Radical IRL Car Gets Test
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
DeltaWing’s radical IZOD IndyCar Series chassis – a prototype that conjurs up comparisons to the iconic designs of stylist Harley Earl – is headed to the wind tunnel.
Indianapolis-based DeltaWing LLC, which introduced its proposed chassis for the 2012 IndyCar season at the Chicago Auto Show in February, is scheduled to test its full-size scale model today in the Windshear wind tunnel in Concord, N.C. Windshear’s state-of-the-art facility features a 180 mph rolling road, which will allow the DeltaWing technical team to corroborate the computer simulation work it has been conducting over the past year.
“From the beginning of the DeltaWing project, the design of the car has gone through hundreds of iterations,” Ben Bowlby, designer and chief technology officer of DeltaWing LLC, said in a statement. “It is now time to put our full-size model into the wind tunnel to validate the extensive computer simulation work that we have done. The Windshear facility is one of the best tunnels in the world and we are confident that the data we collect on the performance of the DeltaWing will support our CFD findings.”
The Indy Racing League is in discussion with five chassis constructors regarding its future car. BAT Engineering, Dallara, Lola, Swift Engineering and DeltaWing have submitted proposed chassis designs and supporting information, ranging from evolutionary to radical. Hired by IndyCar team-owner Chip Ganassi, Bowlby’s DeltaWing delivered a design resembling Earl’s Firebird I, II, and III – a series of 1950s concept vehicles with airplane styling and experimental engines.
Earl spent 32 years as head of General Motors’ Art and Color Section, later known as the Design and Styling Department. Earl’s creations featured undulating curves, low and long bodies and airplane-inspired fins and cockpits. A number of Earl’s concept cues, including ample supplies of chrome, eventually were approved for mass production during what is generally considered GM’s heydey.
Similarly, the DeltaWing prototype – with its narrow and pointed nose, slim cockpit, wide-bodied rear-end treatment and jet-inspired wing – is a marked departure from Dallara’s current chassis, and even those submitted for this project. Dan Partel, CEO of DeltaWing, said one of the primary objectives with his company’s racer has been to “dramatically reduce” aerodynamic drag.
“We have created a design that is about half the drag of the current generation car,” Partel said, “and that reduction will translate into high-performance with far greater efficiency, much tighter racing and more overtaking on the track. We are very excited to take this next step in our development process as we work towards having our running prototype on the track later this year.” DeltaWing officials hope to have a track-ready prototype up-and-running by August.
The test at Windshear marks a huge next step for DeltaWing. Opened in September 2008, Windshear’s rolling-road wind tunnel is the first of its kind in North America, and only the third rolling road wind tunnel of its scale in existence. It is the world’s first commercially available, full-scale, rolling-road wind tunnel. The tunnel accommodates full-scale vehicles and provides constant airspeeds up to 180 mph, with controlled temperatures. The high-tech rolling road is 10.5 feet wide by 29.5 feet long, and able to accelerate from zero to 180 mph in less than one minute. During testing, through-the-belt sensors measure the aerodynamic downforce under each tire.
DeltaWing’s test is the first of its type since Randy Bernard, Indy Racing League CEO, announced plans last month for an advisory committee that will review, research and recommend a future chassis and engine platform. The advisory board will include a league representative, team-owner Gil de Ferran, an engine expert, a marketer/promoter and a racing engineer. The project has been dubbed the ICONIC (Innovative, Competitive, Open-Wheel, New, Industry-Relevant, Cost-Effective) IZOD IndyCar Series Advisory Committee.
“The search for a new chassis and engine has been about enhancing innovation in our sport and renewing the IZOD IndyCar Series as the automotive industry’s proving ground,” Bernard said. “As the league moves closer to making a decision regarding our new chassis and engine platform, we need to continue to have an articulate process in place that sets the criterion in a timely manner while taking into consideration the core areas of car development in our sport – competition, marketing, engineering, engine development and team ownership.”
Bernard noted that Terry Angstadt, president of the IRL’s commercial division, and Brian Barnhart, the IRL’s president of competition and racing operations, have invested two years researching and developing the future car.
“Now we would like for the members of the advisory committee to review the research and make a collective recommendation, utilizing their respective industry sector’s point of view,” Bernard said. “The advisory committee will be encouraged to reach out to the drivers for their feedback and opinions about the engine and chassis. Additionally, we are currently conducting surveys to receive fan input on the new chassis and will look for similar ways to incorporate their voice into the committee’s research.”
The committee is chaired by retired Air Force Gen. William R. Looney III and will report its findings to Bernard, who will make the final decision on the new chassis and engine. “Our objectives for the chassis,” Bernard said, “remain the same as they were when the league first began the process of developing its next car – safe, raceable, cost-effective, American-made, less mass/more efficient, relevant technology, modern look and green.”
Honda has been IndyCar’s sole engine-supplier since 2006. IRL officials held a series of automotive roundtables in 2008 and 2009 with Original Equipment Manufacturers and race engine builders to gather input about the future series engine, with the idea of developing a platform relevant to the current and future automotive industry.
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