Well, the day has finally arrived. Today at 1100 CDT, we will finally discover the new chassis and strategy for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series. You can watch the event live via IndyCar.com if you were not lucky enough to get an invite and have the ability to act on it. In another gesture that shows that the leadership is beginning to understand the importance of fans, early invitations were given to the Crew Level members of the official fan club Indy Downforce. Good on them for that! Sadly, I couldn’t break away from my day job to attend, but as it happens Shaun could! We’ll be posting his videos and pics throughout the afternoon. Also be sure to follow the OpenPaddock twitter stream, http://www.twitter.com/openpaddock.
One of the biggest questions that will be answered today is what the new chassis specification will be. There were five groups making proposals for the 2012 car, and many of them claimed a need to be the exclusive manufacture in order to be profitable. I won’t go over the pros and cons of each chassis again. We’ve done that already for Swift, Dallara, Lola, DeltaWing, and the BAT group. Of the five, my favorite is the Swift proposal. They have brought a lot of solutions to the aerodynamic problems that plague the current chassis, and they bring on board some heavyweight partners like Mark One Composites and Cray. The added bonus with Swift and their partners is that its an all American team, even if Swift Engineering is based in California and not Indianapolis. All of the other groups have promised a base in the central Indiana region, but realize that Lola and Dallara are foreign companies even if they decide to build a plant in Indiana. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about “all-American-or-bust”, but one of the complaints has been that there is not enough American involvement in the series from either the competitor or manufacture side of the sport. The Swift option is about as American as it gets, plus its a fine looking race car.
That said, I seriously doubt that Swift gets the nod for the 2012 chassis. It’s telling that the only two CEOs who will be in attendance are from Dallara and Lola. That says to me that the new chassis will likely be a Lola and that the Dallara will be grandfathered in for a period of time in both the Firestone Indy Lights and the IZOD IndyCar Series. Remember that one of the big strengths of the Lola proposal was the design philosophy of using the same tub for both series. That’s a powerful element of their proposal, and one that should be followed regardless of who finally gets the not. I think this means that we will also see Lolas and Dallaras competing side-by-side in Firestone Indy Lights initially, but with the Dallaras slowly fading over time. What I don’t expect is a fully spec regulation. We may see a single manufacturer, but with only the core of the chassis being mandated allowing development to continue by the teams on the ancillary bit of the chassis including the suspension and aero elements. Make no mistake, this will not be a field flattening move even if they cost per car does come down as dramatically as the league has hinted at before. Penske and Ganassi aren’t at the top of the food chain simply because they have more money. Yes, they DO have more money than most, but they also have the most experience and the best people. That’s why they’re on top and why they’ll continue to be on top in 2012. What this will allow more teams to find the IZOD IndyCar Series an affordable place to race at the highest end of American motorsport and in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Am I right in this? Who knows. I think I am, but of course I would, eh? We’ll see this afternoon when the announcement finally comes.