2012 IndyCar Prototypes Arrive At Speedway

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An initial concept for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series new racer has broken cover on the yard of bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Actually, there were two rolling chassis - dubbed the IndyCar Safety Cell by builder Dallara Automobili - placed on this sacred ground just two days before Rookie Orientation Program begins.

Dallara brought together both an oval concept car and a road/street course model that will be on display at the track's Pagoda area throughout the month of May, leading up to the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 on May 29th.

Project manager Tony Cotman wanted to show that the two vehicles - very different looking indeed - are the same chassis underneath.  "There is a lot of room for aerodynamic kit development and that's what this platform is all about," he said, "allowing people the freedom to design as they wish, dream as they wish and come up with a superior product than others.  That's what drives competition."

With initial testing scheduled to begin the first week of August, and with Dallara's assembly factory now starting to break ground just blocks from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, aero components are being finalized and wind tunnel testing is ongoing at Dallara's Parma, Italy factory.  The new chassis will fit all three engine makers' turbocharged offerings: Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus.

"The display cars are mockups of some of the things we could be doing on these cars," Sam Garrett, Dallara's US-based quality control leader explained.  "We have a plan and it's all coming together.  About 95 percent of the parts of the car are in production and we'll be assembling the prototype car shortly.  By August, we'll already have to be into the production run for the first 30 or 40 cars and parts."

Dallara are particularly proud of the cost reduction in the new car, which has an initial purchase price of $349,000.  This includes everything but the seat and steering wheel and does include one set of suspension pieces.

The current car, Garrett said, has a "road course suspension and a completely separate oval suspension.  On the new car, the package is the same" for both types of race circuits.  "You need to change the left-side camber between the two, but that's it.  Teams will have to do a lot of setup work and maybe tweak some of the aero stuff, and maybe some of the things used on road courses won't be used on ovals, but it's a much easier transition."

This means less inventory for teams and less maintenance for the hard-working mechanics that keep these machines on the racetrack.  "With only one set of suspension and uprights, that is a lot less spares that you have to carry, and the spares you do have on the truck will be applicable at every race," Garrett noted.

The current car has been a compromise since it was introduced in 2003.  At that time, the IndyCar Series was an all-oval racing game with three different types of ovals: short, medium and long.  Then came road-course and street-circuit racing that meant Dallara needed to have a wide range of aerodynamics and mechanics on the cars that had to be covered.  "It's a continuous challenge to build one car to do it all, but we're on the way to seeing that for 2012."

© 2011 Anne Proffit

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