In 1963, Craig Breedlove set his first land speed record at the Bonnevile Salt Flats in one of his series of "Spirit of America" vehicles. Here is one of those vehicles.
Curt Cavin first mentioned the relevance of this epic car to the future of IndyCar a few weeks ago, and today, nearly 50 years after the first record-setting run, this "Spirit of America" design has been applied to the "Delta Wing" IndyCar design as a sign of unprecedented innovation. Behold that which might possibly be the future of IndyCars.
In my less-than-esteemed opinion, it's soaking wet bag of mess. The unsightly offspring of a dragster and an F-16. A high-speed tricycle, and according to several IndyCar fans, a phallic tricycle at that.
It's a steaming pile of retro-inspired junk, summarized ironically by the Delta Wing site when it read, at the expiration of it's longstanding countdown, "Sorry, you're too late." Really, at best this is very Colonial Viper, circa 1978, but flattened and encumbered by wheels.
Maybe I'm off my rocker but I thought in addition to speed and innovation IndyCar racing is supposed to also be about aesthetics and, in recent years, safety. This new design might be fast, but as a race car that would be required to turn is looks ridiculous. As bad as you might think the currently well-aged Dallara design is, can you tell me you'd rather watch this instead?
Really? That doesn't look - forgive me for saying this - utterly laughable to you?
Before I ruffle too many feathers here, I want to say that I do appreciate the "boldness" of the design, and I understand that designer Ben Bowlby has put a lot of thought into this.
“Looking radical was never the objective – the Delta Wing shape is simply the outcome of addressing performance targets. Approaching it as an engineer I was most aware of safety, performance and efficiency and its relevance to the auto industry and also cost. It’s not about making a cheap race car, but there is the issue of cost vs. value for money. This car is high-tech but simple. The parts count is way down and that helps keep it inexpensive and easy to maintain compared to the cars of the last 20 years – and we have a great deal of visible signage area!Fine, but let's talk about that form for a moment. I'm not engineer, but what I am is - like most of you - a fan. And I'm certain that even though I feel like this makes about as much sense as an IndyCar as a Kia Sedona does as a Cup entry, I fully acknowledge there are at least some of you who love this thing like it was warm and gooey chocolate chip cookie. And to the extent that it should be given consideration to race against designs already presented by Dallara and Swift - as well as some lovely designed paragraphs from Lola - I say fine, by all means let 'em race.
“It’s an integrated approach. It’s not JUST the car. It’s the technology, spectator and industry appeal and engagement, combined with the car. What we have proposed for the car is not a styling exercise…. Form has followed function.”
Except here's the rub: right now the series, in an effort to contain costs, claims that there will be only one chassis design for 2012. As Marshall Pruett has noted amidst some senseless name-calling and mistaken comparisons to a Spike Lee flick, this is a design supported by many IRL team owners, and as such it is has been submitted under the guise of a veiled threat.
It’s sad, lame, and plays into the partisan politics that have no place in a series as fragile as IndyCar. I don’t know if he (Brian Banhart, whom Pruett refers to as "Kee-Rock") realizes just how close he keeps pushing the Delta Wings to a point where they decide to form their own series.This, from a man who earlier in the same article suggest all parties involved should "Put aside your differences, whatever they may be, and work together." Really? Working together, you say? By calling those who disagree with you names?
Jackass moves by USAC spawned CART. A jackass move created the IRL. Maybe this latest jackass move will cause the Delta Wings, an ownership base mostly free of jackasses, to take their fire elsewhere.
I can hear it now…“I’m a caveman, and I’m frightened by your strange Delta Wing machine…”
If Kee-Rock keeps it up, he could find himself with an empty paddock in 2012 and no one to drive his new Dallara.
But I don't want to be distracted here because this isn't about Mr Pruett or Mr Barnhart, but about the rest of us who dedicate our time and money to this sport. The FANS. And this is the part that as a fan I start swearing, throwing small appliances, and threatening to take up blogging about some other sport. We just got bimergified two years ago after years of insistence by these very owners, and now all of a sudden it sounds like they're ready to tear it all apart again over some stupid-looking car. Excuse me, but anything associated with another open-wheel split is certainly not going to be described as "innovative".
And aside from the baggage that already accompanies this car there are some very real issues based on the prototype revealed today. On first glance it looks to me like that car has no mirrors, probably because they'd have to go directly in the driver's line of sight. Couple that with the extremely narrower wheelbase in the front and it would seem drivers would be more likely to run into each other with those big backsides.
And speaking of running into each other, the Delta Wing also has an extraordinarily exposed tub without protective sidepods that makes me wonder if anyone gave Alex Zanardi a consultation. Oh, and it's got fenders, which call me crazy seems antithetical to "open-wheel" racing. Then again, if the wheelbase variance makes collisions more likely then fenders may be warranted. At this point I ask in earnest, "What exactly were you designing here again?"
Early reaction from IRL drivers was mixed - Graham Rahal digs it, Justin Wilson does not, Alex Lloyd is diplomatic - and since these are the people that would have to actually drive the thing they should certainly be allowed some input. As it is, you can sell me on the innovation but not on the aesthetics, so excuse me while I dump a bottle of Hater-ade all over that...thing.