Gordon Kirby

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Ganassi’s Future Vision

Chip Ganassi’s team won 89 races and nine CART, IRL or IndyCar championships over the past 17 years. Ganassi has established himself as one of IndyCar’s top team owners and is deeply concerned about the state of the IndyCar series. “Something needs to happen soon or we’re all in trouble,” he said just before the season began. “We need multiple car builders and competition to bring the price down, get better service and to generate more excitement and interest from fans and media.”

Ganassi believes a radical approach is required to revive the chassis part of IndyCar’s equation. When he was involved with Ben Bowlby in the creation of the Delta Wing concept, Ganassi became a big believer in open-source methodology and is convinced it’s the best way forward for the sport

“We’ve got to change the approach to the way the cars are built and the way the formula works,” he said. “I believe a more radical approach is required to bring us into the 21st century. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I believe open source is the future.

“Ben and I talked a lot about the idea of adopting the open-source concept in racing. They need to have a network where one guy is developing the suspension, another developing the gearbox, another developing the aero, another developing the drive line and so on, and you lay the costs off on that. That’s the future.”

Chip outlined how he believes such a system would work. “You put a price tag on the car and say that’s the car of today. On day one, the new car is a spec car. You say here’s the car and here’s all the pieces and you publish it on the web. You also publish a parts price list.

“Then in year one, you say you can develop the suspension and driveline, but can’t touch anything else. We’re going to start slow, and the goal for prospective suppliers is to beat the existing price for that part or component.

“By February 1 you would announce your intent to be a possible supplier of suspension and driveline. By March 1 you would submit a drawing and by May 1 you would have a working prototype. You have to show your design has the wherewithal to pass the safety committee’s tests and byJuly 1 two people will be selected to develop the suspension and the driveline.

Ganassi thinks the real fun would begin in the second year of an open-source formula. “In year two we open up more of the car he said. “Maybe we open up the wings or the topside aerodynamics. We look for more areas of development and allow it to unfold year by year The open-source system would attract smart young engineers and interest from engineering schools around the world. It would make the sport relevant again, particularly to young people. It would bring in new ideas and new thinking and the competition among young engineers and prospective suppliers would lower the price and improve supply and service.

“This could be done with maybe six engineers overseeing the open-source system and the supplier approval and development process. It could be done very efficiently and it would put the sport on a new, relevant, exciting platform.”

I applaud Chip for pushing a radical concept. He’s suggesting a whole new way of running and regulating the sport, and to make it happen would require a considerable leap of faith. It would change the way sanctioning bodies do business and require them to adopt a higher level of in-house engineering.

Like any revolution it would be fraught with peril, but I share Ganassi’s worries that IndyCar is doomed to an irrelevant future if it doesn’t act. IndyCar is resistant to change, trapped in the plague of spec-car racing. Does it have the courage to embrace Ganassi’s radical idea?