The DeltaWing racecar concept is generating nonstop buzz in racing circles with its chief designer claiming the production racecar will have half the weight, half the drag, and half the cost of today's Indy cars.
"It's a revolutionary design," Ben Bowlby exclaimed. As Designer and Chief Technology Officer for start-up DeltaWing Racing Cars, Bowlby's 2012 vision for open-wheel racing debuted as a full-scale model during media days at the 2010 Chicago Auto Show.
Computer simulations show the turbocharged, four-cylinder racecar zooming 235 mph (378 km/h) around a high-speed oval track but doing so with half the fuel consumption and half the horsepower of current Indy cars, according to Bowlby.
"We anticipate being able to sell a complete car, including engine, for approximately $600,000—around half the price of the current-generation Indy car. We can achieve this cost reduction and bring back the benefits of technological competition at the same time," said Bowlby, who formerly worked as Technical Director at Chip Ganassi Racing Teams.
The DeltaWing racecar's wide rear body, which looks like a triangle without its tip when viewed overhead, supports a 70-in (1778-mm) rear track. A large upright tail-wing replaces the conventional aero-wings seen on today's Indy cars. From the driver's cockpit forward, the car is narrower, sporting a 24-in (610-mm) front track.
Indy Racing League (IRL) team owner Chip Ganassi smiles when people say the DeltaWing doesn't look anything like today's open-wheel racecar. "I guess people made similar comments when the first rear engine car came to Indianapolis. Indy cars have always been an iconic image, but we've been racing basically the same car for about 30 years. This is just a new idea, and we're pretty excited about it," said Ganassi, who is also a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner.
Compared to current open-wheel racecars, virtually every design detail of the DeltaWing racecar is different.
According to Bowlby, "In today's cars, the engine and transmission form part of the chassis structure—remove either [engine or transmission] and the car cannot support its own weight. The advantage of a nonstressed engine and transmission only becomes apparent as [the powertrain] gets smaller and lighter and so is less suitable for supporting the structural needs of the chassis."
The vast majority of the DeltaWing's mass is on the larger rear tires. "A current car has a weight distribution of 43% on the front. The DeltaWing has only 27.5% in comparison," said Bowlby.
A running prototype of the DeltaWing is planned for August. "Other than short lead times, the biggest challenge is achieving the goal of an 850-lb without-driver vehicle weight. The use of modern materials and advanced modeling techniques are helping us meet this critical challenge," Bowlby said.
Preferred material choices for the future racecar fall into the earth-friendly category.
"Our goal is to pioneer the use of recyclable, low-cost, sustainable materials in the areas of the car that typically featured carbon fiber epoxy matrix structures. We are looking at materials like the polypropylene matrix made by Milliken," explained Bowlby. "Essentially the only nonrecyclable material in the car will be the small percentage of epoxy matrix structures. Since the car features no wings or other aerodynamic appendages that need such high-strength and high-stiffness structures, the car is less expensive and more readily recyclable."
After seeing the DeltaWing full-scale model during its reveal at the Chicago Auto Show, Jimmy Vasser, co-team owner of KV Racing Technology—fielding IndyCar veteran E. J. Viso and former Formula One driver Takuma Sato in the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season—said the concept car has merit.
"I think it will produce pretty interesting racing. You could probably do a little bit more banging because the wheels are not that exposed," said Vasser, who was the 1996 PPG Indy Car World Series Driver's Champion.