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The Concept of a New Chassis, Part 2

February 18, 2010
Just over a week ago, I posted a piece on the Indy Racing League’s new potential chassis designs for the 2012 season onwards. In the time since then, the Delta Wing LLC and Lola Technologies have launched drawings of their concepts to the general public and the reaction has been somewhat divided. Once again, I must point out that I am not an aerodynamicist, nor a mechanical engineer, therefore one must rely on the information given by the companies themselves with regards to the cars feasibility.
To recap, the first two constructors, Dallara and Swift launched their concepts prior to last week’s post; however my opinion has not changed. While Dallara have served the IRL well in the last ten years, the launch was poor – three drawings of pretty cars with no details did not sell it to me at all. As a fan, I would like to know something about the concept, why they believe it will work and how they think it will fit into a motor racing world that will change beyond recognition due to increasing environmental and economic concerns – these are two issues that will not go away and Dallara have barely attempted to acknowledge them.
Swift did not delve too much into the economics of their car theory; although they did state that it would be much cheaper than the current Dallara that is in use, which right now is vitally important to the salvation of the series – it can be somewhat difficult to have a Championship if no one is around to take part. One of the great distractions about the Swift theory is that it would have fluid images on the car that would display car position, sponsors and throttle/brake usage on the sidepod and airbox. Quite frankly these options are irrelevant and add very little to the car (besides, will you be busy checking it out as it passes by you at 230 miles-per-hour?) Reiterating what I pointed out last week, it should be about: 

  1. Safety,
  2. Good Racing and;
  3. Economy.

Flashy elements often distract, but mostly deliver little. How about we focus on how the car races, shall we – that is surely the most important point. Swift’s PDF about their 2012 concept can be downloaded from here; it is definitely worth at least a look.

I rushed home last week to (just) miss the launch of the Delta Wing Project and I must admit that I didn’t think I was going to looking at pictures of an updated Batmobile and Homer Simpson’s Supercar. Well maybe that’s a little harsh, but while I believe the aesthetics of the machinery involved is largely unimportant, there also needs to be some semblance of beauty with these cars, otherwise they become difficult to watch.
Of course, overtime people would get used to the Delta Wing concept, but it also seemed like a step too far too soon; however I would love to see this idea re-emerge a few years down the line with more thoughts towards its appearance.
As for the mechanics of the concept itself, the Delta Wing is an interesting prospect. A design premise with interchangeable parts is an intriguing idea and definitely a first and is something that I would love to see explored. From my limited knowledge, the downforce looks as if it may generated by the compressed air inside the sidepods and the undertray. Although the car may appear to have a tiny turn-in capability, it could potentially lean in slightly like a motorbike, but it just looks as if it could struggle around the low speed corners; but until a finished unit is out testing, we may not know for sure. One thing is known though – the chassis is to be decided in May and the Delta Wing concept may not be ready for track testing until July or August leaving a potential quandary there.
The Delta Wing wins in terms of economics and environment concerns though. With all aerodynamic grip coming from the sidepods and undertray, the Delta Wing will not need as powerful an engine as drag will have been heavily eliminated. The designer, Ben Bowlby, informed the audience that the weight of the machine is less than half of the current car and talks of an engine with an output of 300BHP at 6,500RPM to achieve around 225-235 miles-per-hour. If his theory is correct, that would be a fantastic achievement that could revolutionise single seater motor racing across the globe; however there are many doubters about his power/weight ratio and speeds claim. Should his claim be correct though, it would also highly reduce fuel consumption as much of what is needed now would simply be unnecessary.

Last of the four to be released was Lola, which revealed itself to the world earlier on this week. In one sense, they same criticism that was levelled at Dallara can be aimed at Lola in that some pictures have been released that show a lot, but say very little. There are however minor bits of detail and their release did include a computer graphic showing airflow around and under the car, but no information as to what this does or doesn’t do – that simply isn’t good enough.
On the plus side, Lola’s concept also introduced the idea of partially sharing chassis designs the IRL’s junior series, the IndyLights; whereby the IndyLights and IRL would different in several sections of the car. Other than that, i cannot think of anything else to say about the machine.
There is bound to be an awful lot of discussion about these concepts and even more so when a decision is announced in May just prior to the Indy 500. I await with baited breath to see what will be chosen.

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