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IRL On Its Way To Racing Domestic Cars

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 23 2010

Dan Wheldon and Panther Racing's future IZOD IndyCar cars will be made in Indiana. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Indianapolis – Dallara Automobili’s selection as manufacturer of the IndyCar Safety Cell beginning in 2012 has the potential of transforming Main Street in Speedway, Ind., into motorsports’ version of Little Italy.

Overshadowed amid the hoopla accompanying Dallara’s selection last week as primary chassis supplier for the IZOD IndyCar Series was the accompanying announcement that the manufacturer based in Parma, Italy, plans to establish a facility in the United States.

A multi-million dollar brick-and-glass center in the final design stages will be a cornerstone of the Main Street redevelopment in Speedway, a few hundred yards from Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy Racing League headquarters. The facility will serve as a technology center, engineering classroom, visitor destination and magnet for other auto racing-related industries. It also will prime the economic pump for Central Indiana.

“Dallara is really looking forward to being a part of the community,” said Sam Garrett, U.S. technical liaison for Dallara. ”We’ve been discussing the possibility of opening a U.S. location for several years. The contract to supply the new IndyCar chassis is the catalyst that finally allows it to happen.”

Randy Bernard, the IRL’s chief executive officer, announced July 14 in Indianapolis that the seven-member ICONIC Advisory Committee of industry leaders had selected longtime partner Dallara to build the safety cell that will be the core of the series’ Future Car Strategy.

Entrants and constructors from the automotive and aerospace industries have been invited to build the “clothes”  for the rolling chassis in the form of aero kits – front and rear wings, sidepods and engine cover – for use on the series’ diverse set of racetracks. Any approved aero kit, including those manufactured by an IndyCar team, must be made available to all competitors. The rolling chassis will cost $349,000, a reduction of almost 50 percent from the current Dallara-built car.

Scott Harris, executive director of the town of Speedway Redevelopment Commission, said Dallara’s commitment is a perfect fit for the community’s vision of racing and innovation.

“In this moment, our past and future align,” Harris said during a news conference at the Indiana Museum of Art. “One hundred years ago, four automotive pioneers designed a racetrack and began the process of defining a community around the new automobile industry. Innovation was key.

“Five years ago, the town of Speedway and its redevelopment commission made a commitment to revitalization of our community through redevelopment, to establish an environment for new investment. Our plan was a reflection of our heritage, building on the strengths of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, PraxAir Surface Technologies and Allison Transmission.

“In early December I was invited by Dallara’s U.S. partner to travel to a small town outside of Parma, Italy. I had the opportunity to visit their state-of-the-art design facility and saw within walking distance the cluster of component suppliers. It was a buzzing epicenter of technology. This same model existed in Indiana and along Main Street in Speedway years ago, and with Dallara it can be replicated today.

“Dallara will move to a new state-of-the-art technology center on our Main Street, stimulate our economy, bring new jobs and contribute to the continued growth of a vibrant racing-centered community. We’re confident that Dallara’s decision to locate in the town of Speedway will help open the doors for other investors in the industry, and will attract more motorsports-related business development.”

Town of Speedway officials already report that three auto racing-related manufacturers have inquired about locating near Dallara’s building. In November 2009, the commission broke ground on its first construction project. The $10 million Main Street project is part of a $500 million plan for 400 acres of multi-use development.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said the so-called “motorsports restoration” of the state was the result of investing through tax credits and grant money.

“You need to know two more things about Dallara’s commitment,” Daniels said. “One is they have also committed to use to the maximum extent possible Indiana suppliers to make the component parts that will make up almost half the value in this car. That means more jobs and more opportunities for those companies that are here now or might like to locate here and be a big part of this sport.

“Secondly, Dallara has agreed as part of the deal to a $150,000 discount for the first 28 cars bought by teams located in Indiana. This industry is coming home to the state where it was born.”

Fifteen teams are listed in the “2010 IZOD IndyCar Series Media Guide.” Of those, the most prominent organizations not currently housed in Indianapolis are Team Penske _ the most successful open-wheel team in history _ Newman/Haas Racing and A.J. Foyt Racing.

Also, beginning in 2012, Dallara will offer a $25,000 credit to the Firestone Indy Lights champion for any Dallara parts or services used to assist the driver in advancing to the IndyCar Series.

The facility in Speedway will house the Dallara USA technical center, as well as areas for Indy Parts Inc. (official Dallara spare parts distributor); the Indy Racing Experience (two-seater and single-seat IndyCar programs); Experiential Marketing Inc. (show cars and promotional activities) and the Indy Engine Group (high-performance engine shop).

Plans also include an interactive area, co-sponsored by Hewlett-Packard, for fans. Future plans include a restaurant along with facilities for meetings and social networking.

In addition, discussions have been ongoing between Dallara and several Indiana universities regarding the promotion of an engineering curriculum with an emphasis on motorsports, including internships, connection with Formula SAE events and using the simulator to train engineering students in controlled and repeatable conditions.

Formula SAE is a student design competition organized by SAE International (formerly Society of Automotive Engineers) that has been held since 1979. The concept is that a fictional manufacturing company has contracted a design team to develop a small formula-style race car. Each student team designs, builds and tests a prototype based on a series of rules whose purpose is both to ensure onsite event operations and promote clever problem solving.

Dallara principals Gianpaolo Dallara and Andrea Toso are Formula SAE design judges. “Dallara welcomes diversity in the look of the car,” Toso said. “IndyCar is no more a de facto spec formula. This diversity aims at promoting interest from the fans, favoring engineering research into more efficient bodywork shapes and creating a strong marketing platform for all partners.”

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 23 2010
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