12 March 2010

The Chassis Chase Continues

Let's be honest: with all the talk of 2012 and the future of the Izod IndyCar Series, the 2010 and 2011 seasons may be quickly forgotten.

Honestly, at this point, I'd say we've seen more coverage over five proposed chassis than words on the upcoming season.  And with the 2010 IndyCar season beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday (just another excuse to drink in the morning), we're going to talk about chassis, once again.

Brian Barnhardt says in an interview with the
Indianapolis Star's Curt Cavin that he is open to multiple chassis in the next generation of IndyCar racing, i.e., the 2012 season.
This is a revelation - prior to the interview, it was widely assumed that only one chassis would be chosen amongst the five, leaving fans with plenty of teeth-gnashing as they tried to pick their favorite model.

Now, Barnhardt is leaving the door open to chassis competition, provided the cost is right.  As he tells Cavin:

Barnhart made it clear the IRL prefers competition, which costs money for research and development. Therefore, he knows the manufacturer's price will increase.  
"But how much?  If they say it will take $430,000 in a competitive environment, I'd probably take that because going from $680,000 now to $430,000 is still a $250,000 improvement."
It makes sense; now, if Barnhardt can really pull together a multiple-chassis package that saves each team roughly $250,000, I'd be surprised.  But frankly, I was surprised to hear him talk so candidly about being able to have a multiple-chassis series, too.

Why even bring it up if you know it won't work financially?  From a public relations standpoint, to cast that line knowing that your fans will bite and cling to it, but knowing that it isn't feasible is just terrible.  And I would hope that Barnhardt has more sense than to do this.

The notion behind having competition from both chassis and engine manufacturers is simple - it drives competition and innovation.  Both of which have been hallmarks of open-wheel racing prior to the single-engine, single-chassis racing of the last five years.  With more choices, more engineers can become involved and maybe it's Dale Coyne who finds something in his Swift chassis that allows him to compete with Ganassi's Dallara chassis down the road.

I mean, with multiple chassis and multiple engine manufacturers, the Izod IndyCar Series could continue its upward trend of making the proper decisions.  It's almost like they're trying to bring the series back to its heyday of the early 1990's.

I remember attending the Indianapolis 500 as a child; one of my favorite parts was when my dad would buy a 500 program, because the program contained (and still does) the 33-car pullout.  Along with a picture of each car, the specs were listed (Reynard/Cosworth, Lola/Mercedes, Reynard/Honda, etc.) - I didn't know what they meant, I just knew that different drivers had different combinations, and that some were more effective than others.

Now, every car is listed Dallara/Honda.  And while both have proven to be effective and quality partners for the series, I hope Barnhardt is able to move the series back to the day where the chassis/engine manufacturer specs are once again relevant to the teams and drivers of the IndyCar Series.

1 comment:

  1. I've been asking for the League to ask the manufacturers to take a look at their numbers and come up with the price for their car in a competition-driven market for a few months now. This makes me so happy I want to cry. I'm not going to hold my brerath that we'll wind up with more than one supplier (as I'd ask everybody else to do, too), but just the fact that the League is open to such a thing and is going to ask all of the companies involved to rework their spreadsheets for just that scenario is a HUGE step in the right direction. It's a good day.