"Racing is supposed to be an edge sport," Bowlby says. "Chip and I were reminded of this while we were watching MotoGP. We could see the riders working the bikes through the corners, and we'd say to ourselves, 'Wow! That guy is going seriously fast, and he's on the absolute limit of control.' From the grandstands, Indy cars look unspectacular. Even when a guy almost loses control, you can't see it. Racing should be like riding a unicycle on a tightrope with no balancing stick or safety net. You should be stressed just watching it. We decided that there had to be a way to get back to that."
In January 2009, Ganassi told Bowlby to start brainstorming a replacement for the unloved Dallara that had been the IndyCar standard since 2003. Bowlby's brief wasn't merely to conceptualize a car that reestablished the brand's credibility as an extreme sport. It was also to come up with a car that was significantly cheaper than the existing chassis while being relevant enough -- environmentally, technologically, and financially -- to attract automobile manufacturers back to Indianapolis. The following month, Bowlby showed Ganassi a radio-controlled model of what's arguably the most thought-provoking race car to appear in a century.
Bowlby ushers me into a vacant garage so he can explain his thinking without being badgered by the fans outside the Pagoda. Although the droning of the Indy Lights cars on the far side of the wall makes it hard to hear what he's saying, it doesn't take me long to realize that he himself is an obsessive racing fan who brings a profound passion to the sport. But he's also an engineer, and engineers prize nothing more than efficiency. As shocking and bizarre as the DeltaWing looks, it's actually the logical, even inevitable, product of Bowlby's blue-sky quest for efficiency.
How do you improve acceleration? More weight over the driven wheels. So the DeltaWing is biased 72.5 percent to the rear, which also dramatically improved braking stability. With less weight at the nose, Bowlby used much narrower front tires. To improve cornering forces, he located them closer to the centerline of the car, which he claims will reduce the understeer that plagues all modern formula cars. The narrow nose reduced drag, but Bowlby realized that he could do even better by fairing in the tires and eliminating the front and rear wings. Then, to keep the car planted, he fashioned an underbody that generated the necessary downforce without most of the drag caused by conventional wings. The result is a car that, according to Bowlby, will lap the Speedway at 235 mph with an engine making a measly 300 hp.