Editorial

View from the Topside
We look at the benefits of the new Champ Car

   by Rick Benjamin
October 14, 2005

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The 2007 Champ Car

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 forward.

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 function.

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 lot racier.

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 tremendous difference.

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.

The author can be contacted at feedback@autoracing1.com

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