Indy Racing League considering radical wingless chassis

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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 did say it will run more efficiently, adding that it would rely on relying on underbody downforce in stead of the wings to create the downforce that keeps the car 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 said that he has recently seen drawing of the prototype, 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.

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