PRODUCTION OF NEW GENERATION ATLANTIC CAR ON SCHEDULE AS SERIES PARTNERS KEEP SWIFT PACE INDIANAPOLIS (December 20, 2005) -- While many of the new Champ Car Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama teams are busy preparing this holiday ...
PRODUCTION OF NEW GENERATION ATLANTIC CAR ON SCHEDULE AS SERIES PARTNERS KEEP SWIFT PACE
INDIANAPOLIS (December 20, 2005) -- While many of the new Champ Car Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama teams are busy preparing this holiday season for an assault on the 2006 series title, Atlantic partners Swift Engineering, Cosworth, Pi Research and others are hard at work creating the new high-tech, yet affordable open-wheel machines that will battle on the race track next season.
Production on the '06 Atlantic car, featuring an 016.a Swift chassis powered by a four-cylinder, 2.3-liter Cosworth engine capable of generating 300 horsepower, is in full swing. Now with 40 of the new Atlantic machines ordered by prospective and current teams since the future direction of the Atlantic championship was announced in late July, manufacturers are busy building the cars in order to make sure that teams can take delivery in early March.
In the design phase, engineers had a pretty clear-cut goal of what they were looking to create in the new Atlantic machine. "We were looking for a bigger, badder, faster Atlantic race car that was the least-expensive car to produce in order to keep costs down for the teams, keeping in mind that we need to meet the level of sophistication and technology that is expected in this series," said Steve Sewell, Champ Car manager of technology, who has worked closely with all of the manufacturers involved in the production of the new Atlantic.
After receiving input from many sources, including teams, competitors and series officials on specific design components of the new car, representatives from the Atlantic championship, Champ Car and Swift Engineering set out to create a machine that was slightly larger and faster than the Swift 014.a design that had been used in competition since 2002. The '06 car will be nearly eight inches longer and approximately 100 pounds heavier than the previous model with more room to accommodate taller drivers and it will include about 60 more horsepower. With the increased size and power, the new Atlantic is expected to provide a steeper challenge for the competitors in the series as it prepares them to take the next step up the development ladder to the even bigger and faster cars of the Champ Car World Series.
The challenge, of course, was to create this unique open-wheel beast at an affordable price. Working closely with their trusted manufacturing partners, Atlantic officials were able to meet their goal as they developed a car that features a chassis tagged at $79,500 and a complete running race car that costs $175,000 -- a figure considered very affordable by modern standards in auto racing.
Both the cost containment and the design of the '06 Atlantic were made easier by relying on the expertise and experience at Swift Engineering. Swift has been making Atlantic cars since 1987 and the manufacturer has produced more race-winning cars (174) than any other chassis designer in the 32-year history of Atlantics. By using the engineering knowledge gained over the years and starting with the solid base of design from the 014.a chassis, Swift was able to get a head start on the production of the new 016.a. "We started out testing a derivative of the current car," said Swift Chief Design Engineer Chris Norris. "By having a good starting point it's helped make the car easier to produce and it certainly helps with the cost of production."
After weeks of development on the newly-designed Atlantic car, mass production has begun at the Swift plant in California. Wind-tunnel testing is continuing at Swift and various static tests on the new car will be performed in late January while Norris believes that the tests will be "a validation of the expected performance of the new car, confirming all of the wind-tunnel data that's been accumulated." The static tests will also allow Swift engineers to make any final tweaks or adjustments before the first official running test of the new generation Atlantic, expected to take place in California during the first week of February. In the meantime, engineers at Cosworth are busy performing endurance tests on the new Atlantic 2.3-liter engine to ensure its reliability and performance. A top speed for the new car won't be determined until it hits the track, but officials estimate it will be capable of speeds between 170 and 180 mph.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle facing the manufacturers in the production process is simply time. Swift and Atlantic officials have agreed to provide 2006 Atlantic teams with all 40 of their pre-ordered cars by March 8. In order to meet that deadline, Swift has increased its workforce and accelerated its production schedule. Between 50 and 60 people are working full-time on the Atlantic project six days a week at Swift, producing between six to nine racing tubs per week. "The coffee pot never really gets cold," said Norris.
Series officials have no concerns over meeting the stated delivery date to teams and there's no question that communication between all of the manufacturers involved in the design and production has been the key to keeping the entire process on pace. From the chassis production at Swift to the engine performance at Cosworth to all of the electronics, wiring and data collection provided by Pi Research to the shocks produced by Dynamic Suspension, the brakes provided by Performance Friction and the wheels and tires manufactured by BBS and Yokohama respectively, everyone has to be on the same page. "There is literally an on-going, daily exchange of information among everyone involved," said Norris.
All of the hard work from the production process will pay off when teams take delivery of their cars and the new fleet of Atlantics will begin to take shape. While most teams are expected to travel to Swift to take possession of the cars, others will simply have their Atlantic kits shipped to them at their race shops. From there, it's up to the competitors. "Once they take possession, it becomes a matter of assembly and understanding all the parts of the car," said Sewell. "At that point the teams will start making the basic engineering decisions that will determine the performance of the car."
In order to give teams ample time to get adapted to the new Atlantics, series officials have scheduled an unprecedented number of open test sessions early in the season. The first opportunity for teams to see the '06 Atlantic in action will come during the only testing session allowed for the new car before the season-opening race at Long Beach, April 7-9. The series will host a two-day sanctioned open test at the California Speedway road course, March 21-22. Two additional open tests have also been scheduled. California's Buttonwillow Raceway will host a three-day test open to all series participants from April 24-26, between Round 1 on the series schedule in Long Beach and Round 2 in Houston on May 13. Portland International Raceway will be the site of the final open test, scheduled for June 14, just days before Round 4 takes place at the same venue. Each team will also have two additional test days to use between April 10 and June 13, with series rookie drivers eligible for two supplemental test days during that same time frame. By restricting the amount of testing from the time the cars are delivered, the series can ensure that all competitors will be on a level playing field with the new machines.
With so much new information being generated about the new car as the production process continues, series officials have made a concerted effort to keep all of the prospective 2006 Atlantic teams as informed as possible on the development of the new Atlantic and any competition issues for 2006. A total of four series production updates and status reports have already been delivered to the teams and Sewell believes the series will generate at least one update per month until the March delivery date.
Although no one can truly be sure what to expect of the new generation Atlantic car until it experiences its first taste of competition when the green flag flies in Long Beach, those who have helped design and now produce the car are proud of what they're building and where it's going.
"It's going to be a very attractive looking car," said Norris. "And we think it has the potential to provide very close and entertaining racing to all ends of the grid, keeping with the strong tradition of the Atlantic series."
The Champ Car Atlantic Championship continues to be the premier open-wheel development series in North America. The championship is noted for its long history of graduating its stars into Champ Car competition and has helped produce past Champ Car champions Paul Tracy, Jimmy Vasser, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti and Jacques Villeneuve. Champ Car 2005 competitors Alex Tagliani, Andrew Ranger and Ronnie Bremer are also established Atlantic graduates along with 2004 Champ Car Rookie of the Year and 2003 Atlantic champ A.J. Allmendinger. Beginning the 33rd season of Atlantic racing in 2006, competitors will fight for the 12-race championship and the unique $2 million Champ Car series champion's bonus. For more information on the Atlantic series, please visit www.champcaratlantic.com.