And No I am not talking about that girl from church your mother wanted you to date. In this case I am talking about – you guessed it, the Delta Wing. At this point we have seen three sets of image from three different car designers and as fate would have the three main constituencies are lined up behind a different concept for the future, The League is squarely behind the Dallara efforts, The fans generally seem to favor the Swift renderings and Chip’s posse of out of the box (but in the pants) thinking car owners is positioning the Delta Wing for world domination. Houston, you may have a race in 2011, but we have a problem. A big one (insert reference to the DW’s shape here). Welcome to the League Randy!!
And the problem is made intractable by the simple problem that one of the options really is the answer to what ails fans, teams and administrators of the sport. But once all the benefits are added up, aspects of function are accounted for, the Form is something that is entirely distasteful. She Just isn’t pretty and many will argue that she isn’t even a she to begin with.
What Delta Wing is proposing is a basic car design that allows multiple manufacturers to create unique chassis, that can be powered by a range of engine types, equalized by a device that limits the flow of fuel into the engine allowing a wide range of innovation and differentiation among competitors. Isn’t this what most bloggers and commentators on the blogging sites are screaming for?
What Delta Wing is suggesting is a car that is less expensive overall, has fewer pieces to replace, while at the same time offering more visible surface to sell to sponsors, allows to team to innovate and develop their own customized bits for the cars. Again what most owners say they are in need of.
What Delta Wing is suggesting is a car that because it is lighter and has fewer breakable pieces and is more easily confined to the fenced in boundaries of the racing surface, can potentially run smaller stock engine programs that are directly linkable to product offerings for car manufacturers and finally differentiates IndyCar from all other major series.. Isn’t that combination of fan safety and sponsor friendliness exactly what the league has wanted?
But again it doesn’t look anything like what we expect an IndyCar to look like and is simply a jolt to the senses.
After seeing it there are concerns about safety. The Delta Wingers will suggest that with the longer nose, there is the opportunity to have two whole feet of crumple room followed by a cockpit area that is more blunt in its shaping as opposed to the piecing dagger of the current car. Since the car weighs significantly less, it will carry less inertia into any collision it has, which is better for the wall, fence or most importantly car the collision is with. But with no crumple areas around the driver It may be that while Meira, Power and Dana might fare better in an accident, I would still be very concerned if I were Zanardi, Carpenter or Phillipe.
Probably my biggest concern is the raceability of these cars and issues that might arise with a car that does not have equally wide fronts as backs. How these car do with each other dicing with each other on the track while drivers learn the intricacies of driving where they have the opportunity to stick their skinny front end into places their fat asses won’t go may be an issue. Computer simulations are good, but human drivers with risk taking tendencies are different. We simply wont know until we are on the track.
What makes the issues and consequences larger than in any other new car introduction for a long long time is that the change to the field is complete. When the first rear engine car showed up, there were 40 plus other established front engine cars competing as well. If the rear engine car was a failure, then it didn’t qualify or it became a back marker and the race went on without it. Whereas here we are in the situation that if this car is a dud then the whole series has dropped a lot of coin into securing its collective failure and demise.
At this point the problem then becomes one of timing. The manufacturers say they need 18 months to engineer, create and test a new car. SO a decision has to be made in May to be ready for 2012. Delta Wing says it can have a prototype up and running for an August test BUT if things don’t go well? The League is committed and can only go backwards to another year of the current car.
I am on the record as saying that the next IndyCar should not be afraid of being bold and different and that what the car accomplished from an engineering statement should be noteworthy in the wider automotive community. But frankly what I was expecting was something more akin to the #33 Swift, which to date is the choice that most interests me.
The benefits from the Delta Wing appear to be real, but so too are the fears and concerns from fans and league officials. The only way around that I currently see is that two tracks may progress. A winner from the cars on a standard wheel base platform and the Delta Wing. The standard wheelbase winner should be selected with a promise that it will race at least two years. The winner should also be a bold enough design to distance the series from the current basic form of the car which has been in play for 40 years. A transition car should be selected that accomplishes some of what the DW promises.
In that time, a handful, 5 – 10 Delta Wings should be built and raced. But not in the IICS series.
A couple options are available first, there’s a bunch of empty dates for what used to be the A1GP series. Perhaps a 5 race off season series (1 race on each continent?) could be created for the sole exclusive purpose of testing these new cars. An Engine sponsor might be found, the fans would flock like the circus (or freak show) is in town, finishing with an additional 100 mile race during the month of May. Since the bulk of the races would be off season in south of the equator warm spots, the drivers recruited could potentially give the exhibition series an air of an all star event, with drivers from IICS, F1 and nascar participating in the project. Even if the DW is not ultimately selected, the events will garner world wide attention for the series and it's 2012 design and if the DW is selected, the world will then be watching that first DW season.
Another alternative is to collaborate with a series that already runs a mixed specification field, like partnering with ALMS or Grand Am to include DW’s in the field for a select number of their events.
Ultimately if the DW is not selected for 2014, that allows the 2012 chassis to continue for another 2 years and a 2 year lead time for the next chassis.
In the end, the benefits of change needs to come, but the world has to be ready for it and it has to have more than a "probable" likelihood of success since the current economics dictate an all in move. A transition and testing period is needed.