The 2012 IndyCar: A Bevy Of Mixed Emotions
For all of the hype that was befitting LeBron James, the big announcement of the chassis announcement on Wednesday at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, left me feeling just a bit under-whelmed. I must disclose that I did not see the live video feed. I was tied up in a meeting at work, but a co-worker was kind enough to interrupt to come whisper these words in my ear: “Dallara got it”.
Without knowing any other details, I sat through the rest of the meeting feeling myself beginning to fume. For the first time since Randy Bernard took the reins of the league, I felt betrayed. I began to reflect on what a sham this was – to put the fans, teams and prospective manufacturers through this charade, when Dallara had it sewn up all along. I couldn’t wait to break for lunch so that I could get to a computer.
After quickly skimming my Trackside Online e-mails (which, if you don’t subscribe to it – you should) and a glance at a few other blog sites and understanding the entire concept; I felt a little bit better about things, but I had a ton of questions. When I got home last night and really dug into it, I had many more questions and an overall empty and disappointed feeling.
For those that have been under a rock since lunchtime yesterday; the announcement in a nutshell was that Dallara would build the common tub, rolling chassis or “safety cell” but any other manufacturer would be allowed to design, build and sell aero-kits to bolt onto the car. A team can run only two different aero-kits in a given season and the aero-kits cannot cost more than $70,000. The cost of the rolling chassis would be $349,000 or a complete car would be $385,000. This represents an overall savings of about 45% over the current package.
A couple of weeks ago, Curt Cavin presented a very convincing argument why the final decision would be Dallara and Lola. Both manufacturers have an established history in open-wheel racing and they are also currently involved in many different racing series, thereby limiting their risks. Swift is more of a boutique builder, while BAT Engineering and DeltaWing were start-up operations whose sole existence depended on the success of their IndyCar venture. This was the safe choice. Both had presented traditional looking designs. Dallara had been with the IZOD IndyCar Series since 1997, while Lola had been a longtime supplier to CART and had a design which could be used in the Firestone Indy Lights Series, also. Choosing both would satisfy the majority of fans who have been clamoring for multiple chassis for years. It made sense.
Hearing the initial news that “Dallara got it” infuriated me and probably put me in a very cynical frame of mind as I perused through the different websites last night, trying to get a handle on things. After settling down and trying to be more rational about things, it started to make sense.
As I analyze things, it seems like a giant compromise. Brian Barnhart is happy because his cohorts at Dallara are still in the game, and they are still going to be the only manufacturer of the basic tub that all the teams will have to buy. Dallara is happy because not only do they have exclusivity on all the new rolling chassis, but their current (also exclusive) chassis will not be grandfathered in as had been previously rumored – guaranteeing revenue for all chassis in the 2012 field.
Fans (like me) that have been screaming about the lack of innovation should be happy because different manufacturers will be encouraged to try their hand at creating the best aero-kit available. Competition for speed is the core of what this sport is about. We should also be thrilled that cars on the same grid have the potential to look very different, depending on what aero-kit a team chooses to run.
But the announcement was unfulfilling for me, personally. I was truly expecting at least two different manufacturers to build cars to compete for speed and teams business. I had secretly hoped against common logic that three or more would be allowed to participate, even though I knew that was a longshot.
Somewhere I read that they basically stole the concept of the DeltaWing and gave it to Dallara. I apologize not being able to credit whoever said it, but it’s true. This was the concept that Ben Bowlby and Chip Ganassi announced in February. Their concept was good, but their car was just hideous. The ICONIC committee lifted the concept from the doomed DeltaWing and handed it to their longtime partner Dallara. Hmmm…
Of course, the drivers sound as if they are completely on board with this. What are they supposed to say? They are all part of yesterday’s hype machine. But according to Trackside Online, some teams are quietly wondering if the cost savings are going to end up being as much as advertised when it’s all said and done.
But overall; the more I digest this thing, the better it sets. It’s a far cry better than what we’ve had since 2006 – a field full of ancient and not so attractive Dallara’s. I personally don’t think the current Dallara is as ugly as others claim. It isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing racecar I’ve ever seen, but it certainly isn’t the ugliest. I always thought the Reynard of the mid to late-nineties was hideous to look at, but it’s performance made up for it. I’m just tired of looking at the exact same car we’ve been looking at since 2003. Innovation will certainly be a part of the sport after a multi-year absence.
The final announcement just wasn’t what I expected. I read plenty of blogs where people were ecstatic, but I’d be willing to bet that there were more people that left the Indianapolis Museum of Art scratching their collective heads than there were those giddy with excitement. Let’s just say I’m not as giddy as a lot of fans. Unfortunately, today I find myself with more questions than answers. I expected Wednesday to answer my questions. It didn’t. So instead of assigning a grade of A+ to this long-awaited announcement, I’m more compelled to be cautiously optimistic and take a wait and see approach. Sorry, but I can’t carry the IZOD IndyCar banner on this one quite yet.