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Next Generation Champ Cars - An opposing view
 Robert Kleine (Germany)
February  21, 2004

I wanted to write my views regarding the Next Generation Champ Car awhile ago, but with all the things that went on with the sale of CART I wanted to wait to see if there would be a Champ Car series in the years to come. Now that it’s clear we won’t lose our beloved series I want to present my two cents worth.

I don’t want to see the Champ Car Series turn into a cheap F1 clone using these butt ugly F1 or future F2 chassis with their air boxes and raised noses. F1 isn’t the most popular sport in the US and I don’t believe Champ Car would become any more popular by adapting the chassis/engine package of F1 or F2 and selling it to the fans as an American F1 or whatever. I would probably walk out on CART/OWRS if they chose the “road to conformity” [Editor's Note:  Our articles have repeatedly suggested a lighter and smaller car on par with F1.  Never once did we suggest air boxes or a raised nose.]

I got hooked on CART just because it was different than F1. Being a European myself I could have gone to a lot of F1 races but I just wasn’t interested. I flew to the US instead to attend CART races because it was a different kind of open wheel racing. What in the heck should still keep me interested in CART if they chose the road AutoRacing1.com is proposing? [Editor's Note:  He missed our point completely.]


The ultimate racing machine

This car above is definitely not my impression of an ultimate racing machine, at least not for the Champ Cars.

I agree that slight alterations in the design are necessary and some of your ideas are great in a true sense but I don’t think CART/OWRS should completely give up the key elements of their heritage.

I have always been saying that I would like to see the series stick with their turbo engines and their chassis design because that is what makes a Champ Car.  I remember a personal conversation between you and me where you said that it doesn’t matter to the average Joe how an open wheel racecar looks like. You might be right, but there are hundreds of thousands of Champ Car fans who do care how their favorite race cars look like. And these are the people who stuck with CART through thick and thin. So these are the people who should matter in the first place. Sell the product to the average Joe later.

Right now I want to come back to your table about a future Champ Car:

Description Current Proposed Comment
Purpose Ovals & RC's RC's and.... Current car optimized for oval safety.  New for RC's and flat ovals
Chassis make Multiple Single A spec chassis will save significant $$, price caps on spare parts
Wheelbase 126in Max 118in. New car should be slightly smaller for tight street circuits
Underbody Tunnels Flat Bottom More skill req'd.  Reduce size of unnecessary heavy sidepods
Overall Length 190in. 173in. New car should be slightly smaller for tight street circuits
Overall Width 78.5in. Max 71in. Max New car should be narrower for passing on tight street circuits
Overall Height 36.0in. 38in. Bodywork, to top of air intake 38 in. max.
Min. Weight 1565 lbs.* 1565 lbs.**  * Without driver
** With Driver (i.e. take about 175 lbs out of car so a Champ Car will be just 400 to 500 lbs heavier that an F1 car)
Fuel Methanol Gasoline With gasoline's better mileage, cars can have smaller fuel tank
Fuel Capacity 35 Gallons 25 Gallons Less fuel to put in during stops will put premium on tire changes
Engine Make Single Multiple 1 make, multiple badges, or open it up to competition
Engine 2.65L V8 3.0L V10 15,000 RPM rev limit
HP 750 HP 750 HP No need to change HP level, just take weight out of heavy car
Air Intake Turbo Natural Asp Take off turbo muffler, F1-like scream will set CART apart in USA
Engine Sound Current.wav Future.wav Need we say more.  That scream will make CART sensational.
Engine Life 1200 miles 1 weekend Can't police more than 1 weekend with multiple manufacturers
Starters None On-board If driver stalls engine, should have chance to restart on own
Transmission Multiple Single Single supplier saves cost.  7 forward gears, 1 reverse
Brake Rotors Steel Steel Carbon Fiber too costly and shortens brake zones too much
ECM Cosworth CART CART must retain complete control of ECM with multiple engines.
Traction Control None None Leave it to driver skill
Launch Control None None Leave it to driver skill
Wheel Width R 14 in. 14 in. Identical to F1
Wheel Width F 10 in. 12 in. Identical to F1
Wheel Dia. R 15 in. 13 in. Identical to F1 - Current wheel makes tire too low profile
Wheel Dia. F 15 in. 13 in. Identical to F1 - Current wheel makes tire too low profile
Tire Dia. R. Wet 27.0 in. 26.3 in. Identical to F1 - Higher sidewall allows for more driver input
Tire Dia. R. Dry 27.0 in. 26.0 in. Identical to F1 - Higher sidewall allows for more driver input
Tire Type (Dry) Slicks Slicks Identical to F1 in size, but no grooves
Tire Suppliers Single Single, but.. Re-bid contract every two years.  Best bid wins
Testing Limited Limited Keep limits but need more 2005 testing to develop all-new car

I want to give you my opinion on the points you address:

I think that a future Champ Car should be designed to race on road courses, street courses and ovals because that diversity of tracks makes the Champ Car Series so interesting. They should not drop oval races all together.

They should have chassis built by different manufacturers. This creates competition. It might raise costs, but I never expected that running a ChampCar season would be as cheap as running an Atlantics season, anyway. Leave the spec chassis to the lower series.

I do agree that the chassis should be slightly smaller in length, width, wheelbase and therefore lighter but on the basis of the current chassis design including underbody with tunnels (see images below of the “enhanced” Champ Car chassis in comparison to the current chassis). Let it stay a ground effects car. [Editor's Note: A driver can drive a flat bottom car with its tail out in the turn and not have to worry about losing precious downforce like they would by getting a ground effects car sideways.  That is why Champ Cars look like they are on rails in the corner and we never see the driver step the tail out.  If fans today could see drivers like Ronnie Peterson and Gilles Villeneuve driving through a corner in four-wheel drifts they might pass out from sheer excitement.  Racing should not look like follow the leader trains on rails.  Hence ground effects must go completely.]

A good idea is to use a great range of spec parts such as ECM, brakes, transmission. Let the cars be “no frills” cars. No paddle shifters, traction- or launch-control. Limited testing and engines that should last a whole race weekend. All this lowers the costs and great competition is created because success depends on driving and engineering skills and not on fancy technical gimmicks. [Editor's Note: Paddle shifters save money.  They eliminate miss-shifts which result in broken transmissions and engines]

As I said before I prefer turbo engines over naturally aspirated engines. Should OWRS decide to have N/A engines for their future race car they should not “destroy” that beautiful car shape using those ugly overhead air boxes.

There are enough other ways of dealing with that subject. Just look at other series, past and present, that use N/A engines. Toyota Atlantic cars or formula 3 Dallaras (air intake sideways, not interfering with the shape of the car) or even F1 cars in the late seventies. A good example is Mario Andretti’s Lotus ’79.

Another “compromise” would be an air box not higher than the rollover hoop as I suggested in my letter “Shape of a Champ Car” that was published around the time when CART was on the verge of switching to N/A engines and then reversed the decision.

Speaking of turbos, it’s absolutely right that racing is also about selling cars and that not too many manufacturers use turbo engines in their cars at the moment. This could change since turbo engines make sense economically and ecologically. Maybe we will all drive in turbo powered cars in 10 to 15 years.

Now let me share my “vision” of a future Champ Car with you:

As you can see from the pictures the car is significantly smaller/sleeker but still recognizable as a true Champ Car. We have a shorter wheelbase and a shorter front end, the sidepods are lower and pulled back.

The cars is narrower and the engine cover is lowered. Using a smaller displacement turbo engine takes up less space. That would also be the case using F1 or F2 size N/A engines. A smaller fuel cell would also help in this regard and would bring additional competition drama to the pit stops because of more stops.

I would not change anything about the tires because narrowing the chassis would reduce the max. width enough to create the effect of more and better passing on the track. [Editor's Note: The Champ Car tires are too low profile.  The higher profile F1 tires softens up the spring rate of the car and the softer feel allows the driver to hang the tail out and feel more confident doing it.  Stiff sidewall tires break away more abruptly resulting in less tail-out driving, thereby cheating the fans out of seeing the really great drivers hang it out.]

Well, that’s all I have to say about the chassis/engine issue. Now it’s up to everybody else including OWRS to decide if what I have written down makes sense.

For myself, I just hope that I can still look at a future Champ Car and don’t have to turn away in disgust like I do when I see the butt ugly IRL cars.

Feedback can be sent to feedback@autoracing1.com

 
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