Now that the initial shock over the radical look of the DeltaWing 2012 IndyCar design proposal has worn off, industry leaders are posing more practical questions about the design, which was shown off with a non-running mock-up at the Chicago Auto Show this week.
"Today marks a fundamental shift in how race fans and the general public will view all racing cars in the future; this is a game changer," declared DeltaWing Racing Cars CEO Dan Partel. "This radical prototype takes open-wheel racing to a new level from both an engineering standpoint and the overall spectator experience."
DeltaWing chief technology officer Ben Bowlby, chief engineer for Chip Ganassi Racing and a former Lola chief designer, said by targeting reduced aerodynamic drag and lighter weight, the DeltaWing design would offer high performance on the racetrack with only half the engine power of its recent predecessors, by increasing the fuel efficiency.
Bowlby's boss is convinced that it ticks all the boxes needed for IndyCar's new era.
"Here are the key points: Half the cost of the current car, half the weight, half the drag, half the downforce, uses half the fuel, [and reaches the] same speed," Ganassi said. "Which is 230mph on 300hp. And safer than the current car."
Bowlby said he expects to "sell a complete car, including engine, for approximately $600,000." It would be built in Indianapolis, although Bowlby said DeltaWing Racing Cars would not be a chassis manufacturer. It would create a platform that would encourage multiple manufacturers and suppliers to contribute within the rules framework established by the DeltaWing concept.
Partel said he expects a prototype to be available for on-track testing in August. Interestingly, Partel says the mockup's lack of rear-view mirrors was no accident – he says the car won't have them, and that the drivers won't have difficulty judging where the rear wheels are, despite the DeltaWing's front track being so much narrower than the rear.
"Mario Andretti brought that up," Partel told AutoWeek, "and it's a valid question. But, don't you think they'd figure it out pretty quickly?"
Brian Barnhart, who as IndyCar's president of competition will play a decisive role in deciding whether the DeltaWing becomes IndyCar's future, was present at the unveiling and indicated the design was very much in play to replace the current Dallara, which has been in service since 2003, along with competing designs from Dallara, Swift and Lola. The latter is expected to release details of its designs on Monday.
"Today's unveiling gives us four exciting and competing concepts for the IZOD IndyCar Series," said Barnhart, who was joined for the occasion by Indy Racing League CEO Randy Bernard, league commercial division president Terry Angstadt, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation CEO Jeff Belskus and league vice president of marketing John Lewis, along with a number of IndyCar team owners – including former IndyCar boss Tony George.
"Each [design proposal] raises different challenges, and each offers new direction," Barnhart said. "As always, the safety of our drivers, crews and spectators is the No. 1 priority. Other factors the league has laid out are cost and economic viability, raceable, American made, less mass/more efficient, relevant technology, modern look and green. Each of the four will be evaluated using these criteria.
"We are excited by the challenge before us and now begins the process to work through each of the four contenders to decide on the program that best serves the long-term interest of the sport."
Graham Rahal, among several IZOD IndyCar Series drivers and team owners attending the launch, looked at the DeltaWing from multiple angles and attempted to mentally picture himself behind the wheel at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"The design is revolutionary," said Rahal. "We have never seen an open-wheel racing car that looks like this. Is it going to be newsworthy? Yes. Is it going to catch eyeballs? Yes. Plus, there's good space for sponsors on it.
"From a driver's point of view, from all the simulations I've heard about, the performance of the car is not going to be a concern at all."
Said Dreyer & Reinbold Racing co-owner and former Indy car driver Robbie Buhl, "From the team owner side of things, as we look to the future we have to get things in line with what the cost is to compete here. And, if we can do that, it's going to open us up to a lot more people being a part of this business, and that opens up to a greater fan base, too."