No. 926
December 6, 2017
 

About The Autoextremist

@PeterMDeLorenzo

Author, commentator, influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. Editor-in-Chief of .

Peter DeLorenzo has been in and around the sport of racing since the age of ten. After a 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising, where he worked on national campaigns as well as creating many motorsports campaigns for various clients, DeLorenzo established Autoextremist.com on June 1, 1999. Over the years DeLorenzo's commentaries on racing and the business of motorsports have resonated throughout the industry. Because of the burgeoning influence of those commentaries, DeLorenzo has directly consulted automotive clients on the fundamental direction and content of their motorsports programs. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the sport today.

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Sunday
Feb142010

FUMES 

February 24, 2010

 

Publisher's Note: Since the vitriol aimed at me and the people behind the DeltaWing IndyCar concept has been particularly nasty and based - for the most part - on uneducated speculation, I think Gordon Kirby's piece about the subject is well worth the read. And I will reiterate the fact that I believe that the IRL either must embrace the future and the specifics of the DeltaWing package - especially the engine size and power-to-weight ratio, etc. - or be doomed to a downward spiral that they will never recover from. Would I prefer a straight fuel economy formula, e.g., a set number of gallons of fuel allotted for qualifying and the 500-mile distance at Indy (say, 50 gallons), with a basic dimensional envelope for the cars to adhere to with only minimal rules beyond that? Yes, of course I would, and for the record I have been advocating that for quite some time now. But in lieu of that radical of a transformation - and one that's seemingly way over the heads of the powers that be at IndyCar - I believe the DeltaWing concept is the sport's best bet. I will return with a new "Fumes" column next week. - PMD

 

The Future of IndyCar Racing.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

(Posted 2/14, 8:00AM) Detroit. I've been inundated with email from readers wondering what my take is on the DeltaWing IndyCar concept http://deltawingracing.com/ ever since it made its debut at the Chicago Auto Show last week. I must admit my initial reaction was negative. Though I applauded the thinking behind it, I felt that it was too cartoonish-looking to bring the sport forward. Needless to say, my first impression didn't last. But before I give my final assessment, some background is called for here.

Three years ago I attempted to push the sport forward with my Hydrogen Electric Racing Federation concept at an invitation-only meeting in Detroit. I presented my proposal to a group of industry representatives from GM, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Firestone and motorsport leaders - including Tony George and Scott Atherton - in a speech entitled "The Future of Racing," and though interest in the concept was initially high and it was deemed visionary, the realities of the automobile business at that moment in time prevented the interested manufacturers from going forward.

It was simply too much, too soon.

But good things did come from it, however. One, it got everybody in the room thinking about the future of racing, as in where it needed to go given the changing parameters of the automobile business and the global push to more environmental responsibility. It was clear that coming up with a new set of rules and restrictions to keep the speeds of the racing machines in check every year simply could not continue, because it was a road to nowhere. Instead, innovation, relevance and efficiency had to become an inexorable part of the sport going forward if it was going survive, let alone thrive.

Scott Atherton understood the significance of what I was proposing, which is why from that pivotal moment in Detroit forward he pushed the American Le Mans Series to become more relevant, with overall performance and efficiency - while embracing the use of alternative fuels and propulsion - becoming its raison d'etre. Today, the ALMS can legitimately lay claim to being the most environmentally responsible and "green" racing series in the world. I'm gratified that the gist of my HERF proposal - sans electricity and hydrogen - lives on.

But the fight continues. I continue to advocate returning racing to its rightful role as the birthplace of technological innovation and the developer of advanced automotive technology. Once upon a time that’s what automobile racing was all about. A guy by the name of Ray Harroun won the very first Indy 500 in 1911 driving his Marmon “Wasp” with a strange device attached to it – the very first known use of a rearview mirror. It allowed Harroun to drive the race without a riding mechanic, which had obvious advantages. And from that moment on, racing and the development of advanced automotive technologies went hand in hand.

Can we get racing back to the forefront of developing advanced automotive technologies? Yes, I believe we can. By pressing the “reset” button for racing and starting over, we can establish new challenges that will inspire a new level of ingenuity and creativity and foster a whole new dimension of innovation. But it will take a tremendous amount of vision and real guts by some seriously committed people who also have the power to affect real change.

With all of this in mind then, my initial reaction to the DeltaWing IndyCar concept was flat-out wrong. Because after looking deeper, the more I studied the DeltaWing IndyCar the more excited I became about its vision, its execution, and the promise it brings to the sport of IndyCar racing, especially as it pertains to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the greatest single automobile race in the world, the Indianapolis 500.

Designed by current Chip Ganassi engineer - and former Lola designer - Ben Bowlby, the ultra-low drag DeltaWing IndyCar concept for 2012 is a visionary burst of blue-sky thinking in a sport that desperately needs a good swift kick in the ass. Five hundred pounds lighter than the current IndyCars running today and more aerodynamically efficient with its narrow front track and the absence of front wings, the DeltaWing concept can deliver the same performance with half the horsepower, meaning it is capable of lapping the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 225mph+ with just 350HP - with faster acceleration and better braking performance - all while delivering a prodigious increase in fuel economy and dramatically reduced operating costs.

Designed to use four-cylinder engines, it is clear that another obvious advantage of the DeltaWing IndyCar concept is that virtually every major automaker in the world could produce engines for the car right now, so we could see everything from Ford EcoBoost and GM Ecotec engines to racing engines from Audi, BMW, Chrysler-Fiat, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota, VW, etc., etc., competing. The other intriguing part of the DeltaWing IndyCar concept is that Ganassi has stated that he wants multiple racing car manufacturers involved so that they'll be able to build their own versions of the concept.

Prominent motorsports journalist Gordon Kirby (gordonkirby.com) talked to Peter Gibbons, Andretti Autosports’ technical director, who has been in the sport for more than 30 years. It was interesting to hear Gibbons' take on Bowlby’s Delta Wing design for IndyCar and why he thinks the IRL should adopt it. “If they don’t, then at some point fairly soon it’s over,” Gibbons told Kirby. “We’ve got to take a major step and think way ahead. We need some relevancy. There’s no relevancy in what we’re doing and even less with what NASCAR is doing. When gas is eight dollars a gallon, which isn’t far off, and we’re still pounding around in these fat, horrible, heavy cars, we’re in trouble.”

Gibbons is absolutely right - we just cannot continue on the way we're going if this sport is to survive.

IRL champion Dario Franchitti agrees, telling Kirby: “All I know is the Delta Wing is innovative and that’s what we need. We’ve got to bring innovation back to the sport and the Delta Wing will do it. I hope it happens.”

To me the DeltaWing IndyCar concept is as bold, innovative and game-changing as the BMW Oracle Racing trimaran, which, with its 223-foot visionary wing, is flying the America's Cup into the future, whether we're all ready for it, or not.

I firmly believe that to embrace the status quo - or even a smartly-modified status quo like the updated designs from Dallara, Lola, Swift, et al - is not what the sport of IndyCar racing needs right now. It's time to break the mold and step into the future with a bold new outlook and a completely different and innovative approach.

Lighter, more aerodynamic and more fuel efficient - with comparable performance and lower operating costs - I believe the dramatic DeltaWing IndyCar concept should be the future of the sport.

I sincerely hope that the powers that be in the IRL can muster the vision and conviction to take the sport in this new direction.

Anything less would not only mean more of the same, but another incremental step on the road to the sport's eventual oblivion.

Publisher's Note: Judging by the early volume of email, a lot of you have deemed me crazy for liking the DeltaWing IndyCar, simply based on its looks. Change is uncomfortable for some, and I understand that. And in the process of moving the sport forward, detractors will always find fault. For the record, my personal all-time favorite open-wheel car of any kind is Dan Gurney's 1967 Eagle - powered by the Gurney-Weslake V12 - which he won the Belgium Grand Prix at Spa with (he's still the only American ever to put a car of his own design and construction in the winner's circle in the 100-year history of Formula 1). Would I like it if the next-gen IndyCar looked just like that car? No, because you can't turn back the clock and it's notgonnahappen.com anyway. I stand by every word of my column. It's time to take the sport of IndyCar racing into a new dimension. - PMD

(Photos courtesy of DeltaWing Racing)

 

 

Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Courtesy of the Ford Racing Archives)
Indianapolis, Indiana, 1966. Dan Gurney debuts his Eagle Indy car (chassis number 201) in practice for the 1966 Indianapolis 500. The car was a Len Terry design based on the 1965 Indy-winning Lotus 38. Unlike other Indy-type cars at the time, Gurney's Eagle centered the body on the suspension, foregoing offsetting it to the left, which was all the rage of the day. Powered by the four-cam Ford Indy V8 delivering in the neighborhood of 475HP, the most notable feature of Gurney's new Eagles was the pronounced "beak" shape of the nose, which became the distinguishing visual signature of his early racing machines. Gurney entered three team cars for himself, Lloyd Ruby and Joe Leonard for the 1966 Indy 500, and two customer cars, one driven by Jerry Grant and the other by Roger McCluskey. None of the cars would finish the race that day. But Gurney's Eagles would become popular and by 1973 nineteen of the 33 starters for the Indy 500 were in Eagle racing cars. Gurney never won the Indy 500, finishing second twice, but Bobby Unser would win the 1975 Indianapolis 500 driving an Indy Eagle-Offy.


 

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