Will There Be A Chassis Update Today?
Today was the original deadline for the much-anticipated announcement on the chassis selection for competition in the future of the IZOD IndyCar Series, beginning in 2012. While that has been pushed back, we are supposed to get some type of update today that may give us an indication where this whole thing is going. The ICONIC committee that has been entrusted with this decision has heard proposals from the chassis manufacturers and has all the facts in hand that they need. Now they just have to decide. That sounds simple enough…right?
In all honesty, this is one of the toughest and most important decisions in the short fifteen year history of the league. Where the league goes in relation to equipment from 2012 and beyond will be a key factor in determining the long-term success of the league, and CEO Randy Bernard knows it. That is why he has formed the ICONIC (Innovative, Competitive, Open-wheel, New, Industry-Relevant, Cost-effective) Advisory Committee; comprised of members from various areas of motor racing and headed by four-star Air Force General William R. Looney III. Some members like Brian Barnhart, Gil de Ferran and Tony Cotman have or have had direct ties with the IZOD IndyCar Series. Others, such as Texas Motor Speedway’s Eddie Gossage, have an indirect interest in the health of the series. Then there are Tony Purnell and Neil Ressler, both of whom hail from Jaguar’s Formula One team and Rick Long, who has a long and storied past with several engine manufacturers dating back to 1973 and the Turbo Offy program.
Their decision essentially boils down to the radical looking DeltaWing concept and somewhat more traditional looking proposals from Dallara, Lola, Swift and BAT Engineering. They may choose one single chassis, some or all of them – with the latter being highly unlikely. So what will today’s announcement hold if it comes? No one really knows. Each ICONIC committee member has signed nondisclosure documents and they have remained especially tight-lipped. Anyone claiming to know is merely speculating. But speculating is what bloggers do, so I’ll be no different.
My prediction is that the ICONIC committee will announce that the field has been pared down and that one or more groups are no longer under consideration. If I had to bet money, I would say that at least one of those groups is the DeltaWing concept. As time goes on, I keep hearing more and more people directly involved with the series say that they think that whatever chassis design is chosen – it should be recognizable as an IndyCar. The rough translation of that is that it should not be the DeltaWing.
Since the DeltaWing was unveiled in Chicago four and a half months ago, the range of opinions has been wide and varied. But I would say that the majority of fans, both hardcore and casual, have a negative opinion of the DeltaWing chassis. I’m too old-school to ever embrace such a crazy design for an IndyCar, but after hearing some of the ideas and principles behind the concept – I decided it was at least worth a second look. I got that second look in person behind the Pagoda in May. Although it looked interesting, I just couldn’t visualize it on that track just a few yards away.
Randy Bernard is not on the ICONIC committee, but you know he has instructed them on what to consider. They are an advisory committee and technically do not have the last word. But rest assured, Randy Bernard and the IZOD IndyCar Series will go with what they advise. He didn’t go to all the trouble to set up this committee, only to overrule their decision. Although there are no fans on the committee – and understandable so; Randy Bernard has shown that he is listening to the fans and their voices have been heard.
On a side note about Randy Bernard…The Indianapolis Business Journal ran an article written by Anthony Schoettle on Tuesday. The article is about how the author perceived that Randy Bernard has done a lackluster job in his first four months on the job, and he assigned him a “C” grade. I don’t live in Indianapolis and am not familiar with Mr. Schoettle, but I wonder what one has to do to receive an “A” grade from him. In the four months Mr. Bernard has been on the job, I’ve seen and heard mostly great things from him.
I was skeptical of him at first. The idea that a guy from Professional Bull Riding was going to come in and fix our sport was almost laughable. But what he has done has been nothing short of phenomenal. I’m not in favor of everything he has done; but his results, so far, have earned my trust (for whatever that’s worth) where I’ll give anything he suggests the benefit of the doubt. Such was not the case with his predecessor. To think he was going to come in and fix everything in four months is ludicrous. Should you care to read the article, you may find it here. You’ll also recognize a lot of the names in the comment section, including yours truly, defending Mr. Bernard.
But by taking the fans opinion into account and listening to teams and drivers, I find it hard to believe that the DeltaWing is still under consideration. Will any other groups be cut in the first round? I have no idea.
For the past two weeks, Trackside With Cavin & Kevin has had representatives from Swift and BAT presenting their case. Although they both emphasized different points, they each made strong cases for their designs. One point they were unified on was that their price would double if their company did not have exclusivity. While I understand their position, I certainly hope that the ICONIC committee doesn’t bow to such scare tactics. There needs to be competition in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Competition in motor racing starts with who has the fastest car. If they are all alike, you’ve already lost the interest of many.
Quite honestly, I say bring the remaining four (minus the DeltaWing) to the party and may the best design win. If it doesn’t win immediately,. It is up to their designers to make it win or risk falling into extinction. That probably won’t happen but I still hope that they allow more than one player. Speculation that centers on that can wait for another time – after the DeltaWing has been clipped.