OpEd – Beauty Pageant or Racing Series?

The interwebs have been all a buzz over the release of the chassis concepts for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series from Dallara, Swift, and especially the much anticipated Delta Wing. There’s been much commentary offered for and against all of the designs, but none has received more discussion and more scorn than the extremely radical concept car from Delta Wing, LLC that was revealed last Wednesday at the Chicago Auto Show. We’ve gone over various aspects of the proposed concepts here, as have many others, and there are certainly a wide range of opinions. There does appear to be a general consensus that the three Swift concepts are the best looking, and that the Delta Wing concept is uglier than sin! That was certainly my reaction to the concepts as well.

After I threw up a little, and once my eyes stopped burning, I started to think about the Delta Wing concept again. No doubt that there are some very interesting engineering concepts and innovations deployed in this concept, but the appearance of the car is really wretched. It doesn’t look modern, it looks like a design exercise from the 1950s. Amongst the numerous outcries of, “I won’t watch that abomination,” and, “If that chassis is chosen, I’m done,” there were a few comments of, “What does looks have to do with anything?” Valid question, what DOES looks have to do with this? This is about racing! Reaching the finish line first, and showing that your driver, engineers, mechanics, and fabricators are better than the rest is what this is supposed to be all about. Right? …well, sorta.

In a perfect world, the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race would be contested by the Speedway saying, bring your best design, but you only get 50 gallons of fuel. I that case, you’d see all kinds of crazy designs, but they’d all have a purpose. Speed! Did the rear-engine cars looks funky during the roadster era? Sure it did, and it was viewed with scorn and skepticism as well, but it proved itself as the best design by besting its competitors on the race track. We saw a similar revolution in design as the cars sprouted wings, creating the standard formula that we see today. Now we have a very new style of chassis wishing to be allowed on the track. Unfortunately, times have changed, and we won’t see the Delta Wing chassis compete on track against the cars from Dallara, Swift, and Lola, so we won’t be able to judge these separate proposals based solely on their on-track performance. What remains without a competition of speed? The only thing we have left is visual appeal and cost.

In the title, I ask the question “Beauty Pageant or Racing Series?” So which is the IZOD IndyCar Series? Sadly, I think the answer is a little of both. Motorsports now is as much of an entertainment business as it is a competition of man and machine. Fans are what pays for most of the costs of racing, directly in some ways such as through ticket and merchandise purchases, and indirectly in others such as TV viewership. If a car is so ugly that fans, en mass, refuse to watch it, does it matter what engineering specs it has or how well it will perform? Nope. None at all. So as we look at these different chassis concepts, we must keep in mind that they are NOT going to compete on track together. That leaves only appearance (including the quality of the show/racing) and cost. Because we can’t ignore the fact that this chassis competition will be a bit of a beauty pageant, I don’t think that the Delta Wing group can completely ignore the aesthetics. That being the case, they’d better do some quick rethinking about their car, regardless of what engineering improvements they may bring, if they want to be continue being considered as a 2012 challenger.

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4 Thoughts to “OpEd – Beauty Pageant or Racing Series?

  1. Bob

    What’s more frightening than the hideous and repulsive looks of Delta THING, is what will happen after IndyCar picks a proper concept for the new formula (Swift hopefully), and the owners continue to push this monstrosity because of the money invested.

    I urge all IndyCar fans that hate Delta Wing to FLOOD the corporate IndyCar office with emails, phone calls and personal letters to let them know how you feel.

    Brian Barnhart, COO
    Randy Bernard, CEO
    Indy Racing League
    4565 W. 16th Street
    Indianapolis, IN 46222

    I urge all IndyCar fans that hate Delta Wing to flood HVM Racing’s blog What Should the Next-Generation Open-Wheel Race Car Look Like? at http://www.hvm-racing.com , and flood Delta Wing Racing’s contact page at http://deltawingracing.com/contact/

    Let them know how much the fans HATE this THING, and that we will not let IndyCar be turned into a laughing stock racing league. If the owners continue to push forward this concept, the war to end all Open Wheel wars will begin.

  2. Bob,

    I appreciate your concern, and I understand your outrage, however we need to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The concept revealed last Wednesday was just that, a concept. It doesn’t necessarily have to represent what the actual production version will look like. Mr. Bowlby brings some great engineering innovations to this design exercise, and I think it would be foolish of us to ignore those just because the outward skin is not to our liking. Whereas I think it is important that those that will be making the decisions should know our thoughts on this design, I don’t think we need to completely reject the entire Delta Wing philosophy.


  3. Benalf

    the first questions we have to ask are: is the Delta concept fast? Is the chassis and bodywork allowed by the IRL regs? Sometimes “ugly” things bring new breakthroughs and after a while they become standards to follow….they just work. Since the aerodynamics were brought into play, F1 cars have evolved in small and big steps, season after season. To be honest, some aero solutions of the past and today look ad hideous as some parts of the delta concept and yet they are still there. What could have happened if the FIA banned winglets and extra aero foils after 2008? I think we could have ended up watching batmobiles, gothic-esque bodyworks trying to control the smallest airflow around the car.
    I think what IRL is doing is partially good; in the end they should have co-finance the building of the bidding designs and test them on the track….and then decide for the the concept that allow more flexibility to improve and of course…the fastest one!

  4. Don

    The team owners funding Delta THING appear to have Indy Car in a real jam (as I worried). There are rumors now that the owners will boycott the first race in Brazil if Indy Car doesn’t support Delta Wing. This could get real ugly (no pun intended).

    I believe we are on the verge of the Open Wheel war to end all wars. If Indy Car buckles the the owners demands and selects Delta THING, I am done as a fan. I will not watch the IZOD Penis Racing League.

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