Speed

The 100th running of the Indy 500 was a milestone, but there is electricity around the 101st running. The Fernando Alonso story has brought a global interest to the race that the series that hasn’t seen since the mid 1990s. I remember first hand watching the Nigel Mansell draw and multiple races.

The story, similar to Formula One is speed. The year after the split in 1997 the Indycar series switched to naturally aspirated engines and the speeds dropped. The pitch was fans can’t tell the difference between 220 mph and 230. Add a ton of downforce and cars were having no problem running flat out lap after lap. The racing was more pack mentality. Watching the cars trimmed out and twitching bring back an element of running on the edge.

Scott Dixon pole speed of 232.164 and the top fifteen drives qualifying speed of 230+ are a signal to the rest of the motorsports work, speed is back at Indy.

Three From The Past

2018 Indycar Concept Sketches
2018 Indycar aero kit concept sketches.

Retro is the big word when looking at the 2018 Indycar aero kit concepts and I don’t have a problem with that. The current aero kit is a bit bulky for my taste and a slimmed down thoroughbred will be a welcome evolution for the series. These are just concept sketches and no definitive definition of what past designs may be influences for the new look. Below are first impressions of three design traits from pat cars I see in the sketches.

Panoz DP01 – The gills on some of the side pod sketches remind me of the last chassis from the ChampCar series. On the Panoz DP01 the gills were farther back to allow air to exit and cool the exhaust. The location of the gills on the concept look to be focused primarily on airflow for the radiators, as they are farther up the side pod compared to the DP01.

Gurney Eagle 987 – The high side pod inlets and overall flowing arc draws comparison to the Gurney Eagle 987 ChampCar chassis. The 987 had many innovations that influenced the later Lola designs in the series. The 987 capitalized on smooth flowing lines and if the Toyota engine program did not suffer the setback created by a fire at the engine facility the 987 would have likely lived up to the teams legacy.

1992 Galmer – The removal of the air box, a hold over from the natural aspirated engines brings the appearance of countless turbocharged Indycars. The forward canted roll hoop on some of the sketches reminds me of the 1992 Galmer chassis. Most of the roll hoops are primarily of a vertical design, but the Galmer influence of a potential forward canted roll hoop would give a more aggressive cue to the top of the car.

The final aero configuration will be debuted later this year and with the talk of one or two additional engine manufactures looking at potentially joining the series Indycar is heading in the right direction.

Information Feeds Growth – Conor Daly

Conor Daly in Indycar at Road AmericaAs a second generation driver Conor Daly used information and hard work to make a name for himself in Indaycar.

Mecca of Speed: Your career started with a great run in go-karts, are you still involved in karting at any level?

Conor Daly: Literally nothing, I don’t even own a go-kart. My dad sold all of our stuff. I would love to have a go-kart again. The only race I do is the RoboPong 200 in New Castle. That is an awesome race, it’s the most fun event of the season. I try to do it every year if I can.  It all just depends on who I can get to bend and get into their go-kart. more

Never Stop Growing – Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud at Road AmericaSimon Pagenaud started climbing the open wheel ladder in Europe. In 2006 he journeyed to the United States and won the Atlantic championship. From there it has been a journey of both open wheel and sports car. Regardless of the formula Simon Pagenaud has never stopped growing as a driver.

Mecca of Speed: When you won the Atlantic championship and moved up to ChampCar what did you find to be the biggest change?

Simon Pagenaud: The biggest thing was the difference in power between an Atlantic car, or any other car I had driven in the past compared to the ChampCar. At that time, they had about 800 hp and I had never driven such a powerful car.

That was a big jump, it took me the whole season to get adjusted to it. It wasn’t the overall speed that was the problem. The chassis of the ChampCar was very similar to the Atlantic car, the overall power was the big difference. more

Racing at the Best Places – Graham Rahal

Graham Rahal Indycar at Road AmericaGraham Rahal grew up at race tracks across the U.S. that included a lot of days at the mid-west circuits.

Mecca of Speed: Welcome back to Road America you are a very busy man this week.

Graham Rahal: Yeah, it’s been busy but it’s been good. It’s cool to see everybody, a lot of people here; a good buzz is in the air.

Mecca of Speed: When you or other drivers give ideas on how to improve the Indycar series, how much does the governing body listen?

Graham Rahal: I don’t know, but I hope that they listen. We try to influence the series to go to places that are great. There are a lot of people involved in the series today and some of them have never even been here. Some probably didn’t realize the size and capacity of Road America. It’s really cool to be here and see all the fans.

I hope that we can influence the series more in the future. It’s hard; everyone has their own agenda. Mine has always been to go race at the best places and this is definitely one of the best. more

ChampCar at Road America – 2006

After a one-year absence ChampCar was back at Road America with Speedy Dan Clarke taking the field to the green flag. A 42 minute red flag took place when Katherine Legge had a rear wing fail sending her car into the wall at The Kink. She escaped without major injury but her freshly painted Ford Cares Warriors in Pink was destroyed. The all American kid A.J. Allmendinger took the win for Forsythe Racing.

The next generation of ChampCar Panoz DP01 chassis made some demonstration laps complete with donuts complements of Roberto Moreno.

Pole Position: Dan Clarke

Winning Driver: A.J. Allmendinger

Winning Team: Forsythe Racing

Winning Chassis and Engine: Lola/Ford-Cosworth

Chassis in Series: 1 (Lola)

Engines in Series: 1 (Ford-Cosworth)

Tires in Series: 1 (Firestone)

Photo credit: Scott Rohloff

 

ChampCar at Road America – 2004

The Champcar race at Road America not only had a surprise winner with Alex Tagliani who played strategy to take the win but the first “Tour de Road America” charity bike ride around the circuit took place. Proceeds went to the Livestrong Foundation. Over half the ChampCar drivers were apart of the event.

Unconfirmed reports include Tommy Kendall taking part in the ride. By the time he reached Turn 5 on the first lap he opted to take the runoff and call it a day.

Pole Position: Sebastien Bourdais

Fastest Lap: Bruno Junqueira

Winning Driver: Alex Tagliani

Winning Team: Johnson Controls Rocketsports Racing

Winning Chassis and Engine: Lola/Ford-Cosworth

Chassis in Series: 1 (Lola)

Engines in Series:  1 (Ford-Cosworth)

Tires in Series: 1 (Firestone)

Photo Credit: Scott Rohloff and John Vatne

ChampCar at Road America – 2003

The 2003 season was the official rise of ChampCar as CART went bankrupt and it’s assets was put up for legal dispersal. For many it became personal as Tony George made public statements about putting nails in CART’s coffin the previous season.

This was also the start of both ChampCar and IndyCar going down the road to one engine and one chassis supplier.

A rule change was put in place in ChampCar where the driver’s weight was included in the weight of the car in an attempt to truly level the playing field and no longer penalize larger drivers.

Pole Position: Bruno Junqueira

Fastest Lap: Sebastien Bourdais

Winning Driver: Bruno Junqueira

Winning Team: Newman/Haas

Winning Chassis and Engine: Lola/Ford Cosworth

Chassis in Series: 2 (Lola, Reynard)

Engines in Series:  1 (Ford Cosworth)

Tires in Series: 1 (Firestone)

CART at Road America – 2002

The 2002 season was about Cristiano da Matta’s tour de force in the CART series. Da Matta’s 2002 championship season in the CART series lead to a career move to drive for the Toyota Formula One team in 2003.

Pole Position: Bruno Junqueira

Winning Driver: Cristiano da Matta

Winning Team: Nawman/Haas Racing

Winning Chassis and Engine: Lola/Toyota

Chassis in Series: 2 (Lola, Reynard)

Engines in Series: 3 (Ford-Cosworth, Honda, Toyata)

Tires in Series: 1 (Firestone)