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Delta Wing without the Delta Wing: IndyCar unveils 2012 chassis strategy

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The members of the IZOD IndyCar Series ICONIC advisory committee take the stage to announce the 2012 IndyCar chassis strategy. The Dallara-built "Safety Cell" common tub is displayed in the background. (Photo: Ron McQueeney/IMS Photo)
The members of the IZOD IndyCar Series ICONIC advisory committee take the stage to announce the 2012 IndyCar chassis strategy. The Dallara-built "Safety Cell" common tub is displayed in the background. (Photo: Ron McQueeney/IMS Photo)

You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need.

Rolling Stones

The IZOD IndyCar Series continued their move towards embracing low-cost flexibility with their announcement today of their 2012 chassis strategy.

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard, accompanied by members of the ICONIC advisory panel and representatives from Dallara Automobili, took to the stage in an Apple-style presentation that took the wraps off of their new plan, which has been kept close to the vest for some time now.

Rather than choosing one of five potential new IndyCar concepts submitted by Dallara, Lola, BAT, Swift and Delta Wing, however, the series has elected to debut a rolling chassis (or "Safety Cell") designed by IndyCar and built by Dallara, augmented by "aero kits" which can be built by any manufacturer.

See the reaction to the new chassis strategy as it happened on Pop Off Valve's Live Blog!

The 2012 IndyCar (which is how the car will be identified) will also be roughly 45% cheaper for a car/engine combination than the current spec Dallara/Honda, with an additional discount from Dallara of $150,000 to the first 28 teams that buy cars and agree to base operations in Indianapolis.

Dallara will construct the common tub at a new facility being constructed in Speedway, Indiana. It is expected that Indiana will offer incentives for other manufacturers who wish to build aero kits for the new cars to do so in Indianapolis as well.

Many elements of the 2012 chassis strategy are lifted directly from the Delta Wing group's proposal. However, aesthetically the car will adhere much more closely to traditional IndyCar styling.

Multiple "aero kits" on a common "Safety Cell" rolling tub built by Dallara
(Photo: IZOD IndyCar Series

The significant features of the 2012 IndyCar are:

  • The rolling chassis manufactured by Dallara to IndyCar specifications will cost $349,000, with a complete car costing $385,000, roughly a 45% savings over current specs. A single rolling chassis will be used for both oval and street/road racing.
  • Each team can race two different aero kits from any manufacturer during the season, with a maximum price of $70,000 for each kit ("aero kits" apparently include both oval and road/street configurations). The league must approve and safety-test all aero kits, and all aero kits must be available to all teams.
  • The targeted minimum weight for the new car is 1,380 pounds, nearly 200 pounds lighter than the current formula. The actual minimum weight of the car will be determined once variables with suppliers, including engine weight, are determined.
  • The new IndyCar will feature improved visibility, head, leg and back protection and advanced padding and ergonomics. The car also pulls a rear wheel protection element from both the Delta Wing and Lola concepts cars. Called the Wheel Interlock Prevention System, it is designed to allow cars to run side-by-side while limiting the chance for wheels locking and the subsequent risk for cars getting airborne.

Overall, the new concept is aimed at significant cost savings while encouraging visual and aesthetic diversity. While the common tub will be an evolution of Dallara's battle-tested chassis, series officials hope that opening the "aero kits" to development will entice builders from all industries - not just the motorsports field.

"We are delivering the best of both worlds to our fans and teams by creating new looks in a cost-effective manner," said Tony Purnell, ICONIC committee member and founder of Pi Research. "The innovation bred by this new formula is not limited to traditional racing manufacturers. It's our goal to reach out and challenge the automotive and aerospace industries.

"Come on Ford, GM, Lotus, Ferrari. Come on Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Electric. Come on you engineers working in your garage or in small shops. We've done our best to provide a framework for all of you to showcase your technical prowess without a need for a major raid on your piggy banks. We want you guys involved, all of you."

According to series officials, because the "Safety Cell" engineered by Dallara is being designed by the series, it will not be branded a "Dallara" and will be called an "IndyCar." Each team's car branding will be based on who designs the aero kits (i.e. the #10 Target Porsche/Swift IndyCar).

Current-model Dallaras will not be grandfathered into the series in 2012, requiring all teams to purchase new inventory. Dallara's deal with the IndyCar series to build the common tub will expire in 2015.

"Once again, the ICONIC Advisory Committee has done a tremendous job to tirelessly seek opinions from manufacturers, teams, drivers and fans to devise this exciting new car strategy that best represents all the attributes that make this sport so unique and compelling," said Bernard. "This car puts everything all of our stakeholders want on the racetrack: safety, competition on and off the track, diversity, efficiency and more.

"The new car also is a cost-effective package that positions the series for tremendous growth and enhances the series' relevancy to future automotive technology, while respecting the tradition of innovation in open-wheel racing."

Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway and ICONIC committee member, had much stronger words in an interview with Nate Ryan of USA Today: ""Anyone who does not get on board and help row this boat in one direction clearly has another agenda. While I know we won't agree on everything that comes up down the road, I do know that anybody that loves IndyCar racing needs to work together from this day forward.

"[IndyCar] may be hesitant to say it, but the day is here for everybody that loves Indy car racing to link arms and help each other out. Anybody who doesn't want to do that needs to find something else to do with their time."