By Lori Wood
Ending months of speculation, the IZOD IndyCar Series announced that the Dallara chassis will be the future of the series Wednesday at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
However continuing with its tradition of innovation, the car strategy in 2012 and beyond will be different. Beginning with what will be known as the IndyCar Safety Cell as its base, other manufacturers will be encouraged to produce the aero kit which includes front and rear wings, side pods and engine covers. These possibilities were shown to the audience in a hologram with several different possible car designs.
“The decisions we have made were not easy,” said series CEO Randy Bernard. “We tried to be cautious of cost to the team owners while keeping in mind the fans who want change.”
For the last several months, an ICONIC (Innovative, Competitive, Open-wheel, New, Industry-Relevant, Cost-Effective) Advisory Committee met to consider the needs of the series and the designs submitted by the five different manufacturers: Dallara, Lola, Swift Engineering, BAT Engineering and the Delta Wing. Safety, cost, and technology were just a few of the attributes measured.
“The new car is a cost-effective package that positions the series for tremendous growth, while respecting the tradition of innovation in open-wheel racing,” Bernard added.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels joined in the ceremony as he announced that Dallara will locate its manufacturing facility in Speedway., along Main Street. Founder of Dallara, Gianpoalo Dallara said, “It will set new standards in terms of safety, fuel efficiency, raceability, technology performance and cost containment.”
This will be Dallara’s only manufacturing facility outside of Parma, Italy and will invest $7 million into the community, creating 80 new jobs in the state of the art facility. One of the requirements for submitting chassis designs was that it be built in Indiana.
“We believe our number one assignment in public service is to try to grow the economy of this state, more jobs and opportunity for everyone, and a big piece of that has been, as a business, not emotional sports fan decision, a commitment to try to bring the motorsports industry here in a much larger way,” Daniels said.
Daniels added that Dallara will use to the maximum extent possible Indiana suppliers to make the component parts that will make up almost half of the value in the car.
“That means more jobs and more opportunities for those companies that are here now or would like to locate here to be a big part of this sport,” he said.
Dallara also committed to Daniels and the teams that they would give a $150,000 discount to the first 28 cars bought by teams located in Indiana.
Committee member Tony Purnell, founder of Pi Research and former head of Ford’s Premiere Performance Division, talked about the new Dallara.
“Our solution. Make the parts the fans can see, free for anybody to supply. The aerodynamic body work is the key performance differentiator in any chassis.”
He went on to say that Dallara has a long history of performance and safety in the industry. By designing the Safety Cell at a small development cost, and the other parts supplied by other manufacturers, the cost will be reduced dramatically.
“It’s a revolutionary strategy opening the door for many to rise to the challenge of Indy. Our goal is to reach out and challenge the automotive and aerospace industries,” Purnell said.
In fact, the cost of the new chassis will cost $349,000, with a complete car costing $385,000. That is nearly a 45% decrease in current costs.
The Safety Cell is designed for use on all types of tracks with no need for a separate chassis. Each team can race two different aero kits from any manufacturer during the season, with a maximum price of $70,000 for each kit. The series must approve all aero kits before production. They must be made available to all teams and undergo IZOD IndyCar Series approved safety testing.
Other features of the new Dallara will be improved visibility, head, leg and back protection and advance padding and ergonomics. A new wheel interlock prevention system will allow the side-by-side running that IndyCar is famous for, but limits the cars chances of wheels locking and lowering the risks for cars getting airborne.
President of Competition for the series, Brian Barnhart was also on the committee.
“We are also expecting a significant increase in the life of the parts. This will result in an overall running costs of nearly 50%. By greatly reducing the costs will not only allow stability for current teams, but create an attractive avenue for new teams with an interest in entering the series,” Barnhart said.
Driver-owner Sarah Fisher attended the event with as much of the anticipation and interest as anyone.
“It’s great to see Dallara’s durability here,” she said. “They’ve done a great job in the past as far as safety goes. As a driver and a car owner, I’m excited. Overall, it is still going to be expensive. I think it is important that they are observing that as a concern and a value moving forward.”
The committee also recommended specifications for an engine package which features a maximum of six cylinders and maximum displacement of 2.4 liters in the ethanol-fueled engines. Depending on the track, the horsepower will range from 550 to 700. They will be turbo-charged to allow for flexibility, and the Overtake Assist will operate at 100 horsepower on selected tracks.
Purnell put out the call for all to join in the future of the IZOD IndyCar Series.
“Come on Ford, GM, Lotus, Ferrari. Come on Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Electric. Come on you engineers working in your garage or in small shops. We’ve done our best to provide a framework for all of you to showcase your technical prowess without a major raid on your piggy banks. We want you guys involved, all of you,” Purnell said.