IndyCar – The BAT Project

Bruce Ashmore, Alan Mertens and Tim Wardrop, all with serious design and engineering credentials in IndyCar racing, have put together a concept for the 2012 IndyCar Chassis. Calling themselves BAT Engineering, BAT for Bruce, Alan, and Tim, the trio have created a concept that started not with a discussion amongst aerodynamicists, but with Dr. Trammell and and other Indy Racing League safety officials. The first goal of the chassis was to be safe, which leads the concept to have very wide sidepods and closely protected wheels. The second objective was to make the car as aerodynamically efficient as possible within the classic confines of an open-wheel race car. Their intent was not only to minimize downstream turbulence in the wake of the car, but also to maximize the fuel efficiency of the car. Lastly, they promise to make all of the components for the car within a 30-mile radius of Indianapolis. The actual details from the press release are a bit sketchy, but the group promises to release more information about the design soon. In the meantime, lets evaluate what we do know in light of the league’s objectives as we have with the previous four chassis announcements.

Making the Grade

Raceability: B+
Given the protected nature of the wheels, and the long and wide sidepods, there should be very little concern about tread-to-tread contact, which can be disastrous in open-wheel racing. Amongst the other features of the chassis is a promise of more stable aero and less turbulence. This is what is needed to in order for cars to follow closely after one another and allow for close nose-to-tail and side-by-side racing. If BAT Engineering can make good on their promises of providing cleaner, more stable, more efficient aerodynamics, then their chassis could be very racy. I don’t wish to cast too much doubt on these three gentlemen, as they’re credibility as designers and engineers of IndyCars is supported by six Indianapolis 500 Mile Race wins, and thirteen CART championships! That said, though, without more information about the nature of the chassis, I’m not comfortable giving the car full marks in this category. I suspect that when more details are released as the press release promises, we’ll be able to comfortably move this up to a full A, but for now I’ll be conservative with a high B.

Modern Look: C
The design is an evolution of the classic open-wheel layout that we’ve seen since the early 70s. Yes, its curvier than the current car, but it really isn’t anything modern or forward-looking. Part of the league’s mandate along with the modern look was that the new chassis has better sponsorship visibility. This car has a lot of surface area, but most of that area is horizontal rather than vertical. A creative individual could certainly make use of that area, but the actual sidepods offer very little in the way of usable surface for decals.

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12 Thoughts to “IndyCar – The BAT Project

  1. Alan Turner

    I see expensive appendages that will not be cheap. Plus it’s ugly. It looks like a poorly constructed replica model. Sort of like a slot car that the designer had to distort the dimensions on in order to get the required motor and brushes to work. The Galmer might have worked much better had it been developed bug it was the ugliest car of it’s day.

    The Galmer had a “unique” design attribute. It dumped the exhaust gasses straight into the underwing tunnels. This mostly had unintended consequences on most tracks but was probably a huge asset on the day of it’s biggest win. It was so cold at Indy in ’92 that I wonder if this “design feature” was what made to car manageable for Lil Al that day.

    In any event. I don’t see this car really solving the “racing issues” despite the fact that you give it a B+ with hopes of a higher grade. I think that while it may be safe (both in the prevention of accidents and in accidents that inevitably will occur) the actual on track action will be poor at best.

  2. Alan, I have to say that you’re not convincing me that this design will not foster good racing. I understand what you mean about the Galmer, but I’m not seeing it’s relevance here. The biggest inhibitor of close nose-to-tail racing is the horribly turbulent wake the current chassis has. If BAT Engineering can achieve their promised aerodynamic goals, then this design should have a very low punt of drag and a much cleaner wake. This will allow a trailing car to rain more stable and foster closer racing.

    I do agree that the illustraions look oddly disproportionate and that the rear diffuser shroud and barge boards aft of the front wheels seem like they’d be parts that would succumb to damage often. This certainly isn’t my favorite of the five proposals, but I don’t think it fails due to it’s racability.

  3. Alan Turner


    The Galmer is not relevant to this new car. Just an historical side note. But, since you say you understand can you tell me why the design of the Galmer might have been an advantage that day and why under other circumstances it was the cars achilies heal?

    I think the point that I’m not doing a very good job making is that none of the proposals out side of the Delta address the two primary causes of turbulent air in the wake of virtually every winged open wheel race car. And those two causes are the wings and the wheels.

    With the “barge board” solutions I see huge expense(initial) and fragility(crash damage repair expense). Plus, since none of these designers have a great deal of experience “shaping” the air by using these devices I am not convinced of their ability to reduce drag from the wheels with out creating more dirty air or being unduly effected by dirty air themselves.

    The other aspect that every single proposal has but the delta is wings. Wings are second only to wheels in creating turbulent air and are grossly expensive. The tiny little things that sit atop the COT in NAPCAR world are in excess of $5K. Every one of these proposals has a relatively complex wing design that is sure to cost considerably more than the one on the COT. Price a road course front wing on the current Dallara lately? It too is rather simple in it’s design and construction complexity.

    Plus wheels and wings create LOTS of drag. Which translates into lots of power needed to propel them through the air. Lots of hp translates into lots of cost.

    Cost and lack of American drivers are the two biggest obstacles to the future success of AOWR and Indy Car racing in particular. The only proposal that seriously seeks to address the cost issue is the Delta. All of them claim to be able to deliver a less expensive initial product but they all have design aspects (wings and other aero appendages) that ensure expensive long term costs for the car owners. The other aspect is that they are claiming the initial cost savings ONLY IF THEY ARE THE EXCLUSIVE SUPPLIER of all aspects of the car. Not only spec but a monopoly. None of us are crazy about spec but all of us should be appalled at the notion of a monopoly. Dallara has made it obvious why a monopoly source is a very bad thing.

    Take a look at the Dallara red car proposal. Do you see some rather close similarities between the Dallara Red car and the Delta Wing? What if you had the Delta with a front wheel track more like that on the Dallara? No Front wing but pods over the wheels? Would you be more receptive to the Delta like that? It’s more symetrical that way. I know some don’t like the dorsal on the Delta but I suspect that it is critical to Bowlby’s claim about the car having a wider driveability window. Think about the dorsal like appendages that showed up on the ’94 Penske at Phoenix and are popular in F1 designs today.

  4. Alan Turner

    League’s objectives? The stated objectives by the League weren’t the league’s objectives until after Delta declared what they intended to achieve. In fact, the League had no stated objectives until barely a week before the Delta was to be unveiled.

    And I gotta tell you that the more I look at the BAT the more I see a sow’s ear. This thing would need 800hp to push it 175mph. OK, maybe not that bad but this car will need a very expensive power plant to reach the stated “objectives”.

    The solutions to avoid wheel to wheel contact presented by the BAT proposal are a joke. I think you would be better off with nerf bars like on a sprint car. There can be no aero help in cleaning up the wheel turbulence here and you would be better off cost wise with the metal bars. Or maybe blow molded plastic like on a kart.

    So far I think the only serious contenders are the Swift and the Delta. Dallara should be dismissed out of hand due to their abuse of the current situation. Lola is unimpressive and the reasons to disqualify the BAT are too numerous to list.

  5. agreed on the lola…that thing is nothing special. I endorse the Swift designs myself and the Delta is kinda growing on me but I would prefer the swift.

  6. I understand that the league came out with their objectives after the Delta Wing group had, and by far the DW car has the best potential of all the designs at being aerodynamically stable and clean. I think there are other issues with it, but that’s part of a different discussion. In this post, I was simply trying to assess the BAT proposal on its own merits, and not draw comparisons to the other four submissions …not yet, anyway… and to use what the league has officially put forward as objectives for the 2012 chassis regardless from where they might have gained the inspiration (or simply stolen).

    I disagree that the car looks inefficient. The front wheels are exposed, yes, but the rear wheels are fairly well protected and out of the air stream. If the vast majority of the downforce comes from the undertray, then the wings will be no more than trim tabs, inducing very little drag and turbulence. Its the more aggressive wing contours that generate significant amounts of lift that lead to greater turbulence and drag.

    As for the Galmer, its funny how design and circumstance can surprise. The G92 obviously benefited from the abnormal cold temperatures at the track, and dumping the hot exhaust gases straight into the undercar air stream likely helped to mitigate some of the grip issues many teams were having. However, at warmer tracks that same increase in temperature likely caused a loss of grip. …I’d have to look at the exact design before I’m too confident in that response, but that’s my initial speculation. Regardless, it is a good example of how a unintended behavior can arise in any engineering exercise. I wouldn’t hold that design from 17 years ago against Mr. Mertens. He certainly has had far more success in IndyCar racing than just the 1992 500 win.

    Personally, I’m not too keen on this design as it seems a bit uninspired and dull. The Lola also fails to portray any type of visionary design philosophy. I love the DW engineering concepts, but the triangular footprint is still a stopper for me. I think Swift really should have the upper hand right now not only for their innovative designs, but for the host of engineering and technology partners they’re bringing to the party.

  7. Hate to be rude about BAT’s proposal, but Ashmore took nascar’s money and modified the USAC silver crown car into an absolute abomination. I am having trouble trusting this design group because of that.

    As a result of the “new silver crown car” the premiere USAC division (which was already suffering) was split down the middle. A new series was formed (PRA) to use the old silver crown pavement cars, while only a handful of owners bought the “new” SC car.

    Sad, but the big cars are on their way out. As for BAT’s design, not a chance that they would go with this design group.

  8. Alan Turner

    First I would like to say that I was a huge Lil Al fan and had great hopes for the Galmer. I think if Galles would have continued it would have either bankrupted him or he would be where Penske is today. I guess he figured it was going to bankrupt him. I’d like to spend a day bench racing with those that were there to really hear the specifics behind that car. Like I said in an earlier post, an interesting side note but not relevant to the current car. Nothing but respect for Alan Mertens.

    The primary issue with the way the Galmer used the exhaust was while it created increased pressure by super heating the exit air in the under tray there by increasing the air speed. On a cold day the effect is magnified and on a track that you don’t lift on it’s a pretty good advantage. Else where when the driver lifts off the throttle the pressure decreases the car becomes less stable and much more pitch sensitive. I would imagine it was quite a bit like an old 911 with a wealthy dentist behind the wheel. The 911 and trailing throttle oversteer are probably responsible for more deaths in the dental, medical and legal world than heart attacks!!:-)

    Addressing your points about the “contestants”
    Efficiency of the BAT
    1). Those are some pretty darn big trim tabs. If you are correct then subsequent designs should show them getting smaller. If, as I suspect, the front wings are part of protecting the wheels from those on other cars then they fall into the bucket I’ve put them in. Expensive, dirty, fragile bumpers.
    2) That thing is so “fat” in terms of frontal area it looks like somebody took the tip of Bob Hopes nose and stuck it on the end of Karl Maldone’s.
    3) “more aggressive wing contours” do generate significant amounts of lift and turbulence. But low aspect ratio wings add great amounts of drag. It’s difficult to say for sure with out the numbers and results from things like CFD and tunnel data. But while those wings aren’t very aggressive (flat??) they are rather deep. It’s only a concept so they could change quite a bit.
    4) Rear wheels are well protected from the sides and the fronts but the pieces trailing them looks like they are hollow. Which means that what ever air does come over and around them isn’t necessarily controlled and could therefore result in a turbulent wake. Also, they are flimsy unless they are made of something pretty heavy. That being the case I see them as expensive and not particularly effective in helping to avoid wheel to wheel contact.

    1) I have a sentimental soft spot for Swift. I cut my teeth on a DB4 and I marvel and the DB1 still amazes me at it’s timelessness. It’s still a serious contender in every FF race on this continent. But…
    2) Innovative design?? It’s stylish and has allot of flair but I don’t see anything technologically innovative about it. This isn’t 1958. You can’t slap more chrome and bigger tail fins on something and pass it off as a real advancement.
    3) What tech and engineering partners? If you know something I don’t please share.:-)

    The footprint is a show stopper? Yea, that’s an issue for me too. It’s not particularly symmetrical. Please go back and reread the end of my previous post. Maybe Bolwby could work something like what I am thinking into his design with out compromising his goals too much.

    I suppose if $20M budgets were the norm and the future was bright I’d be all for something like the Swift. But something pretty radical has to happen or this whole thing is going to sink further into mediocrity.

  9. Alan Turner


    Interesting points about the Silver Crown cars. That car was supposed to be allot of things including affordable. Last I heard it cost north of $100K. That’s like a $15K kart. Or $750K Indy Car.

    I remember when I first saw one. I wasn’t overly impressed. I kept thinking to myself “but they already have a class for modifieds?!?”

  10. Swift in their press release announced that they’d be bringing partners Mark One Composites, Cray, and Cruden. Those are serious partners to have if you’re going to build anything, but especially a racing machine. Swift also has developed, tested, and deployed their poorly named, but very effective, Mushroom Buster, for minimizing wake turbulence. Their Swiftlights proposal seems a bit gimmicky, but it could turn out to be a real neat gimmick, especially for sponsors. I discuss the Swift proposal here:

  11. Alan,

    The Gold Crown car looks a lot better, but the damage has been done. I noticed last year at PRI they were showing a model of the car with a big USAC logo on it. Now if you look at the Gold Crown website, it is clear that USAC is not involved. It is still just a body kit to replace the previous “new silver crown car” body kit, but its looks are far more appealing.

    I guess the parallel we can draw from the silver crown experience is that USAC has a very traditional fanbase that was less than pleased with the new sc. It took a couple of years of trying, but they eventually flushed it and went back to their traditional pavement car. The sc cars are an expensive proposition. The purses are low, the car counts are low, the fanbase is dwindling. The promoters at the Terre Haute Action Track (Mike King’s group) don’t yet have the SC cars on their schedule (as does USAC). Rumor has it that they won’t add them back unless USAC can guarantee good car counts.

    The parallel to the delta wing is concerning. This radical new concept is not sitting well with the traditional fanbase. I am all for the Delta Wing because it is the only concept that is not spec engine/chassis, but the looks still give me pause, and I fear a repeat of what happened to the silver crown series.

  12. Alan Turner


    Again, you bring some very good points to the discussion. And your observation about the Delta concept is very good. The only issue I see is that in the SC situation you went from a known entity that although not strong and with some serious identity issues (how many times have you heard a casual fan refer to them as non-winged sprinters??) had some basis and connection to other series inside the USAC family. Then you increased the cost of entry and racing substantially.

    As much as the connection between open wheel midget/sprint/silver crown NASCAR has increased over the past 20yrs I still think that many people both in the stands and in the pits still see their heritage as Indy not Daytona. The SC debacle was disturbing to many because it was NASCAR trying to dictate what midget/sprint/SC racing is supposed to be and it left the owners with the situation where by they were being told that they effectively have to buy this very expensive alternative.

    How does that relate to the Delta Wing deal? IICS is telling the owners that they have to pay the extortion rates to Dallara and to some degree Honda if they want to play. DW represents a way to take back some say in the process. So I think that instead of the unfortunate situation in SC is why not to do DW is actually a reason why it should be done.

    Except, the fan base issue. Frankly I think if car counts where high the fans would have shown up and watched. Had many different opinions but they would have watched. Those not happy with it were probably those that still identify with 16th & Georgetown more than Int. Blvd.

    The demographics are changing radically. Look at the import drag racing scene. Except at the very top levels of the sport (Top Fuel/FC etc…) imports are probably going to eclipse the rest of the straightline scene if it already hasn’t. Why? Not totally sure myself. You would have to ask the kids driving the radical Hondas, Toyotas, Cobalts and Neons.

    I admit the traditionalists are going to be challenged. Will they walk? Yea, some will. Others will stay. But, if DW gets multiple suppliers, builders and manufactures then I think fewer of the traditionalists will walk and the sport will appeal to a different crowd that is currently not interested or only luke warm. I believe that the car will need to become a little less radical in it’s styling but EVERYTHING else about the Delta is hands down the best way forward.

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