It’s been in the works
for months, this plan to create the next-generation Champ Car.
And after seeing and hearing plenty of discussion throughout the
summer, it appears clear the forthcoming Panoz DP01 machine…and its
more-powerful Cosworth turbo V8…will add up to a home run for the
rebounding Champ Car World Series.
The strengths of the series currently include a predictable,
reliable car/engine/tire package, one that’s relatively economical
for teams to campaign. The venerable Lolas and even the old Reynards
used by Derrick Walker last year are fast and fun to watch and
drive. They’ve produced incredibly close racing at very high speeds,
an altogether attractive package for fans and sponsors.
But this new iteration of the Champ Car will break new ground in all
areas. Some very sharp technical people have put in long hours
working on the development of the new car’s plans. And all
indications are that this 2007 race car will be a significant leap
Race cars depend on several factors. Size, weight, aerodynamic
considerations, and tires are the keys. Champ Car officials, led by
VP of Operations Tony Cotman and tech guru Scot Elkins, have come up
with a package that includes a significant weight reduction, a
slightly smaller footprint, better aerodynamics, and what appears to
be a planned next-generation of Cosworth motor that will make more
power and that could include an enhanced Cosworth Push-to-Pass
The weight cut and the increased power alone will greatly boost the
new car’s performance potential. Some team engineers are estimating
lap times as much as 2-3 seconds faster at some circuits. The
narrower track and shorter wheelbase will make the new car a better
handling machine, especially on street courses of less than two
miles, one of the staples of the Champ Car World Series. The fact
that the new race car also includes state-of-the-art crashworthiness
and safety engineering should mean that Champ Car will be able to
continue its enviable record of protecting its heroes, its drivers.
The projected aero improvements are a very exciting part of the new
package. It’s generally understood that the ability of race cars to
run closely together and provide plenty of passing is very
aero-dependent. NASCAR teams spend tremendous time and resources
trying to overcome aero-push and other airflow issues. We’ve heard
these past two seasons from many Champ Car drivers that their
ability to run in close formation, especially at Milwaukee and Las
Vegas, is hindered by the current aero package necessary to keep the
Lola cars at safe speeds. If Elan Motorsports Technologies and Champ
Car can increase downforce through better underbody configuration
while also cutting down wing size, the new cars should be a whole
And don’t overlook the fact that Elan Motorsport Technologies has
emerged as a world-class constructor in the past several years.
Having their domestic headquarters in the northeastern suburbs of
Atlanta means they’ll be much more accessible to Champ Car, its
teams, and other stakeholders in the series.
There are two other keys to this in my mind. Maybe the biggest plus
to this new-generation Champ Car is its ability to help contain
costs. A one-third cut in the cost of the new rolling chassis is
huge, and should easily allow more teams to join the fun. Even more
significant is the planned 50% cut in costs for replacement parts.
Some Champ Car teams, when they’re having a particularly tough
weekend, can literally end up buying an entire new car, piece by
piece, from Lola. This reduction in parts cost should make a
The best news of all to me is that the new car is being designed
with oval tracks in mind, along with Champ Car’s bread-and-butter
street and road circuits. I love the fact that this series tests its
drivers and teams across the entire spectrum of race tracks, and
this should mean that Champ Car will still include at least a couple
of ovals in its schedule for the foreseeable future. The racing this
year at Milwaukee and Las Vegas was again superb, and I hope we get
to showcase Champ Car oval events for some time to come.
The new machines will create even better competition, which will
grow Champ Car’s fan base in person and on television. As a fan and
a broadcaster, that’s good news across the board. Can’t wait to see
the new car up close, and watch ‘em roll off at Long Beach in April
2007. Should be quite a show.
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