CHAMPCAR/CART: Corby: F1 and CART car comparison

The Difference Between Darren Manning's CART and his BAR Formula One Car Formula One is a familiar sight on our TV screens and the sport is seen as the pinnacle of the motor sport world. CART Champ Cars are very similar in shape to their...

The Difference Between Darren Manning's CART and his BAR Formula One Car

Formula One is a familiar sight on our TV screens and the sport is seen as the pinnacle of the motor sport world. CART Champ Cars are very similar in shape to their Formula One cousins, but there are a number of significant differences under that Champ Car carbon fibre skin.

The first and biggest difference between the cars is that in Formula One, every team designs and builds their own chassis and often their own engine too. In contrast, CART teams buy and fine tune 'off the peg' chassis, in the case of team St. George, from the British makers Lola, fitted with a Ford Cosworth engines. This gives a much more cost-effective racing formula and closer racing.

The UK motorsport industry has a heavy influence on America's premier open wheeled championship. All of the cars are made by either Lola in Huntingdon or Reynard in Brackley and all the Ford engines are made at Cosworth Racing in Northampton.

The unlimited budgets of teams in Formula One give them an advantage in technical innovations such as carbon fibre brakes. This component alone can enable those cars to brake much deeper into the turns than Champ Cars. That one advantage means that on a road course like Silverstone, a Formula One car would probably be about seven seconds, or ten miles per hour faster on each lap. Of course, on the banked oval the CART drivers barely brake, so that difference would be a lot smaller.

The engines used in both series produce similar power, currently around 800-850 bhp. The engines used in CART though, produce their power at slightly lower revs; 14,500 versus the higher-revving F1 engines which peak around 18,500 rpm.

This power is also produced in a different way. CART regulations limit engine capacity to 2.65 litres and engine configuration to a maximum of eight cylinders with four valves per cylinder, but allow turbo charging and high-octane alcohol-based methanol fuel. This is a bit like tipping neat vodka into your fuel tank, but it also has an additional safety factor in that, unlike petrol it can be extinguished with water.

F1 regulations allow engines to have a larger 3.0 litre capacity, with a configuration of 10 cylinders and a maximum of five valves per cylinder, but ban all types of turbocharging and the rules limit fuel to commercial low-lead gasoline. This means that the fuel in the tank of Darren's BAR test car is virtually identical to what you put into your road car.

CART engines are significantly heavier than their F1 counterparts because of the turbocharger and the additional bulk required to handle the stresses from turbo charging and the methanol fuel. In CART the fuel tank can hold a maximum of 35 US gallons, while in F1 onboard fuel capacity is theoretically unlimited.

The shapes of the two cars are defined by the different types of courses that they run. The Formula One car is shorter and narrower, with bigger airfoils to generate additional aerodynamic downforce and hence grip through the tighter corners of the road course. Surprisingly, a Formula One car generates a huge amount of 'drag'. The cD figure, the unit of measurement of aerodynamic drag is around 0.35 for most road cars. In a Formula One car the cD figure is close to 1.0.

The CART car, in its oval racing format has smaller wings, a longer sleeker appearance and wider-track suspension. All are designed to maximise stability and minimise drag for continued running at around 4 miles a minute. The cD figure of a CART car is almost identical to that of an efficient road car. The majority of the CART car's grip is generated through its slick tyres by a combination of the aerodynamic downforce and the centrifugal forces of the 7.9-degree banked corners at Rockingham. Here a CART car generates a loading around 4g every 3 -- 4 seconds.

So, would a Formula One car be faster than the Team St. George CART car around the 1.5 mile, four corner Rockingham 'oval'? Maybe, maybe not, but if one were to try to beat the current 24.7 second lap record, an average of over 215 mph, we'd all want to be there to see it try!

<pre> BAR Formula 1 Car Team St. George Champ Car

Top Speed         225 mph (approx)                              240 mph (approx)
Engine            3 Litre - Normally aspirated -- V10           2.65 litre - Turbocharged - V8
Horsepower        830 (approx)                                  800 (approx)
Gearbox           Automatic -- up to 7 gears                    Manual -- up to six gears
Fuel              Unleaded Racing Petrol                        Methanol
Traction Control  Allowed                                       Allowed
Tyres             Grooved Slicks (Bridgestone or Michelin)      Ungrooved Slicks (Bridgestone)
Wheelbase         Between 106 and 120 inches (269-305cm)        Between 120 and 126 inches (305-320cm)
Min Weight        1322.77 Ibs (601.25kg) with driver            1550 Ibs (704.54kg) without driver
Max Length        Between 170 and 180 inches  (432-457cm)       Between 190 and 199 inches (483-505cm)
Max Height        37.43 inches (93.6cm)                         38.5 inches (97.8cm)
Max Width         70.87 inches (177.2cm)                        78.5 inches (196.3cm)


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About this article
Series Formula 1 , IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning