Dallara stays on as IndyCar chassis supplier
A proven track record, as well as chopping the price tag nearly in half and vowing to build a new manufacturing facility in the shadows of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, enabled Dallara to retain its title as chassis supplier to the IZOD IndyCar Series.
In a Wednesday announcement at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, IndyCar officials and members of the ICONIC Advisory Committee announced that Dallara will supply a rolling chassis and enhanced safety cell that will be the base for the next generation of open-wheel racing machines – slated to debut in the 2012 season. The new cars will cost $385,000 each, a price reduction of 45 percent from the current Dallaras that have raced in the series since 2003.
But other manufacturers will have a chance to be involved by creating the aerodynamic kits (front and rear wings, engine covers, etc.) for the cars, which must all be approved by IndyCar before production. Each team will get to race two aero kits per season and all aero kit parts approved by the sanctioning body must be made available to all the teams.
Now the trick is to find manufacturers that are willing to
create the kits, not to mention those that may be interested in
supplying engines for the new cars.
"I think now we have to go and visit with [the manufacturers] and convince them that we want partners," said IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard following the announcement. "If they are selling cars and we can help them sell cars, that has to be one of our priorities as well, and we have to be able to listen to them and understand what they need from a relevance standpoint.
"…We also have to keep this in check in relativity to the fact that we are under a timeline and I'm not sure how many different manufacturers will be able to produce an engine by 2012. But the offer, it's out there right now, and we are sure optimistic and welcome anyone that wants to participate."
Dallara is definitely a part of that group but while they'll provide the base of the machine, the fact that any manufacturer can create the 'clothes' for it means that the car will carry some of the "open source" concept that the radical Delta Wing brought to the table. While its unique look may have been costly in retrospect, it's a credit to the DW group that their push for revolutionary change in the sport got big enough to the point that an integral part of their plan survived in the final product.
As a result, IndyCar has a fusion of the two in its new car: The solid reliability of Dallara with a bit of Delta Wing's 'think-outside-the-box' attitude. But did Bernard and ICONIC make the right decision in the end?
Right or wrong may not matter in this case. With the U.S. economy still in a bad way, chassis competition simply isn't possible right now, even though fans have been craving it for some time. The Indy Racing League also had to weigh the known (Dallara) versus the unknown (Lola, Swift, BAT, Delta Wing) and decide if the potential extra buzz of going to a new carmaker was worth scrapping a long-term relationship. Additionally, there's the aforementioned matter of attracting new manufacturers for the chassis. As long as that process is ongoing, this entire saga will continue to evolve.
Last but not least, there is Dallara's plan to set up shop in Speedway, Indiana. In addition to manufacturing, the facility will feature a driving simulator that will allow IndyCar drivers, engineers and even fans to take the car for a virtual spin. A new plant will also bring new jobs to the motorsports industry in Central Indiana and provide a boost to the town of Speedway's current redevelopment project.
The cars of the Indianapolis 500 will be built in the home of the Indianapolis 500. That's a pretty neat thing when one thinks about it and it may have been the element that put Dallara over the top. But ICONIC member Tony Purnell insisted that it was the overall vision of the Italian company that impressed his committee.
"The decision is a holistic approach," said Purnell, the founder of Pi Research and former head of Ford's Premier Performance Division. "It's not one thing, it's everything. When we stepped back and looked at the various proposals and presentations given, we felt Dallara was the complete package.
"We were very comfortable in going forward with them. And I have to say they addressed every aspect that we asked them to and they addressed it with gusto. They really wanted this."
Put it all together and IndyCar made a decision that was neither right nor wrong but necessary. It wasn't the bold move that some may have wanted but considering the current limits, the team at 16th and Georgetown chose to work within them as best they could for now.
However, it'll take a while before everyone knows if their work paid off.