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A peek at the new IndyCar chassis

The new IndyCar Dallara chassis, which makes its debut this weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg, is markedly different from the model that raced in the series since 2003. The car is named the DW12 chassis in honor of the late Dan Wheldon, the St. Petersburg resident who did the development and testing on the car last year. IndyCar decided in 2010 to do a revamp of the series' cars. A seven-person committee, including series CEO Randy Bernard and former Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran, looked at proposals from Lola, Delta Wing and Swift before settling on Dallara, the reigning manufacturer.

Five things to know about the new car

Smaller engines.

The 2.2-liter, six-cylinder, turbocharged power units are a change from the old 3.5-liter, normally aspirated engines. They are expected to produce between 550 and 700 horsepower.

The rear end.

Perhaps the most noticeable difference. Pieces of body work cover the back of the rear wheels, one of the most radical changes in open-wheel racing. It's for safety, designed to keep cars from launching over the rear wheels of the car in front.

Wider sidepod.

The sidepod extends out at the bottom. The body extends slightly past the wheels on the sides to help prevent tires from touching.

Bodywork over the front of the rear wheels.

Another feature to help prevent wheels from interlocking.

The driver's compartment.

There are 3 inches of foam in the cockpit and an inch under the seat. A new right-side panel is designed to reduce the force when hitting outside walls.
Five hot topics

1. How much safer is it?

Driver Helio Castroneves: "I feel safe in this car. It's designed to be safer — safer in the cockpit, safer for racing, especially with the sidepod we have to prevent the scenario of the car flying and interlocking wheels and things like that."

Team owner Sarah Fisher: "I think a lot of the new features they brought into this new car are several steps ahead of the prior cars."

2. Anything else the series could have done in terms of safety?

Driver Will Power: "My suggestion would be to have kind of a higher nose and like what the NHRA has which is a completely enclosed head rest. I think that wouldn't have been that hard to do."

3. Do fans and/or sponsors care about there being a new car?

Fisher: "Some people who know about the sport are excited … and even folks that are unfamiliar with it. The new car is a great talking piece."

Team co-owner Jimmy Vasser: "It's more interest in the sport. There's a story there, so they do care."

Grand Prix of St. Petersburg general manager and vice president Tim Ramsberger: "Yeah, people are excited, they're asking a lot of questions about this car."

4. Do drivers like it so far?

Driver Tony Kanaan: "There were people complaining, but it's a new car and we've got to get used to it. I love it, I think it's a great car."

Driver Dario Franchitti: "For the road courses it's a great car. It definitely had some imbalances (initially) but we're getting closer to where we need to be."

5. Is it nice to look at?

Team owner Bryan Herta: "I think in general it's a pretty ugly race car. But they all look good in winner's circle. Some of it's really nice, the problem is it's hard to get past a couple of the big warts to see the nice parts."

Vasser: "A lot of it has to do with how you paint it. The car's starting to grow on us."

.fast facts

Honda Grand Prix
of St. Petersburg

What: IndyCar season opener, plus races in other series, including Indy Lights and Star Mazda

When/where: Friday-Sunday, downtown streets

Defending champion: Dario Franchitti

IndyCar schedule: Friday, practices 11:50 a.m. and 2:50 p.m.; Saturday, practice 9:55 a.m., qualifying 1:55 p.m.; Sunday, race 12:30 p.m.

Tickets: Prices range from $20 for ages 12 and under for Friday and Saturday to $125 for a three-day adult upper-reserved seat. Paddock passes and convenience charges extra. Details or to buy: gpstpete.com; (727) 898-4639, extension 225.

A peek at the new IndyCar chassis 03/20/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 8:02pm]

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