Although we have yet to see images from Lola, in recent days we have been flooded with concept renderings of IndyCar concepts for the 2012 season. From the conventional Dallara Concept 1 to the controversial Delta Wing, let's take a look at these cars and see which one I think should be the 2012 IndyCar.
When Lola releases their images, I shall post a second entry on them and, if necessary, revisit my ultimate decision.
Splash image is courtesy of Racecar Engineering, and is an image of the wind tunnel model of the Panoz DP01's oval configuration. Not quite as nice as the road course form, is it?
All other images come courtesy of IndyCar's Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/photos.php?id=52534855847
Put simply, Dallara Concept 1 is the most conventional submission of the lot. In some ways this is good, in some ways not.
The Good: It looks like the current car if you replaced everything questionable about it's aesthetics with some more pleasing to the eye, and it also looks like it may be intended to use the same aero package on all types of tracks - that would certainly help keep the costs down.
The Bad: It's still very similar to what we have right now, which will likely not be good for getting ex-fans back to the sport.
The Whatever: It's either one of the best ideas of we've seen so far, or it's the worst. But I'd say it's at the top of the "take a closer look" pile for the series.
Holy IndyCars, Batman! Say hello to our first "revolutionary" design. Exposed engine, semi-wingless, smooth flowing lines... It's not the nicest car that's ever been seen, but it'll turn heads.
The Good: It's different, VERY different, and in an unquestionably good way. Although some may contest that this is an "open-wheeled" car, I say it just meets the bill. It's very smooth, and I can see these cars easily able to run close together. The exposed engine is also good for cooling and engine suppliers that want to promote what's powering the car.
The Bad: Depending on your POV, the exposed engine could also be considered a bad thing. Despite it's good points, there's also the possibility that it could have a very bad effect on the aerodynamics. Maybe not enough to affect the car its on, but what about the car that trails behind?
The Whatever: This car is without a doubt the car that should be on the top of the IRL's list when it comes to considering revolutionary cars.
Back to an evolutionary rather than revolutionary design. Dallara Concept 2 is both familiar and new. But is it a good one?
The Good: It's not ugly. Like Concept 1, it looks like the current car with all the ugly bits replaced with good ones.
The Bad: While it's a step up in the looks department, it also looks like the sole purpose of it was to look better than the current car. Not a good idea when designing racecars. It also looks like we're stepping backwards to CART's heydays. Not a bad thing in and of itself, but we need to move FORWARD and looking back to CART for anything other than what the schedule should be is not a great idea.
The Whatever: Nice car, but it needs to be dumped in the trash can. The IndyCar Series of the future should not look old-school.
Another evolutionary design, this is by far my favorite cars of the lot in the aesthetics department. It's pretty much Swift's Formula Nippon car with oval aerodynamics and an exposed engine. I can just see Swift adopting the same aero package as used in FN for the road courses.
The Good: We know the Swift 017.n/FN09 Formula Nippon car is capable of close racing on road courses, so we already know this car can adopt an aero package that will make for GREAT road racing. The lighting system would add a nice new dynamic, as well. The fact that Swift would only need to develop the oval package will help significantly to reduce costs.
The Bad: Road course specific designs generally don't translate too well to oval conversions - just take a look at the image on the first slide to see what the Panoz DP01 would have been reduced to looking like had it's oval package been developed(the inverse is also true, but the current Dallara has indicated oval-to-road-course may be a bit easier of a conversion). Picking this design could have serious repercussions down the road.
The Whatever: But it may be worth the risk. This design is evolutionary enough to minimize the questions, whilst revolutionary enough to attract new attention. This car must be closely considered.
The most revolutionary of Dallara's designs.
The Good: Like Dallara's other two designs, it's not ugly. It looks like an IndyCar, but it looks very different. It'll turn heads and I'm sure it'd perform well.I theorized that Concept 1 MIGHT be designed to use one aero package on all tracks, but this car is CLEARLY meant to do so.
The Bad: It may not be ugly, and it may look like an IndyCar, but.... It just doesn't look like it belongs at Indianapolis. Or Mid-Ohio. It looks like a scaled-up Formula 500 car with a wing. It looks like a club racer. It also looks like it was thrown out by Dallara just to prove they're thinking revolution just as much as evolution, and Dallara's good designs indicate that they're not.
The Whatever: This design should be ignored. It's too meh for the future IRL formula, and I get the feeling Dallara doesn't want to use this one, either.
What? You're SURPRISED I saved the controversial one for last? Give me a break, you knew I'd do it.
The Delta Wing has driven a bit of a wedge between the existing fanbase. The only consistent attitude is that nobody would want it adopted straight out of the box - even the most supportive would rather see a prototype run and prove itself before they picked it for certain.
The Good: Extremely revolutionary, extremely different, and extremely head-turning. Despite the wedge in the existing fanbase, many people(both haters and supporters) have shown pictures of the car to non-race fans, and gotten almost universally POSITIVE reactions. The general public seems to at least want this car to turn some laps, and many people have said it would make them start watching IndyCars if they adopted it.
Despite the fanbase split over it, the car is proving to be able to do EXACTLY what they wanted it to do: Bring exposure to IndyCar.
The Bad: Look at it. Please pardon the crassness of this comparison, but it's a dildo with a vertical stabilizer. You could probably fix that just by mounting the front wheels a little outward with some ramp-like bodywork to keep the airflow smooth, though. There's also obvious questions about how it could turn, as well as Ben Bowlby's downforce information.
The Whatever: But we aren't racecar design experts. This car MUST be put on the track. It MUST be given a chance to prove itself, regardless of whether or not the IRL has any intention of accepting it. It MUST be given a chance to prove it's concepts, for one simple reason. It may not be the IndyCar of 2012, but if it proves itself then it will only drive Swift, Lola, and Dallara to make their car the best it can be to prove passing on it was not a bad idea.
So, I've listed four concepts(Dallara Concept 1, both Swifts, and the Delta Wing) that should be given serious consideration. Which one do I think should be chosen? Well, here we go...
#4: Delta Wing. Sadly, as important as this car is, I have to leave it off the podium. Watching the sims that Delta Wing provided, the design has grown on me and I would definitely watched if it performed as well as they claim. But sadly, the current fanbase is too caught up in aesthetics to realize how badly a car like this could be needed. And we need a car that will attract new fans AND hang onto the old. Delta Wing does half the job. It's REAL benefits are the ones we still get if it's not chosen - incentive for what is picked to be made as good as it can possibly be made.
#3: Dallara Concept 1. If I was rating solely on aesthetics, this car would be #2. But aesthetics only stop the channel surfers for a moment, they don't keep them watching. Good racing is what keeps the fans - just look at Grand-Am. The Daytona Prototype is the closest any racecar has ever come to being universally considered ugly, but the ratings and track attendance climb every year. What worries me most about Dallara Concept 1 is that the racing will be TOO similar to what we have. That's not a bad thing in itself, but the new car needs to make the racing slightly better, unless that is completely impossible.
#2: Swift #23. If this were an aesthetics contest, this car would be #1. The benefits of Swift #23 are obvious - most of it's aerodynamics are a known factor thanks to Formula Nippon, and since it would only be slightly altered from said car it would be able to enter production VERY cheaply and VERY quickly. I'd be willing to bet this car could be ready for rollout in 2011 if it were chosen!
And of course, #1: Swift #32/33. It's not the most radical. It's not the best looking. But it's new, sharp, eye-catching, and smooth. It's forward-thinking while maintaining familiar aesthetic details. If done right, it will be everything that IndyCar needs.
So we've reached the end of the analysis and come to the conclusion that the 2012 IndyCar Series need Swift #32/33. But that's not all that needs to be said.
Remember how I said the Delta Wing MUST be given track time to prove itself? Well, even without it, it's shown us some things that the Swift 018.i or whatever it ends up being called will need to adopt for certain. These are the things Swift must do in reverse order if importance:
4: Contract out certain components.
Delta Wing's plan is to have different components of the car built by different companies, so the teams can all choose their own supplier for each part and build their Delta Wing in partnership with the companies they see fit. Allowing for a non-spec series that still has cheap, mostly-identical cars. If the chassis costs of Swift's design can be kept down while applying this idea to certain components, it should be done.
3: If a radical solution is necessary, do it.
The concept as wee see it will not likely be perfectly replicated in the final product(even the Panoz DP01 had noticeable alterations from it's initial renderings), and some areas may need to be heavily altered to work right. It may be tough to get some areas to work right, but if you HAVE to make a drastic change to build the car you NEED to make, do it.
2: Non-stressed engine.
One of the most important aspects of the Delta Wing's concept is to have a non-stressed engine so that a wide variety of engines can be easily fit into the car. With an apparent need to have only one chassis in the series, it is imperative that we keep the engine aspect open enough to appeal to ANYONE who might want in. A non-stressed engine construction, while not exactly a forward-thinking idea, is the best, cheapest way to achieve this.
1: No more than 6 cylinders.
Relevancy is becoming more important in current times, and never before in automotive history has racing in general been LESS relevant than it is right now. Relevancy isn't just something to help racing save the planet, it's also a helpful cost-cutting measure. Turbocharged 4-cylinders and V6s can be built to produce the kind of power IRL needs very easily, and can be reliable while doing it. By not allowing more than 6 cylinders, it will cost engine suppliers less money to come into the series, which gives them a better chance at getting good value for their investment - which makes it even more appealing.
NASCAR is only just about to bring fuel injection to the series. IndyCar has a real chance to trump NASCAR by showcasing far more effectively what companies like GM, Honda, and Toyota are selling you. It's an angle they MUST capitalize on.
That's it, I'm done. Discuss below, and let's start thinking a little more positively about the future of the IZOD IndyCar Series. I think we now have good reason to curb the negativity at least a LITTLE bit.