Panoz DP01: Praised, Proven and Ready to Race
The new Panoz DP01 Champ Car received praise right from the start after making its on track debut in Sebring last August with Roberto Moreno in the cockpit. Now, nearly seven months later and with the entire Champ Car field having had the chance to put vital miles on their new race cars, the future of open-wheel racing continues to receive acclaim.
The DP01 Champ Cars were put through their final testing paces last week in Monterey, California where the Champ Car World Series preseason open-test schedule came to a close. Over the past three months, the teams took part in seven days of testing in both dry and wet conditions, and completed over 6000 laps combined, for a total of more than 13 000 miles, and not one of them encountered any major problems.
“Considering this is a brand-new car, straight out of the box, the experience not only of Minardi Team USA, but also of the other teams present has been very positive,” said Minardi Team USA Co-owner Keith Wiggins. “As you would expect, there have been a few minor issues to sort out, but Champ Car has every reason to be very pleased.”
That’s the exact emotion felt by Champ Car Technical Director Scot Elkins, who has been following the progress of the new car since day one. Elkins says he is also very satisfied with where the car is right now, heading into the first race of the season.
“Everything went exactly as expected. The problems we had were small ones, typical of what would be called new car problems. None of our teams have had a new car in about five years so it was expected to have what I call teething problems,” explained Elkins. “The thing that I’m happy with most is that we were able to get up to speed to what the old car was, very, very quickly and I’m sure that we’re going to surpass the speeds of the old car very quickly.”
Those speeds are already having an impact on track history as Sebastien Bourdais blew away the F1 track record at the last open-test at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Not only will the car be competing for speed records but the on-track competition also promises to be much closer this season than ever before.
“The new car is for sure going to bring a better show,” exclaimed PKV Technical Director Tom Brown. “If you chart the lap times from Sebring, Houston and Laguna Seca, you see the competition getting closer and closer and closer.”
The most interesting aspect of the DP01 is the fact that it is a spec car, which according to Brown makes it not only economical but makes it even tougher to get that extra edge on the other teams. The difference will be in the details.
“We’re all going to run with about a half thousand pounds or so of downforce and we can’t gain anymore, all we can do is lose it. It’s all how we prepare the car,” said Brown. “Having it wide open, you go to a wind tunnel and find two-three hundred pounds of downforce and then have a leg up on the field. With the DP01, you don’t have that opportunity. You can’t bolt on a different wing, or underwing, you can’t run and spend days and days and days and hundreds of thousands of dollars on wind tunnels. You just have to work with the guys and prepare the car better than the next team.”
Team personnel are not the only ones giving praise to the new car. Drivers are also appreciating the characteristics of the DP01, in all weather conditions.
“I’m really starting to get used to the car and the rain made it harder, but it was better for me at the same time,” told Robert Doornbos, who tested with Minardi Team USA. “I’m used to just turning up the TC (traction control) in the F1 cars but here I need to use the right foot as my control, which is one of the things that makes Champ Car good, since the driver’s ability plays such a big role in the success of the team.”
Katherine Legge, who tested with Dale Coyne Racing over the course of the three preseason open tests, only had good things to say. “The car feels great. The paddle shifters are very nice and the rear of the car feels a lot more stable at high speeds, making it a little more fun to drive.”