Will IndyCar go radical for 2012?

Design concepts for the IRL’s new Indycar formula for 2012 were revealed in February by Dallara, Lola, Swift and Delta Wing. The concepts put forward by Dallara, Lola and Swift are straightforward evolutions of the current Indycar but the Delta Wing is truly revolutionary. Delta Wing is a consortium of Indycar team owners led by Chip Ganassi, and the car has been conceived and designed by former Lola designer and current Chip Ganassi engineer Ben Bowlby. It is a striking, low-drag design that eliminates front wings and places the front wheels close together beneath the nose.

The car has been conceived to encourage close racing and more passing. It is considerably lighter than a current Indycar – 1000lbs versus 1550lbs – and much more aerodynamically efficient. Bowlby’s numbers indicate the car could lap a superspeedway at over 230mph with less than 350 horsepower. “That should encourage a wider selection of engines, and they should be much less highly stressed too, and also able to run at lower rpm,” said Ganassi.

Delta Wing’s goal is to have multiple manufacturers build competing versions of the car once development of the prototype has been completed. The prototype is expected to be ready for testing in August and will be powered by an unspecified 2-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine making 300bhp at 7000rpm. Bowlby says a complete car should sell for as little as US$600,000.

“Our mantra was half the weight, half the drag, half the horsepower, half the cost, and the same speed,” said Ganassi. “People want to see good racing, they want high speeds and they want performance. Our aim was to achieve all these things efficiently with half the horsepower. We’ve had a lot of people look at it in simulation, and verified with different engineers that it will do what the simulation says. Obviously everybody wants to see it run to see how it works out in reality.”

Ganassi added that Delta Wing hopes to encourage multiple car builders by creating an open-source data bank. “We’re going to have a Linux-style open-source way of doing business where any of the current manufacturers, Dallara or Lola or Swift, can be involved,” he said. “It’s not a one-make series. This will only be a one-make series on day one with the prototype; after that you’ll have multiple manufacturers and lots of iterations of the car along the way.”

Fellow team owner Roger Penske said: “Honda’s been a big partner and so has Dallara, and we don’t need a political battle with some car owners wanting a Delta Wing and others wanting to stay the traditional way. I think if we wait a year and push it out to 2013 we can race what we have. We’ve had good racing and we can keep the costs down, especially with the economy the way it is. Then Chip and those guys can get the Delta Wing developed. Once we get it on the race track it’s going to be real obvious. I think when that happens there will either be a lot of support or there won’t be.

“We need innovation. The world lives on innovation and certainly this is an opportunity. What we want to do is evaluate it properly because a knee-jerk [reaction] at this time with a new car and new engines is going to be expensive.

On the other hand, it might be something to [put] Indycar racing where it needs to be. Any innovation is positive but evaluating it properly is important.” Gordon Kirby