Indy Racing League considers radical wingless chassis formula

December 11, 2009
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The Indy Racing League is taking a hard look at a radical new chassis design, that if passed would put the first wingless car on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—or any open-wheel track for that matter—in almost a half century.

As first reported yesterday by SpeedTV, a private Indianapolis operation called Delta Wing LLC has led the 11-month study. Drawings and models of the new chassis designed have recently been turned over to IRL higher-ups and designers of the new chassis hope to have the wingless car on the track in 2012, when the IRL rolls out a new chassis formula.

Principals of Delta Wing include Michael Andretti, Eric Bachelart, John Barnes, Tony George, Kevin Kalkhoven, Roger Penske, Dennis Reinbold, Keith Wiggins and Chip Ganassi. The project is being led by longtime designer Ben Bowlby.

The project came about as part of the series’ efforts to become more affordable, efficient and eco-friendly, said Terry Angstadt, president of the Indy Racing League’s commercial division. Though Angstadt doesn’t believe the new chassis would be cheaper for teams than the current Dallara, he said it will run more efficiently, adding that it would rely on underbody downforce instead of the wings to create the downforce that keeps the cars rubberside down at high speeds.
The new chassis would likely be made in Indianapolis, cutting down on shipping. Dallara, the only IRL chassis maker is in Italy, and a locally based manufacturer also could get teams products faster.
Angstadt’s description of a car without front or rear wings makes it sound like a missile on wheels. But he emphasized that every step is being taken to assure it is as safe or safer than the current model.

But there’s more to this project than just making the IRL green and cheaper to participate in.

“If [this new model] does everything we think it will, we think it will be great for the business,” Angstadt told IBJ this morning. “In my opinion, it’s a marketers dream because of the innovations and efficiencies. This will turn a lot of heads and gain the series a lot of attention.”

Angstadt added that the new chassis somehow gives team sponsor more room to display logos or at least better visibility on the car. “It will have a better surface area for logos,” he said.

Angstadt, who recently saw prototype renderings, said it “looks fantastic. Very futuristic. But at this point it’s a concept. We can’t yet say it’s our future.”

Bowlby’s plan, according to SpeedTV, is to make a much lighter car than today's but maintain the safety integrity and speeds of this past decade. He's also proposing a 4-cylinder, non-stressed, turbocharged engine that costs less than $140,000 and makes nearly 10 miles per gallon.

“All the car owners agree we need innovation back at Indianapolis,” Bowlby told SpeedTV. “We also need to be relevant to the spectators and to the manufacturers while reducing waste, making things more affordable and widening participation.

“We just want to give the IRL an innovative, creative option but we believe this can attract a renewed interest from car and engine manufacturers.”

With declining TV ratings, static attendance and tepid media coverage, renewed interest can’t come fast enough for the IRL.

  • I like the idea of shaking things up. This will be interesting to see if it can happen. NASCAR, the most popular racing series, is running cars on technology that is basically 30 to 40 years old. IRL can really set itself apart by creating a totally new vehicle.
  • Refreshing!
    I lost my interest in Indianapolis Car Racing a few years ago, after 45 years of active participation. The spec car attitude has legislated innovation out of the equation...and since the down force will be lessend as a result of wings, better drivers will be required and the passengers will need to learn how to get around fast.
    When I first became involved at The Speedway the lap averages were in the mid 150 MPH through the field. I cannot visually determine if a car is going 220 MPH and I have been around race cars all my life.
    I'd like to see a concept illustration of the car since I believe it may appear much like a car Norm Timbs and myself were working on for Halibrand in 1966.
  • I'm envisioning...
    ...something like the wedge turbine cars from 1968. The speeds will almost certainly be drastically lower but the racing should be much better as a result of cleaner air behind the cars which will allow real drafting.

    All of that said, when a sanctioning body makes this sort of drastic change, that smells like desperation to me. IRL just re-signed with Versus to broadcast most of the races and that will probably leave out the tens of millions of viewers on DirecTV (including me). Hard to maintain interest in a series you can't watch. And of course it's almost impossible to get meaningful sponsorship deals when nobody watches. This could be the beginning of the death spiral -- sure hope not but it doesn't look good to me.
  • No TG
    Tony George's only involvement should be to serve drinks to the rest of the group. Having his name associated with the development only hurts the credibility of the owners who are trying to come up with a new car. George is a complete failure, a fraud, and a loser. His involvement gives the whole project a lack of credibility.
    • must do
      I have to admit, the new design doesn't sound very safe, but the IRL needs to do something. But I will say this, the IRL stinks at marketing themselves. They should have found some way to leverage this new design, even if it's only in prototype phase to leverage some attention for the series. Instead the let the news leak out to SpeedTV. This series is still learning how to make a splash, literally and figuratively.
    • Tony George is not a Loser
      Brett has an opinion,which makes Brett look very small indeed. Tony George is not a God, though he operated a God like palace during an unGodly phase of the track's history. Overall, he made net improvements to the worlds finest sporting facility and while the IRL series is not popular at the moment, Indy car racing has survived and last years 500 was a very fine race indeed. Long Live Tony George and Hulman/George family.
    • If it's still a kit-car
      If it's still a kit car with a crate motor that comes from the same builder/tuner for all competitors, then who gives a flying flip.
    • IndyCar

      If you don't give a flying flip, then why do you bother? Apparently, you give a little more than a flying flip.

      Good grief.....
    • Hondo,

      You need to realize the haters here hate no matter what. You would think that they would let it go after TG was no longer with IMS. But no, they still go after him with the same venom. They forget that he helped to create the SAFER Barrier and then gave up all rights to it so it would be affordable to all tracks. It probably is the single biggest life saver in racing in the last 40 years. But they will ignore it or even more likely try to rewrite history and lessen his role in it.
    • GA,

      should I remind you that the most popular racing series in the US runs on 40 year old technology and identical car bodies?
    • Habitual liar
      Ask the Renna family how big a life safer the SAFER barrier was. The University of Nebraska developed the SAFER barrier, Tony George did nothing but try to throw some money in to try and add his name to it, the same thing he has done his whole life. You can't even keep your lies and revisionist history straight.
    • Indyman, remember
      NASCAR teams are allowed to build their own chasis and are also allowed to build their own engines, of which they have 4 different ones to choose from. The teams are allowed to build their engines to try to out-run each other, they're not provided a crate-engine that's built and tuned to be the same for everyone.

      I remember when engines for the cars Indy 500 were built to try to be more powerful than other competitors. Sad that people like you are so content to let this part of the Indy 500 go by the wayside.
    • Agast
      The IRL, failing to breakout for 14 years
    • Brett,

      I could explain how wrong you are, but I will let facts do the talking.

      "Tony George, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and CEO, was given the inaugural Pioneering and Innovation Award at the Autosport Awards held Dec. 5 in London. George was recognized for his leadership in the development of the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) Barrier."

      "I have to say that the SAFER wall that they have here at Indy is probably the most undramatic crash you would have on an oval,"
      Kenny Brack said after his crash. "It really helps absorb energy."

      "Legendary driver Mario Andretti, the only man to win the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 and Formula One World Championship, also was involved in the accident with Brack on April 23 and had high praise for the SAFER Barrier. "When Kenny hit it, he waited for a big ouch, and it was a non-event," Andretti said. "That SAFER wall is really, really working." "

      ""Hallelujah -- Tony George, thank you," Todd Bodine said. "That hit should have hurt, and I don't even have a headache. Nothing. I feel like I just climbed out from practice. Thank you, Tony George, that's all I can say.

      Feel free to Google Tony George and SAFER Barrier. I found literally hundreds of articles backing my point, and not one that comes close to yours.
    • GA,

      NASCAR is the ultimate in ancient technology, the ultimate in spec racing, basically everything you guys say sucks in racing, but it is the most popular series in the US. So who has it wrong?

    • Stan,

      this is what the haters wanted. Out with TG, out with Tradition, out with someone who cared for the history of IMS and in with a number cruncher who is more concerned about eaking out every dollar than what made Indy, Indy.

      Anthony was right on wibc today. That is the sound of another sacred cow falling. Next expect advertising on the walls, Title sponsorship of the 500 and then what, naming rights to the track ala Lowes Motor Speedway?

      While TG made mistakes, he respected the spirit of the track and the mistakes he made he did for what he felt were the right reasons. Something tells me Tony Hulman is rolling over in his grave for what is to come.

      I hope IMS knows what there are doing. this is a crucial time at 16th Street and there is so much riding on it.
    • The Usual
      the iman spin machine is in overdrive,lay off the red bull dude.
    • It's TOneys Fault
      Tony George killed open wheel racing and the month of May with it.
    • What spin? This is what you guys wanted, TG out and a businessman in his place. I hope there is some vestige of the 500 left when he is done cutting costs and maximizing profits.
    • Tony George invented the wheel
      The Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barrier, also known as a "soft wall," is a safety initiative designed to absorb kinetic energy released when a race car makes contact with the wall. It was designed by a team of engineers led by Dr. Dean Sicking at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, University of Nebraska-Lincoln in collaboration with NASCAR and the Indy Racing League.

      I thought FTG invented it? Another lie. I guess I missed when your hero got an engineering degree.
    • And TG was in charge of the IRL. Wow, i figured you would have known that.

      "Concerned with the rising number of high-impact crashes resulting in driver injuries, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George began looking for a solution. The first application, a Polyethylene Energy Dissipating System -- or PEDS -- was designed by retired General Motors engineer John Pierce and placed on an interior wall near the entrance to pit road in 1998.

      It received its first real test when Arie Luyendyk struck it at a high rate of speed during the International Race of Champions event later that season. It kept the driver from suffering serious injuries, but the barrier came apart under the stress of the crash, littering the track with pieces of plastic, creating a safety hazard for the other cars and requiring an extensive cleanup.

      Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the first track with a SAFER barrier.So George turned to Sicking, hoping the civil engineer could suggest a remedy. Sicking helped redesign the PEDS barrier and began work on his own design, putting crushable foam insulation behind a series of square steel tubes. By 2000, NASCAR had joined in the development of the project. And the first SAFER barriers were ready for installation at the Speedway in time for the 2002 Indianapolis 500."

      Remember those who choose to ignore history look stupid when the facts are placed before them.

      I believe it was 2 years later before the first NASCAR track installed it.
    • It's not desperation
      There are several chassis being considered, the Delta Wing is just one. Dallara, Panoz, and I think Swift, all have models for consideraton.

      Some people are just desperate for the death of the league...
    • facts
      Tony George did not do any development work on the SAFER barrier, he is not an engineer. He has some type of second rate degree from lowly Indiana State (that's where you go when you can't get in anywhere else). All he did was throw money at the project. It was invented and developed by the University of Nebraska.
    • More good EARL news
      INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - A talented local racing team is closing their doors.

      24-Hour News 8 has learned that Brownsburg's de Ferran Motorsports will cease operations Friday, resulting in the layoffs of 15 employees.

      The team had hoped to compete in the Izod IndyCar Series in 2010, after a successful run in the American LeMans Sports Car Series .

      But funding for that project has not yet materialized, leading team principal Gil de Ferran to mothball the shop.

      de Ferran, the 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner, still hopes to find funding to resurrect the team but currently he simply doesn't have the money to continue.

      Right now, word is the team's assets are not for sale

      But, but, but I thought DeFerran and toneyy were mergifying? Ha HA. Another EARL casualty. Lights out, uh huh. Call Key Liquidators.

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