DeltaWing Race Car Concept

The initial reaction was anticlimax. ("All that to get the same thing?" one tweeter complained on the IndyCar website. "Barney Oldfield is the test driver," tweeted another.) The DeltaWing had generated lovers and haters in roughly equal proportion, and to be honest, even supporters realized that it was probably too radical to be selected. But Lola and Swift were both proven commodities, and wasn't it disenchantment with Dallara that had prompted the creation of the ICONIC committee in the first place? To see the Italian manufacturer rewarded again seemed like a slap in the face.

But as the committee members explained their thinking, it became clear that the 2012 chassis package represents an ingenious approach to controlling costs while promoting diversity. The per-unit price was minimized by giving Dallara the exclusive right to build and sell the rolling chassis, i.e., everything besides the drivetrain and the bodywork. But anybody will be able to design the "aero kits" that form the visible skin of the car as long as they meet as-yet-undetermined parameters and are offered for sale at no more than $70,000. It's not clear who's going to invest the millions of dollars necessary to develop this bodywork. But Dallara's proposal at least creates the possibility that the cars will look different even though the chassis are identical.

Money was another driving factor in the decision-making process. The state of Indiana offered $5 million in incentives to persuade Dallara to build a factory-cum-R&D facility in the city of Speedway, and Dallara, in turn, agreed to offer huge discounts to local teams that buy new cars. The bottom line, according to the committee's calculations, is that car-and-engine costs should be slashed in half.

You'd think that team owners would be jumping for joy. But, in fact, the major players were conspicuously absent from the official presentation, and their reaction since then has been strangely muted. In interviews days after the announcement, several committee members acknowledged that the Dallara concept was an imperfect solution. In retrospect, it's obvious that they weren't dealing with a multiple-choice question that came with one indisputably correct answer. Their challenge was to choose the best option on the table, and it had to be something that absolutely, positively could be implemented in 2012.

Bowlby, naturally, was gutted by the news. Partel bitterly derided the presentation as "a joke" and questioned the logic behind the committee's decision. He was especially aggravated by the realization that some of the most compelling selling points in Dallara's proposal seemed to have been lifted from the DeltaWing playbook. There's no question that, even though it was rejected, the DeltaWing figured prominently in the deliberations. As committee member Gil de Ferran, an Indy 500 winner who's now a team owner, puts it: "I think we're better off today because we had the DeltaWing project to consider."

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