The IZOD IndyCar Series has announced its choice for the future of the series. On Wednesday at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, CEO Randy Bernard announced that Dallara Automobili will be a partner with the series going forward with a new chassis.
Bernard joined the series in early 2010 after spending 15 years making the Professional Bull Riders series a marketable commodity. While Bernard was not familiar with the inner workings of racing when taking the job, he knew enough to establish an ICONIC committee to aid in the decision for the future chassis and engine choices the series needed for 2012.
The ICONIC committee was made up of promoters, engineers, as well as former drivers. Its goal was to choose a package that would be fast, attractive, innovative, green, and cost effective.
Wednesday's announcement for Dallara ensured cost effectiveness.
For quite some time, fans have been begging to open the series for innovation and different looking cars to avoid a spec series. The open format for engine manufacturers placated this to an extent, and Wednesday's announcement took it a step further.
While Dallara was the only manufacturer mentioned during the announcement, the details allow for anyone to come into the series and design a car. The committee announced that Dallara will be building a rolling safety tub, and that any manufacturer, team, or designer can develop aero packages to attach to the tub and change the look of the car.
The rolling safety tub will be called the IndyCar Safety Cell.
The options in the aero package will include front and rear wings, sidepods, and engine covers. Swift, BAT, DeltaWing, and Lola—the other chassis choices—are free to participate in building aero packages. The official name of the design will be the aero package name, plus IndyCar. So if Lola makes a package, the car will be known as the Lola IndyCar on the badging.
While many fans wanted multiple chassis concepts, this approach allows the series to control costs, while also allowing for different cars and concepts. The cost of the Dallara tub will be $349,000, a 45 percent decrease from the current cost. In addition, the maximum cost of the aero packages will be $70,000. When you add in that any engine leases will be reduced in cost, the overall price of the car will be under a million dollars. This will make the series much more affordable for entrants.
"We have dramatically lowered the barrier to entry for a manufacturer or a technical company who would like to get involved in this series. We have given them a route to concentrating on the main performance differentiator, which is the aerodynamics body work," said Tony Purnell, ICONIC committee member who had previously worked in F1 and for Ford's Premiere Performance Division.
The series answered many questions on Wednesday with its new chassis announcement, but many more questions were left unanswered. The same occurred when the committee announced that the new engine would be a 2.4L engine with a maximum of six cylinders. Questions regarding the producers, cost, and the power output of these engines were not answered.
Even more questions that were raised by this announcement will be answered over the next 18 months, before the start of the 2012 season. Those questions include: Who will make the packages? Will the cars go faster? How many different package options will there be? Will this bring major manufacturers?
What we do know for sure is that teams will only be able to use two kits per year. These kits will have a road and oval version is the current understanding, and must cost less than $70,000 and be available to every team.
If Roger Penske decides to build a top aero package, he must offer it to other teams.
What will make this restriction particularly interesting is Indianapolis. Indianapolis is the most unique course in the world, let alone the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule. If the plan is to only allow two kits, will the teams use one kit in only Indianapolis?
The purse is the highest and the race is the most viewed and attended on the schedule. There are also plenty of one-off teams that only race at Indianapolis. Will they have the advantage over teams running the whole season because they can specially design their packages? This will be answered over time.
My advice for the series would be to exclude Indianapolis from this restriction, allowing for even more innovation at Indianapolis and pleasing fans in the process.
Lola was my favorite because I liked the design, but it also had a common tub for the IndyCar Series and the Firestone Indy Lights series. My hope is that this will also be available for the current Dallara chassis.
Essentially, the committee took the ideas of all the designs and incorporated them into a single tub that can be used in many ways. It took the open source idea from Delta Wing, the common tub theory (if it is) from Lola, the aero package changes from Swift, and the Indiana theory from BAT. Dallara was the most capable of producing the car at the cost the committee wanted, so it was chosen to build the tub.
Dallara will open a new facility on Main Street in Speedway, IN, creating 80 new jobs.
In addition to this, Mitch Daniels, Indiana's governor, announced that Dallara has been granted some tax incentive, which it will use to foster Indiana business. The first 28 cars that are sold to Indiana based teams will receive a $150,000 discount, meaning they can buy the tubs for just under $200,000.
By combining all the choices it has made into its "new car strategy," the IZOD IndyCar Series has given hope for the future of the series.
However, it has not ensured that it will be bright.
There is still plenty of work ahead of the IndyCar Series in convincing multiple aero and engine packages, as well as future growth of the series in events and sponsorship. The series appears to be going down the right road, and the partnership with Dallara will ensure the IZOD IndyCar Series will be able to continue to be fast, innovative, and cost effective; the main goals of the ICONIC car.
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