New Race Car to Debut at INDYCAR Weekend in Sonoma
SONOMA, Calif. (Aug. 14, 2012) – The IZOD IndyCar® Series will showcase its new engine/chassis combination in Sonoma at the GoPro Indy® Grand Prix of Sonoma, Aug. 24-26, It will mark the 13th time the new car has raced this season but the first at the historic, high-speed road course.
The first thing one will notice is the sound. It’s quieter, racier, more pleasant and easier on the ears. The next thing is the look. It has larger sidepods and large rear bumpers, designed with safety in mind.
The Dallara DW12 chassis and its turbocharged engines have been in play since the first test of the season in March, but for those seeing and hearing them for the first time, the difference between new and old is dramatic, to say the least.
“Anytime you have a car for as long as we had the last car, you get used to it,” explains driver/owner Ed Carpenter, acknowledging the previous Dallara chassis had been used by INDYCAR. “So when you introduce a new car, it’s a shock to the system. We’ve gotten used to it by now, so it’s not a big deal to us anymore. But for people who are seeing it for the first time, it’s definitely a change.”
The key to fans’ adjusting to the change, drivers and team owners say, is the fact that the new chassis/engine combo seems, in general, to produce better racing. The switch from naturally aspirated engines to a turbocharged ones accounts for the leaner, meaner sound, but it also gets credit for better racing on road courses like Sonoma’s sweeping layout.
Turbochargers use exhaust gases to reintroduce more air into the engine, allowing a relatively small engine to produce more horsepower than a naturally aspirated engine; thus, the new engines accelerate more quickly out of turns. Fans seated in the main grandstand will notice how much more quickly this year’s cars get up to speed upon exit of Turn 12, the sharp, right-hand hairpin that leads to the main straightaway.
“It definitely has more kick on acceleration,” Carpenter says, “but what’s gotten more attention than the way it accelerates or sounds or looks is the fact that it has raced well. Once people got past the look and sound, they realized that it was a racier car.”
The look is unique. While the essential aspects of modern INDYCARs remain – open-wheel, single-seat, open-cockpit chassis – the mass is quite different. The sidepod has been expanded to prevent wheels from interlocking and touching, giving the DW12 – named in honor of the late Dan Wheldon, who was instrumental in testing the car last year – an unusual, rear-heavy look.
“The biggest thing is the appearance of the rear bumper assembly,” Carpenter said. “That’s what people always notice first. When it’s going away from you, it looks different. Most of what fans notice is aesthetic, but we got used to it a long time ago.”
Instead, they got used to some entertaining racing. True, the new chassis/engine combo has had its growing pains, but the car has raced effectively at ovals, street courses and road courses.
“This is a revolution,” said Dallara Automobili’s Andrea Toso. “It is a new way of doing things. You have to be clever and design things right the first time, thinking about the use of it in years to come for new engines, new racetracks, drivers who require different things.
The shock of the change long since faded, teams are focused on perfecting the new combination. While Lotus has struggled, Honda and Chevrolet are engaged in a fierce battle for superiority. Drivers and engineers are eagerly awaiting the 2013 season and the possibility of aero kits, which will further change the dynamic. The way the car looks or sounds isn’t a major part of the discussion anymore. The way it performs is.
“I think everyone just quit talking about the way it looks,” Carpenter said. “The bottom line is that it looks different. We got over that part of it pretty fast. Once May rolled around, we were set with it and comfortable with the way it raced. Now, when we look at the old car, it looks strange. It’s all a matter of getting used to what you see.
For tickets or more information on the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma weekend, visit racesonoma.com/indycar or call 800-870-RACE (7223).