CHAMPCAR/CART: Panoz to supply chassis in 2007

The Champ Car World Series will have a new chassis supplier when the 2007 season begins as the company has decided to place its faith in Braselton, Georgia-based Elan Motorsports Technologies and the all-new Panoz DP01 Champ Car chassis drawn by...

The Champ Car World Series will have a new chassis supplier when the 2007 season begins as the company has decided to place its faith in Braselton, Georgia-based Elan Motorsports Technologies and the all-new Panoz DP01 Champ Car chassis drawn by EMT chief designer Simon Marshall and aerodynamicist Nicholas Alcock.

The new Panoz DP01 will accompany a redrawn Ford-Cosworth engine expected to produce an additional 25 horsepower (to 775hp) and a sequential 6-speed gearbox from a supplier as yet unnamed.

The move was confirmed by Champ Car president Steve Johnson and by Elan Motorsport Technologies (EMT) CEO David Bowes, who noted Panoz is "the world's largest chassis constructor" located in the United States. The proximity of the manufacturing plant, Bowes acknowledged, would give a better turnaround for parts and updates to the chassis.

The agreement between EMT and Champ Car is initially for three seasons and both parties hope to extend the pact farther. EMT intends to honor its other contracts with different series, including rival Indy Racing League.

These two monocoques remain completely different from one another, as the Champ cars run a turbocharged eight-cylinder Cosworth engine that lies low in the tub while the Indy cars have a normally aspirated eight-cylinder power mill which is, by its nature taller.

The new Panoz DP01 chassis will be smaller than the current Lola tub used by all competitors in both length and width; it weighs 165 pounds less than the current machine and Bowes believes this will result in "a more nimble and quicker machine that will put driver skills at a premium," he said.

Another advantage of the Panoz chassis is an onboard starter, which Johnson hopes will permit shorter yellow flag interruptions during races when a driver goes off-course. Aerodynamic upgrades to the head surround and seatback areas in addition to increased leg padding add safety to the equation.

From an initial grouping of 14 chassis makers, the list of builders was reduced seven who received a RFP (request for proposal). The list was again pared to four competitors. "Elan was the clear manufacturer of choice as we moved forward," Johnson acknowledged.

With two builders remaining in the running, Champ Car officials found the Panoz most to their liking from many standpoints, including cost containment. The new chassis will cost approximately 35 percent less than the current tub and 50 percent reduction to the costs of consumables is expected to follow suit.

Director of technology for the Champ Car World Series, Scot Elkins revealed the intense study that went into the choice of EMT as the new chassis constructor: "The criteria we had was multifaceted. Obviously the main purpose of this project was to reduce the operating costs for our teams; this economic environment has required that."

Among the other items Elkins examined were location of the constructor, their technical capabilities and history of each manufacturer. "We looked at each facility and we made visits to every facility and did very detailed studies of what was good and bad. We looked and noticed that the Elan guys are ISO 9000 [approved] and they have a huge quality reputation. A lot of those things fit into this decision," Elkins confirmed.

The weight savings of 165 pounds comes from many different areas, Bowes delineated. "The current car is around 127 or 128 inches long in the wheelbase. The new car will be some four or five inches shorter than that. [We] target around 123 inches wheelbase. It will have a narrower track: we are thinking of reducing the track by three inches each side," he explained.

"We want to keep the side pods about the same width, though because that will help to avoid some of the wheel interlocking issues that might occur at the moment," Bowes said. "The car is smaller deliberately, because it's a nimble car. The intention is to retain its abilities and its performance and to improve them on the street circuits."

Because the Champ Car World Series is a one-make chassis (and engine) series, Bowes believes EMT has "the chance to deliver, against the criteria in a way that's aerodynamically good for racing. We'll use the underbody in its very fullest sense to deliver the downforce requirements that have been set, supply more aggressive tunnels, vortex generations, rear diffusers.

"These can be used to deliver a lot more downforce than is currently allowed within the regulations and that, in turn allows us to reduce the size of front and rear wing loadings. The net effect of that is to actually deliver the same or more downforce but with much more turbulent wake," he decreed.

Elan intends to get the new chassis to prototype stage, ready for testing in July or August of 2006. The design is currently in concept stage. "What does the car look like, what is its weight, size, performance, aerodynamics, downforce, drag, etcetera," Bowes said. The second stage is tunnel testing with a 50 percent wind tunnel model.

Pursuing a program of aerodynamic development in the tunnel, "We'll also be using our CFD techniques (computational fluid dynamics) which will go alongside of the tunnel program. The first end result of all this is that we intend to build a prototype chassis, which we intend to get running on the track around July of next year. That way, we can prove out the chassis in a prototype stage before we go into full production," Bowes said.

In conjunction with engine builder Cosworth and with the [unnamed] gearbox supplier EMT expects to put about a thousand kilometers of testing on the DP01 between July and August of next year.

"We'd work together to prove that the systems each work and together they all work. This is a very thorough and a very robust development process. Following a sign-off at the prototype stage, we then get into production proper." It is customary for chassis development to take between 12 and 18 months for fruition.

The prospect of added power to the 2.65-liter turbocharged Cosworth engine that has been operating with 1200-mile consistency has Elkins excited. "Right now we're still in the development process of working with Cosworth to see exactly what we can get out of this thing without hampering the reliability and engine life we currently have now.

"Ideally we'd like to get more power; we'd like to tweak the "power to pass" to where we maybe bump that up a little bit but we're not sure. We're still developing that. The other issue is we'd like to update some of the engine electronics to take advantage of new technology available in the current marketplace."

Cosworth's vice president Ian Biscoe is excited about the possibilities of the new package. "We have had great success with our XFE engine over the last three seasons, building a strong powerplant that has shown equality in performance and tremendous reliability. We expect to have even greater successes with Champ Car in the years to come," he alluded.

The new Panoz DP01 chassis retains the low sides of the current car with the high nose and extended side pods. "It will look like the Champ Car our fans recognize and it will sound like the Champ Car they love," Johnson confirmed. "This combination benefits Champ Car by providing not only a strong package for our current teams but also by giving prospective teams an opportunity to be competitive right away."

The Newman/Haas team currently leading this year's championship chase believes that, "Assuming the CCWS ran the same aerodynamic package in 2007, the Surfers Paradise track remains the same and minor mechanical parts of the car were slightly changed to adapt to the new engine/chassis configuration," surmised engineer Tom Smith, "the 2007 cars would be 2.1 seconds quicker and 3.1mph faster on this course than they currently are."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Steve Johnson , Tom Smith