Aiming for safer, lighter, and less expensive the IndyCar Series presented on Wednesday its vision of the future: a spec-built chassis which can be customized by relatively inexpensive aerodynamics "kits" and that is suitable for both road course and oval racing.
"The decisions we have made were not easy," said IndyCar Chief Executive Officer, Randy Bernard. "We tried to be cognizant of costs for the team owners while keeping in mind the fans who want change. This decision is one of the most important decisions of the decade for the IZOD IndyCar Series and its future. And with so many knowledgeable and passionate experts in the industry, it was only right to create a committee to help with these mammoth decisions -- the ICONIC Advisory Committee."
The rolling chassis (minus the engine) comes with a price tag of approximately $350,000. The add-on aero kits will be priced by IndyCar Series mandate at no more than $70,000 per unit. Engine specifications were announced previously by IndyCar, with a regulated maximum displacement of 2.4 liters for the powerplant.
The next-generation IndyCar was revealed to a packed house of owners, drivers and journalists in Indianapolis. The car, which will be dubbed the "IndyCar Safety Cell," emerged from the work of a committee of IndyCar Series experts (the ICONIC committee) whose goal was to maintain competitiveness and innovation in the open-wheel formula while improving safety, efficiency and race-ability of the chassis. Cost savings were also a part of the ICONIC committee's charge in delivering the series a raceworthy platform to open the 2012 competition year.
Dallara, the Italian manufacturer of the IndyCar "tub" that currently competes in the series, will open a new design and construction facility in Speedway, Indiana to purpose-build the new car. Much of the car (e.g., suspension, gearbox, steering) will be outsourced to manufacturers in and around Indianapolis. Engine manufacturers have yet to announce their full involvement in powering the car. The total weight of the car is expected to reach no more than 1400 pounds, nearly 200 pounds lighter than the current Dallara IndyCar with Honda Racing V-8 power.
Dallara's CEO, Andrea Pontremoli commented: "We want to thank the ICONIC Group. We worked very hard in the last 90 days to be able to answer the very thoughtful questions and we came out with innovative solutions keeping in mind safety, cost, raceability and versatility."
A tentative timeline for production of the new car would put prototypes into the hands of drivers by late 2011, with deliveries to teams in the IndyCar Series following a month to six weeks later. Open testing might proceed in early 2012, with an opening day at the track for real competition around March or April of that year. Dallara is contracted to produce the new vehicle through the year 2015.
The aerodynamic kits constitute a unique offering that IndyCar anticipates will allow "branding" of the cell. For example, a Penske Racing engineering team might create its own aero package and sell it to other teams for no more than $70,000 to create a line of Penske IndyCar's that would theoretically all be the same (if they all bore the same engine). A "kit" is defined as front and rear wings (exclusive of the nosepiece), the sidepods right and left, and the engine cover. The wings are to be configurable for use on both road courses and ovals, obviating the need for a "kit" of parts for each type of circuit. Companies mentioned as possible kit creators included names from both automobile and aircraft manufacture: Ford, GM, Boeing, Northrop.
In the words of IndyCar Vice-President of Competition Brian Barnhart, "It's an IndyCar Safety Cell, and when further kitted by someone becomes the namesake of the owner of that intellectual property."