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
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.