Editorial

The next generation Champ Cars - Part 2

 by Mark Cipolloni
December 29, 2003

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New V10 Zytek car - What series is it for?
Photo courtesy of Zytek

A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Can you tell all of us readers what are the differences between the Zytek chassis that's being talked about today (see proof-of-concept rumor) and the superfund chassis you talked about a couple weeks ago? And which do you think would be better? Kelly O'Connor, Altoona, Iowa

Dear Kelly, Unfortunately at this time Zytek has not released any more information about this new car and engine (see photo to right) they are testing than what is in the press release included in the rumor.  I am attempting to get more details.   I heard through the grapevine that it puts out over 600 HP and is a V10. The tires and wheels are definitely F1 size, which is perfect in our book. 

Zytek New Car Press Release: The new Zytek car powered by the latest Zytek phase four ZG engine was driven by experienced F3000 driver Enrico Toccacelo.  Zytek continued the development of their new chassis with another highly successful test at the Italian circuit of Misano last Thursday and Friday December, 18 & 19, 2003.  Initially, on day one Enrico familiarized himself with the all new Zytek electric paddle shift system, but soon completed a best time of 1 minute 18.6 on old tires. Further developments were carried out overnight on the car and the following day Enrico covered the track in a stunning 1 minute 17.4. Over the two days the Italian driver completed 50 laps saying the car was "mega". He was delighted with the initial feeling of the car saying the engine and the paddle shift gear-change were very impressive, and went on to add that there is a lot more time to come from the car. To compare times Enrico then stepped into a Euro 3000 car and did a 1 minute 21.2 - some 3.8 seconds slower than the Zytek package. Zytek will continue its test program in January 2004.


Dallara V6 Nissan Superfund Car
Photo by Guenter Reinhold/AR1

The Dallara Nissan car (pictured right) is powered by a V6, but otherwise the same size as a F1 car, including tires.  So both the Zytek car and the Nissan Superfund car appear to be about the same size but the Zytek has an engine that puts out much more HP than the Dallara Nissan car.  The next Generation Nissan Superfund Car is rumored to produce over 600 HP as well.  Note both this car and the Zytek above have F1 size wheels and tires.  The car to the right has grooved tires because the track is wet and it is running rain tires.

In the article that I wrote titled CART Champ Cars, The Next Generation - Part 1,  I proposed a F1 size car with about 750 HP.  However, our proposal was for a car that was still almost 500 pounds heavier than an F1 car.  If the car is lighter than that, the engine can make less HP and the lap times will be comparable.

We had proposed a 3.0 L V-10 engine.  The advantage of a 4.0 L V-10 is that it can make the same HP at a lot lower RPM, hence more miles between rebuilds and a cost savings. Our concern would be that if the revs are too low it would not scream like a F1 engine and CART would lose out big time on the wow-factor. However, they could start with a 4.0 L V-10 and then de-stroke it to 3.5 L and eventually to 3.0 L over time, bumping up the RPM each time. I expect CART will have a RPM cap on their new engine so they can control runaway HP with displacement reduction much like the IRL has done.

A consolidation around Formula 2 coming?
It will be interesting to see where CART positions itself in the world market.  The Dallara Nissan car, the Zytek car, and the new F2 car are all migrating to a F1 size car.  Horsepower and how much exotic technology is allowed will be the distinguishing factor.  F3000 is going away in 2005, to be replaced with F2.  The target for the new F2 car I am told is about 650 HP.  

For obvious reasons it would be good if the Dallara Nissan Superfund World Series, Formula 2, Formula Nippon (currently F3000 chassis with 3.0 L 540 HP Mugen Honda V8), Euro 3000, and perhaps the next generation Champ Car all ran to the same exact specifications - the new F2 specs.  This would clean up all the variations out there and create one worldwide spec just below F1. All of these series are struggling to survive. Think about the economies of scale and the interchangeability of all these series if they all ran to the same specs. 

Let's face it, CART Champ Cars are never going to be F1 cars, so F2 is the next step down. Whereas the other series can use the same 'spec' engine in all the cars that compete in their respective series (Superfund/Dallara/Nissan, F2/Lola/Renault, Nippon/Lola/Mugen Honda), Champ Cars could differentiate themselves by having the same chassis and transmission as all the other series, but opening up the engines to manufacturer competition, but otherwise to the same exact engine rules.

That of course will bump costs up but most of that would be borne by the manufacturers.  The competition would also bump up horsepower. The other option is a spec engine like the other series, but badged by various manufacturers.  Champ Cars could also be more international in nature, competing around the world, whereas the 'other' F2 series would pretty much stick to one continent as they do today.

As I have stated before, if the next generation Champ Car is slower than the new F2 cars, CART runs the risk of taking a step down on the world ladder, meaning they will have a hard time selling their series to an international race promoter.  CART is going to want to sneak in just above F2 and below F1, but the gap between the two is becoming narrower. 

If F2 is slated to have 650 HP, and F1 has 900+ HP, then the Champ Cars would need about 750 HP to slot right in between perfectly (assuming they are using the same F2 chassis which will be much lighter than today's bloated Champ Car).  If CART keeps the same overweight car and 750 HP engine, the new F2 car will blow a Champ Car into the weeds and any mystique a Champ Car once had on the world marketplace will be lost forever.

Chris Pook stated CART was being positioned as a feeder series to F1.  I suspect Bernie Ecclestone may have clued him in as to what worldwide plans he had for F2 and how to solidify and strengthen open wheel road racing around the globe.  Time will tell whether Champ Cars can maintain their #2 position in the world, or will drop to #3.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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