Tomorrow afternoon at the Chicago Auto Show a red tarp will be removed from the Delta Wing IndyCar concept model. For now, we will just have to settle with this teaser photo from the Chicago Auto Show blog. This is part of Bridgestones booth. While it may not be much to look at, that red tarp seems to have spooked the establishment at 16th and Georgetown.
For months now we have been hearing information trickle out about this design. What we know largely has been from planned leaks through Robin Miller who signed a non-disclosure agreement with Delta Wing so he could get a peek at the car and presumably serve as there mouthpiece. What we know:
- Designed by Ben Bowlby, a former Lola lead designer and a current engineer for Chip Ganassi.
- Delta Wing, LLC was formed to develop this car design and bring it to fruition if it is chosen as the 2012 chassis of choice for the IRL. The ownership group for Delta Wing includes the majority of the current IndyCar team owners.
- The car is reportedly an ultralight, (<1200 lbs) wingless car utilizing undercar ground effects to hold it to the track.
- The design criteria for the engine would be an inline 4-cylinder turbo, producing ~325 HP and getting fuel efficiencies in the 10 mpg range (!) while still propelling the tub up to 225 mph.
- The engine would be non-stressed, meaning that it would be bolted on to the frame, not a stressed member of the structure as the current IndyCar engine is.
- Extremely low cost for both the engines and the chassis. $180,000 was a number that was tossed around for the chassis, which is significantly lower than the $700,000 that teams currently pay for a tub. The engine would also be much much cheaper.
While these details have been leaking for months, the IRL has remained silent. As momentum behind the design concept for the Delta Wing grew, the IRL remained silent. While the team owners have been putting their weight behind this design concept, the IRL’s only mention of the subject was to downplay the value of the Delta Wing concept.
Granted, we haven’t seen what is under the red tarp yet, but the IRL has seen it. I consider it no coincidence that the IRL has released their “design criteria” for the next chassis last week and trotted out Brian Barnhart for an article in USA Today, not to normal sources like the Indianapolis Star. I consider it no coincidence that Dallara released their early stage concept drawings last week. Buoyed on by the IRL and Dallara’s sudden interest in the 2012 chassis, Lola said me-too, along with Swift.
Make no mistake. The reason that we are seeing such a flurry of activity around the 2012 chassis is that Delta Wing has forced the IRL’s hand. Delta Wing has driven this conversation by leaking their innovative design approach. By all indications, the IRL was content to go with whatever Dallara came up with, which wasn’t much. Dallara’s computer drawings appear to be very preliminary concepts, not race ready designs.
Speaking of Dallara, quietly, the team owners have been making it very clear that they are not happy with them. Rumors started by Robin Miller seem to indicate that the IRL is getting kickbacks from Dallara for all chassis and components that the teams purchase. Further, there is a general sentiment among the teams that Dallara should have done more to lower the cost of the current chassis, especially as Panoz bowed out and later as the economy threatened.
Dallara may be able to rest on their laurels though. The IRL has a long history of playing favorites when it comes to established business relationships. Honda is in a similar situation. One of the reasons that such a joint media effort between the IRL and Dallara became necessary is that Delta Wing is in a position to majorly upset the applecart at 16th and Georgetown and possibly force out these exclusive spec arrangements. Take a look at what Marshall Pruett thinks about the IRL’s handling of this situation. Clearly, he has a very strong opinion on this matter.
Swift has come out with their designs as well. Their concepts are clearly head and shoulders over all three of Dallara’s concepts. Even their more radical batmobile looking layout shows a remarkable amount of promise, especially when compared to the silly design ideas that Dallara brought out of storage. Swift is hungry to get this contract and has shown that with their release.
Just as incumbent Dallara needs to be concerned with Swift, so should they be concerned with Delta Wing’s press conference tomorrow. Even with the red tarp covering up their car, it still looks racier than Dallara’s computer drawings.