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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How an IndyCar compares with your car

How an IndyCar compares with your car
By Daryle W. Hier

Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Indy) sometimes referred to as the "Brickyard" is the home of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" - the Indy 500, arguably the most famous, intense and grueling race in the history of motorsports.

It seems as if racing has been in man's blood since the beginning of time. Horses, camels and whatever else a human could ride have been raced. In 1673, the internal combustion engine came along, invented by a man named Christian Huygens and was operated with gun powder and an open flame for combustion (

A masterpiece of engineering

In order to continue with man's need for speed and racing, the times dictated the development of these engines to the point they could be highly modified for racing purposes. To accommodate a racing power plant, the car body and chassis also need to be modified. In the case of today's highly technical forms of racing, revolutionary made-for-purpose chassis' and engines evolved - one of which is the IndyCar of today - a masterpiece of engineering.
No frame on an IndyCar
The IndyCar is expressly built for racing. These beautiful streamlined missiles you see on the speedway whistling around the track at over 200 miles per hour are of monocoque (unibody) design, all made by Dallara Automobili in Italy and have no frame. The center of the car, including the driver's compartment or cockpit, is called the "tub". It is made of extremely light honeycomb-carbon fiber and aluminum and reaches forward enough to accommodate the driver's legs and foot-operated pedals. The tub extends rearward to the engine mounts which are actually stress members and part of the rear suspension. Wings to control down force are found on both the nose and tail. The length of the car is 192 to 195 inches or about eight feet long and 78 inches wide. Body panels are aluminum and carbon-fiber; the wheels are magnesium; and it weighs 1620 pounds (
Engines built for speed, not mileage
Currently, specifications for the engines are mandated by the IZOD IndyCar Series. All teams must use the all-aluminum Honda V8 racing engine and the Dallara chassis. Teams are allowed to make only minor tuning changes to the engines. The powerful little beasts have double overhead cams with four valves per cylinder; they use methanol (alcohol) for fuel and are naturally aspirated with fuel injection. The engine size is 3.5 liters (213.6 cubic inches) and they put out a whopping 650 horsepower which is over three horsepower per cubic inch.
Your car? It gets roughly between 150 and 300 horsepower with 120 to 400 cubic inches.
Mileage on these mini-monsters is not for the faint-of-heart. At two and a half miles per gallon, it's no wonder they have a 35 gallon tank. These days in comparison, the average American expects his car to get 20 - 35 miles per gallon.
IndyCars are a unique breed. Due to the "Spec" limitations on the cars, tuning the engine becomes a finite art. The difference between winning and losing can be in chassis setup. For instance, when qualifying, the difference in a few miles per hour can be in adjusting the combination of front and rear wings along with shock absorbers to obtain that perfect "balance" for qualifying and another setup for racing.
Different than other race cars
Another form of open wheel racing is the sprint car. Unlike IndyCars, Sprint cars are a different animal indeed. These firecrackers of oval track racing on both pavement and dirt have a short wheel base (86 - 88 inches) and tons of power. Most use fuel injection but carburetors are allowed. A steel tubing frame is used complete with roll cage and just about any engine combination you can think of as long as it falls within the 360 or 410 cubic inch class guidelines. Alcohol is used as fuel and there are no blowers or turbochargers. Chevrolet and Ford V8 engines are widely used though other brands are allowed. Bodies vary but generally conform to the old sprint car and midget configurations. There is a rugged difference between the sprint and the more sophisticated IndyCar (
NASCAR is again a different breed and unlike the IndyCar, these cars are built to look somewhat like the cars we drive on the street. Bigger and heavier there is no comparison with the sleek and slippery IndyCar.
To race fans, all auto racing is exciting but with this special place and all the pageantry involved on Memorial Day, there is nothing like these beautiful cars at the Indy 500, "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing".

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