As a friend has previously pointed out to me, Champ Car is betting its future heavily upon the success of the brand new Panoz DP-01
The new chassis was created to replace the extremely “long in the tooth” Lola B2K/00 which served as Champ Cars mainstay for seven seasons. Although prior to the resurgence of the Loala, the Reynard was the chassis to beat. Yet after dominating Champ Car, Reynard faltered from the Indy Car chassis war, leaving the field solely to Lola.
The Panoz DP-01 was built primarily to be a lower cost option to the waning Lola and is estimated to set Champ Car team owners back $220,000 without spares. (Approximately half of the Lola’s price tag)
The DP-01 boasts several improvements over its predecessor. Its features seem heavily derived from today’s cutting edge Formula 1 chassis, most clearly visible in its front nose wing shape.
The DP-01 also utilizes sequential semi-automatic paddle shifting for the first time in Champ Car history, with gear changes occurring in only milliseconds. Although this enables the drivers to keep both hands upon the steering wheel at all times. There have been teething problems with the initial gear changes.
There have also been problems with leaking fuel cells, the refueling system, driver’s tub’s cracking and other faults which are all part of any new chassis introduction.
Along with the multitude of chassis changes, the Ford derived Cosworth XFE engine has also been upgraded. The 2.65 liter turbocharged V-8’s ubiquitous “Pop-off” valve has been removed. Turbo boost is now controlled via new electronics, which override several functions of the vehicle.
These include the paddle shifting, anti-stall technology as well as an on-board starter, which are hoped to improve reliability along with speeding up race action.
The “Power to Pass” option still remains, giving drivers an extra 50bhp for 60 seconds, boosting peak horsepower to 800bhp.
Interestingly, the DP-01 is built exclusively by Elan Motorsports, which originally began as a supplier of G-Force and later Panoz chassis for the Indy Racing League. Yet as Dallara has now become the sole chassis of the IRL, the Panoz has focused upon Champ Car.
An initial production run of 25 Panoz DP-01’s were produced, with the company projecting a total of 35 units to be built for the 2007 season.
And with Champ Car and the IRL remaining determined to break each other, the DP-01 is designed solely for temporary street circuits and permanent road courses with the Dallara being an oval track stalwart.
Yet the DP-01 has been fairly well received by the Champ Car drivers to date, with the chassis already being almost as quick as the old Lola prior to development. And reigning three time Champ Car champion Sebastian Bourdais set an new outright track record at Laguna Seca in March during Champ Cars final pre-season test…