INDIANAPOLIS — The IndyCar series decided to go with a Dallara chassis for the 2012 season in a move it hopes will help small-budget teams and generate fresh buzz for open-wheel racing.
The new chassis will cost $349,000 each, officials said Wednesday, with a complete car costing $385,000. That's a 45 percent price decrease from the current formula.
"The figures they throw up are a good start," said Sarah Fisher, a driver and owner of Sarah Fisher Racing.
Cars will feature a rolling chassis with an enhanced safety cell, and manufacturers will be able to be dress the cars in multiple ways with aero kits. Each team can race two different aero kits from any manufacturer during the season, with a maximum price of $70,000 for each kit.
"I think it definitely helps the smaller teams," IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said. "To think that if Mr. (Roger) Penske wants to build an aero kit, a small team can purchase that for $70,000 — that's what's going to happen. I think there's going to be some major companies and individuals who want to create that aerodynamic. I think some of the smaller teams will be able to make some gains because of that."
Points leader Will Power likes the simplicity. For example, the suspension will be a part of the safety cell, meaning teams won't have to figure that out on their own.
"Basically, you get the car and you design it the best you can, and you go as fast as you can," Power said.
The decision falls in line with Bernard's goal to create more excitement in the series and cut costs for the teams. Since coming to IndyCar from the Professional Bull Riders Association in February, he has made dramatic changes that include adding oval and street/road-course championships to the season and creating competition for the future engine package.
Safety was a primary concern in the decision.
"A lot of drivers told us they wanted to see it go faster and they wanted to break track records, and that's great, but our primary responsibility has to be the drivers and the fans," Bernard said. "I think it's very important that we put that in perspective at this time."
IndyCar considered opening the series up to multiple chassis, but Bernard said that would have driven up the cost. Five companies created designs for the new chassis. In the end, IndyCar went back to Dallara — the same company that created the current chassis in use since 2003.
Bernard said the competition gave the series a chance to improve its product.
"I think this allowed us to make some changes," he said. "Our fans told us they wanted to see different cars on that racetrack. They didn't want to see a single spec. I think the fact that it's very safe, and the fact that it offers relevance to aerodynamics — it offers everything we set out to do."
Dallara, based in Parma, Italy, also announced that will expand its operations to Speedway, Ind., where the chassis will be built. The new location will be the racing company's only operation outside of Italy. Bernard said it was important that the chassis be American made.
Ground is to be broken later this year, and the plant is expected to be up and running by the end of 2011.
"We're going to fast-pace it," said Scott Harris, executive director of the Speedway Redevelopment Commission. "There's a lot of decisions to be made. This has evolved quickly."
Harris said it could add more than 100 jobs.
"I think there's the question of who's going to come in and build the different aero packages," Fisher said. "I think that's really exciting."