The underbody also produced two other critical benefits. First, the DeltaWing should be able to run in traffic with only a limited loss in performance. Ergo, more passing. Second, the underbody can be "tuned" so that it's less sensitive to yaw, which will allow drivers to dirt-track the car around corners. "Like a sprint car, it finds its peak performance at quite high slip angles," Bowlby explains. "It should be very impressive for the spectators."
Other than Ganassi, none of DeltaWing LLC's investors have been publicly identified, except to say that they're team owners. (Roger Penske and John Barnes are widely thought to be two of them.) Dan Partel, the founder of the European Formula Drivers Association and past president of Lola Cars USA, was hired to serve as CEO. Firestone developed tires for the car, and a full-scale model went through wind-tunnel testing earlier this year. To date, nearly $2 million has been spent on development, and Bowlby says it will take another $3.5 million to get a prototype on track. That's an enormous amount of money to wager on an unproven and uniquely polarizing car. But Bowlby is undaunted. "It has incredible potential," he shouts hoarsely as an Indy Lights car roars past, "and I think it must see the racetrack."
Partel walks into the garage, wiping sweat off his forehead. Outside, the crowd surrounding the DeltaWing has gotten bigger, bolder, and boozier. "I think we'd better move the car," he tells Bowlby. "It's getting ugly out there."
In six weeks, things would get uglier. A lot uglier.
The current Dallara Indy car debuted way back in 2003, when the economy was booming and the IRL raced only on ovals. Seven years later, the spec chassis -- now the only game in town -- is detested by team owners because parts are so expensive, by drivers because it's so sluggish, by mechanics because it's so difficult to work on, and by fans because it's so homely.
In April, therefore, freshly minted IRL CEO Randy Bernard created the ICONIC (Innovative, Competitive, Open-Wheel, New, Industry-Relevant, Cost-Effective) Advisory Committee to choose a new IndyCar engine and chassis for 2012. Proposals were submitted by Dallara, Lola, DeltaWing, Swift (the premier American open-wheel chassis manufacturer), and BAT (a new company founded by three IndyCar stalwarts). The seven members of the committee evaluated pitches for three months before convening in July in front of a standing-room-only audience at the Indianapolis Museum of Art to unveil the car of the future:
Yesterday's Dallara was being replaced by tomorrow's...Dallara?