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First outing for new 2012 chassis
9 August 2011
IndyCar's future inched closer with the first test of the new-specification Dallara chassis that all teams will run from 2012.
The new chassis - dubbed the 'IndyCar Safety Cell' that will form the core car for all teams' racing efforts from next season - was given its first shakedown run on an IndyCar track at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the day after Scott Dixon triumphed in the Honda Indy 200 at the venue.
"It's a great day," said IndyCar's project manager Tony Cotman. "To see the work of many individuals in a very short amount of time out on the racetrack - it's the start of a new era for IndyCar."
At the wheel was Dan Wheldon, the current Indianapolis 500 champion, who was selected by IndyCar to lead the testing phase of the new car development project along with the Bryan Herta Autosport team.
The standard IndyCar Safety Cell was powered by Honda's new specification 2.2-litre turbocharged V-6 engine, with competition for engine supply expected to come from Chevrolet and Lotus next season. The new engines will supercede the old 3.5-litre normally-aspirated V-8 specification.
"It's a lighter car, it has more horsepower and it has a lot less drag than the current car," said Cotman. "Naturally on the right day it will go quicker and that's something that the fans have to look forward to."
The IndyCar Safety Cell will comprise the driver monocoque, suspension and basic aerokit, with the team initially having to provide only the steering wheel, driver seat and tyres. A chief objective of the new chassis is to reduce the costs of competing with the purchase of the chassis and ongoing replacement components.
However, teams will also be able to fine-tune the car further with custom aerokits (aero dynamic component add-ons) that will allow the cars to look very different from race to race and from team to team. Such kits will also allow the teams to make their car more adaptable for the wide variety of courses that the series now runs on, compared with the old chassis dating from 2003 that was designed exclusively for ovals and then retrospectively back-engineered to cope with street and road courses.
"Our time has been focused on making the car safe and stable so that it is possible to put different bodywork styles on it to make it look unique," said Sam Garrett, quality control lead for the chassis manufacturer Dallara, adding that the project priorities had been "safety, lower cost, something that looks unique."
The test at Mid-Ohio was just the first of a programme of outings for the new car over the next two months as it's tried out across a selection of IndyCar venues by Wheldon and Bryan Herta Autosport, with the next test on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval.
"We want to make sure the basics are right first before we go pushing," said IndyCay's vice president of technology Will Phillips. "We've got aero targets and straight-line speed targets that we're looking to see."
Testing will be completed at the end of September; engine suppliers Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus will then receive an early advance chassis in October to allow them to get on with the fine-tuning of engine development and the design and build of aerokits for their teams to purchase. Teams will start receiving their first regular production chassis by mid-December.
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