Almost a year after the Indy Racing League launched a world-wide search for a new chassis to take its premier IZOD IndyCar series forward it has decided that the old one — at least the old one with some significant upgrades — will do just fine.
The IRL chose to stay with Italian manufacturer Dallara’s design that has been the mainstay of the series for the past five years.
This after a high-level group that included former Indy 500 winner and current team owner Gil de Ferran, Texas Motor Speedway promoter Eddie Gossage and president of competition and racing operations for the IndyCar series Brian Barnhart studied proposals from four other manufacturers — DeltaWing, Swift, BAT Engineering and Lola.
The key difference from the current model Dallara is that teams will be able to tinker with the aerodynamics of the new one. That means the IndyCar grid in 2012 could see cars that are all manufactured by Dallara but have wings, side pods and engine covers made by a different car maker.
And it all will come at a relatively inexpensive ready-to-race $385,000 US — a whopping 50% cost reduction.
It was that number that impressed the IRL more and anything else.
But de Ferran said the end results will be race car that is both lighter — by 200 pounds — and faster than the Dallaras that will race on Sunday at the Honda Indy Toronto.
“These cars will be quicker, will be more sophisticated,” he said. “I would also have to say that I was wearing the driver hat most of the time when we were talking about the performance requirements of this new IndyCar.
“To me, it’s a relatively simple matter. An IndyCar has always been a bit of a radical beast. The bottom line is not everyone can drive an IndyCar. It’s difficult, it’s challenging, it’s powerful and to me as a driver, it was very important that the future IndyCar not only retained those values, but improved to go beyond what they are today.
“So a faster car will always demand a higher level of skill from a driver.”
As for power for the new chassis, Barnhart, said the IRL, is ready to make a major change in its engine’s design from normally aspirated V-8 motors to a turbo-charged engine, not unlike the ones that used to rip around Toronto’s Exhibition Place in the Molson Indy days.
He said the turbo platform will likely be 2.4-litre, V-6 ethanol-fueled engine producing between 550 and 700 horsepower.
”It is a smaller, more efficient package than what we have currently been running which we think is relevant technology,” Barnhart said.
But he said that fans shouldn’t expect to see these new power plants overnight.
“We have no idea how that may land,” Barnhart said. “We are only 17 months from 2012, and that’s a pretty tight time frame in terms of producing and manufacturing purpose-built race engines.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed that potential exists for potential manufacturers coming on board by 2012, but we certainly are more hopeful that we will have multiples, especially by 2013.”