What does the future at IMS look like?

Indycar racing, and more specifically the Indy 500 has been about pushing the limits of speed and sanity in terms of automotive technology. As we embark on the journey that a new car brings, 2012 will be a fun, and possibly trying time in the life cycle of a new car. Unknowns and excitement, the two elements that have been missing from our beloved sport for the last few years will be injected into the series with the debut of the new car.

Since 2003, the INDYCAR Series has been running the same basic model of Dallara chassis. The debut of the new car instantly brings anxiety that it may be another eight years before we see another major revision in the formula.  These worries, although well founded, should not detract from the new car launch. As we embark on a new chapter at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I wonder what will be next, what will the future look like in 20 years at this great facility.

As a child, race season always brought out the best of me and my classmates imagination. I can remember guessing when they would break the 300 mile an hour barrier. Others had dreams of metal wheels that transmitted power from the track to the electric engines for propulsion. When were we going to see the first hover car? While I am still waiting on that one, many of the technologies are in place to make these dreams, reality.

My friends over at Polyphony Digital, the creators of the racing simulator Gran Turismo, have published just such a car for the digital world. The Red Bull X1 was created by famed Red Bull Racings Formula 1 aerodynamicist, Adrian Newey and RBR driver Sebastian Vettel. Newey was approached by PD to create a racecar that was bound to no rules book, to create the fastest race that has ever graced the planet. This man is a certifiable genius in the field of aerodynamics. The F1 cars he has created toe the line of legality while, usually, leaving the rest of the field in a hurry.

The X1 is a totally digital creation; a full scale mockup is the only “real” aspect of the car. Powered by a Hydrogen powered gas turbine engine, and creating 1483 horsepower at 15,000 RPM. I don’t know how they created this engine, but it powers the wheels, and not a battery pack. The whole thing weighs in at just over 1200 pounds. The quoted top speed it 249, but I have gotten it up to 340+ in the draft. It is quite amazing. The car looks like a typical F1 or indycar, only with covered front wheels and a canopy enclosing the cockpit. The car can pull nine+ lateral g’s in a corner. The high lateral stability is created with a fan, the X1 is a sucker, or fan car based on the same principles that brought us the Brabham fan car and the Chaparral sucker.

Although the racecar was created with F1 style road racing in mind, the first thing I did was take it to the IMS oval. When you trim the thing all the way out and play with gear rations, you can easily reach 290 down the straight and turn 31 second laps! I don’t expect to see anything like this in the near future, but who knows what the next few decades will hold for us. I get that giddy school child feeling whenever I think of the possibilities of a racecar like this ever being unleashed at the famed oval.

Here is a youtube video of the car in action against Le Mans Prototypes at IMS. There are many articles and videos of this car floating around the internet, and if you are interested, I suggest you check them out. Even though the car is just in a videogame, the physics used are as close to real as anything on the market right now. The footage of this thing is just amazing.

Eric Hall

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2 Responses to What does the future at IMS look like?

  1. dylanpt24 says:

    I would love to see a “futuristic” type car in Indycar, and after the Massa thing, I did wonder about a “cockpit” type covering over a car. That’s what I loved about the Swift Indycar desgins, that they were futurestic and different from what’s currently out there

  2. DZ says:

    If you asked me in 1992 where I thought the sport would be in 20 years, I’d say this video would be pretty close to what I’d have likely imagined. Reality in economy, primarily, has shuttered this terrific vision of the future at IMS, but I’m afraid it also will forever remain a fantasy. I doubt the current tack would ever lead to something approaching this simulation, but it DOES make for a great daydream…

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