similar.
Q: In terms of the simulation itself: presumably there are two aspects to this. The first is the driver, and the second is what you, as an engineer, is getting out of the simulation. Are you looking at the interaction between the driver and the simulation, or are you actually looking at it purely from an engineering perspective?
Kenny Krajnik: I would say both. We have a lot of different simulation tools available to us, and one of those is the driver-in-the-loop simulation—very similar to a computer game, but one where the driver sits in a moving platform that can represent g-loading and so on. In that case, we can apply setup changes to the model, and the driver will go do a few laps and give us his comments on those changes. We can use that to correlate our simulation models, as well as consider potential setup changes that could be useful in the future.
Q: In terms of the Indy 500. Do you already know sort of what the setup is based on previous runnings at the track?
Kenny Krajnik: Correct.
Q: And do you then refine the setup before you go by taking a driver into the simulator and looking at what has developed on the car since the last time you were at Indy?
Kenny Krajnik: Well, we certainly apply a few changes that we think will be a step in the right direction. However, I don’t think that we currently have enough confidence in our simulation model that we would simply take a change we made on the simulator and apply it before we even hit the race track. We just don’t have that confidence at this point. Especially not on the speedway.
Q: Is that because of the danger involved or … ?
Kenny Krajnik: I would say it’s probably 50 percent danger and 50 percent the nuances of the speedway. The ambient conditions can have such a huge effect of the speedway, which means that something that went into the simulator may not translate to the racetrack.
Q: How did you get involved with Project Cars 2, and what kind of technical knowledge did you bring to the game itself?
Kenny Krajnik: I got involved with Project Cars when Slightly Mad Studios contacted someone at IndyCar and said, “Hey, we would like to make an IndyCar model for our new game, who can we speak to?” IndyCar sent out a message to a few teams, one of them being ours, and our engineering director asked if I would be willing to work with Casey in getting this model up and running. So that all started in October 2015, and over the next few months, I worked with Casey on providing him car data for several tracks along with the setups for the data he was looking at, and then also working on correlating the model with him.
Once Casey had a model up and running, we put it in the simulator that we had in our shop, and I drove on that model. Obviously I’d never driven the real car before, so my feedback was probably taken with a grain of salt, but after we made a few very coarse adjustments to the model—just to get it in the ballpark—we had James Hinchcliffe come to the shop and do laps at the Road America track, since we race on that track. He had some very good feedback. And honestly, I was extremely impressed with the way that Casey took those comments and made some adjustments and applied them to the model, it was great. Everything we asked him to do he did, and it worked out; it really improved the model.
Q: In terms of the accuracy and fidelity to the real car of the Project CARS 2 car, how would you evaluate it as an engineer?
Kenny Krajnik: I would say from an engineering standpoint that it’s very representative. In my opinion, it’s a very good model. For example, it takes a while for the tyres to come up to temperature, it takes a while for the brakes to come up to temperature. And just some of the adjustments that we made to the tyre model specifically, it really improved the fidelity of the model, and even James [Hinchcliffe] himself said that after those adjustments were made, the car responded like the actual IR-12.
Q: You guys have scored two poles at Indy. Is there a trick that you guys are using at Indy that makes you so much faster?
Kenny Krajnik: I would say no, there isn’t a trick—we’re not cheating! But there’s definitely some general rules of thumb that help. The speedway is really a lot about the car; you know, looking for every little thing that you can get out of the car as far as reducing drag, reducing mechanical drag and aerodynamic drag. Those are all going to really pay big dividends, especially when it comes to qualifying, just because the lap speeds are so high.
Q: It’s more the car driving the driver as opposed to the driver driving the car at a place like Indy?
Kenny Krajnik: It’s honestly a bit of both. The driver needs to have a car that he’s confident enough in that he can go flat. If he can’t, you’re not going to qualify well. So you need to get that proper balance so that the driver is comfortable enough to let the car do more of the work. If the driver’s having to really do a lot of inputs, it’s not going to be a good lap time.
Q: Do you guys go flat all the way. Is that the perfect goal in the race?
Kenny Krajnik: It’s not possible for the whole way through the race because you have traffic, you have tyre degradation, and because the race is so long and the conditions are constantly changing, so your setup isn’t going to be perfect throughout the whole race. The driver’s going to be working to adjust his roll-bars if he has them connected, he’s gonna be adjusting his weight jacker to try and keep the car well balanced throughout the race. But he might not always be able to stay on top of it, so there’s definitely a lot of lifting in the race. And it’s something that you do need to take into account when building a setup for the race, you need the car to be comfortable for the driver, you need to give the driver tools he can use to adjust the car if he needs to. So it’s a different ballgame compared to qualifying, you know, it’s a different situation.
Q: Just in terms of the driver himself, do you guys give advice during the race? Or is a driver like James Hinchcliffe, who’s done this before, left to his own decisions when it comes to changing the feel and handling of the car in the race?
Kenny Krajnik: Yeah, definitely. We do review with the drivers before the race what sort of adjustability we have, and what we can do in the pit-lane—changing tyre pressures, for example —and we also review with them what tools they have during the race which they can adjust to keep the car well balanced.
Q: Is that a crucial factor in terms of a result? What the driver is doing in the car with the setup?
Kenny Krajnik: Oh yes, absolutely. Yes, if you have a driver who isn’t comfortable with the car and doesn’t know which way best to adjust the tools that he has, it’s not gonna be a good day.
Q: And does that come down to experience?
Kenny Krajnik: It’s definitely a lot to do with experience. And if the driver is struggling, we’ll suggest certain things to them during the race. You know, we’ll come on the radio and say, “Hey you should think about adjusting this way or that,” just to help them along.
Q: That takes a lot of trust between a driver and an engineer at that speed, right?
Kenny Krajnik: Yeah absolutely, there’s definitely a big element of trust between the driver and who’s speaking to him on the radio.
Kenny and the crew from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will be lining up for the 101st Indy 500 on Sunday, May 28. They’ll line up on the grid with the #5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda-Dallara of James Hinchcliffe and his team-mate, the #7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda-Dallara of Mikhail Aleshin.
The Dallara IR-12 with both Chevrolet and Honda aero’ kits for both speedway and road tracks will come with Project CARS 2, along with theIndianapolis Motor Speedway, in late 2017 for the PlayStation®4 system, Xbox One, and PC.