Monday, July 15, 2013

Gianpaolo Dallara: His Racing Cars and his New Factory

This past May upon attending the Indy 500 and looking for something to do the day after the race, ‘CARPETS said: Yuh wanna go to the Dallara factory? Sure, why not I replied. Thus the nice lady who was totally bamboozled when I said we’re supposed to get a 50% discount when we mention either Don Kay or Autosport Radio to Yuhs, simply played along with, and didn’t even question - giving us said discount on the admission plus the optional factory tour, of which ours was slated to start at 2PM.

Dave walked me ‘round reading the various placards recanting Gianpaolo’s rise to fame ‘N fortune, as I had NO idea he’d actually begun his motor racing work for Il Commendatore, nee Enzo Ferrari and his flourishing Scuderia Ferrari concern, having come straight from getting his college degree from the Politecnico di Milano University in Aeronautical Engineering. As it seems like the movie claims that Gianpaolo left Enzo’s racing team fairly quickly with NO avail to Enzo personally pleading for him to stay!

Yet the Italian left for the Maserati concern instead - as unfortunately I’ve already forgotten if it was with la Scuderia or Maserati that he caught the racing bug? Think it was Ferrari that sent him off to the Sebring 12hours race in 1959 which truly captivated him...

After a short career at Maserati - where its race team ultimately shut down in the early 1960’s, as the Sports Car concern lingered on a further four years after pulling out of Formula 1 after capturing the 1957 title with thee Impresario, a la el Maestro Juan Manuel Fangio...

Then off to Lamborghini - where Dallara truly established himself by first designing the Espada and then the radically alluring Miura nearly a half century ago before moving onto another racing car project.

Dallara Wind Tunnel IndyCar scale model. (DOB)
The Dallara Factory located on Main Street in Speedway, Indiana houses a few Indy Cars, think one was an older Pre-DW12 ‘CRAPWAGON Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing model? (As SFHR’s brand new race shop is directly alongside Dallara’s...)

With a few cars in the wide front windows - another IndyCar, think it was a DW12 in la Polizia (Police Car) black & white motif, while my favourite was the silver Grand Am Prototype (lights?) car! And there were also some scale wind tunnel models and a further all black DW12 on display whilst the sounds of (public) driving simulators could be heard off in the distance - all of which excluding the simulators we perused whilst awaiting our tour.

Also had very neat “Hands-on” displays of difference between traditional metal vs. carbon fibre strength in regards to needed for particular Downforce pressure? As all I know is that I couldn’t move the metal handle but the carbon fibre one moved quite easily...

Front view of Dallara Sports Prototype. (DOB)

Side view of Dallara Sports Prototype. (DOB)

 (All Photos Courtesy of No Fenders ‘Offical Photographer ‘CARPETS)

Racing Cars
I was also unaware that Gianpaolo was born on November 16, 1936 (according to ‘WICKEDpedia...) which to put into perspective makes Messer Dallara three-months, four days older than somebody commonly referred to as thee ‘Captain, aka Roger Penske who’s “Born-on-Date” is 2/20/37. (Age: 76)

After his initial forays with three of Italy’s most prolific Automobili concerns, i.e.; Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini, Dallara next set his sights upon designing a Formula 2 (F2) chassis for Alessandro de Tomaso in 1968 before an agreement was struck between Frank Williams and De Tomaso for the construction of an F1 chassis, known as the De Tomaso 505 which naturally Gianpaolo designed.

Yet sadly, Sir Frank’s lead driver Piers Courage was killed while racing the car and subsequently the F1 project was shuttered, leaving Dallara once again trying to pick up the pieces of another failed project.

Dallara decided next to go it alone and founded his own design concern Dallara Automobili in Varano,Italy in 1972 and concentrated upon helping design the Lancia Stratos Rally racers.

In ’74 Gianpaolo was lured back to F1 again by Sir Frank to help design the Iso Marlboro team cars which ultimately became the basis of Team Willy, as they later became known as the initial Williams Grand Prix Engineering FW01-03 chassis the following year.

In 1977 Williams team partner Walter Wolf hired Dallara to design him an F3 chassis that was used by none other than ‘Meesh’s favourite IndyCar team owner Bobby Rahal sporadically during ’78 before being utilized to win the 1980 Italian F3 championship.

In 1987 Gianpaolo was enticed by Giuseppe Lucchini to design the Scuderia Italia F1 chassis debuting for the ’88 season, which proved moderately successful, highlighted by Andrea de Ceaseris’s third place finish at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in ’89 before the Minnowesqe Italian squad made the disastrous decision to switch to rival car designer Lola for the 1992 season before Lucchini pulled the plug upon the team the following year while Dallara went back to building winning F3 chassis.

Gianpaolo subsequently branched out into Indy Cars beginning in 1997, winning his inaugural Indy 500 as a chassis constructor with Eddie Cheever in the Rachel’s “Potato-mobile” before ultimately becoming the Indy Racing League’s sole chassis supplier.

A further two ultimately abortive F1 projects were commenced in the last decade-plus, first having been hired by Honda in the late 1990’s to design their stillborn chassis when Honda intended to become an actual F1 Constructor, which Honda then subsequently cancelled after the untimely death of the project manager Dr. Harvey Postlethwaite and returned to Formula 1 solely as an engine supplier with British American Racing in 2000 instead.

Next, in 2004 wealthy entrepreneur Alex Schnaider hired Dallara to design a new Midland F1 chassis with Dallara even going so far as to hire ex-Jordan Grand Prix chief designer Gary Anderson as consultant for the project before it imploded in Twenty-oh-Five.

And finally, to date, Dallara took on design duties for the new Formula 1 concern originally known as Campos Meta 1 which then became Hispania Racing Team, or HRT, designing its initial F1 chassis for the now defunct Minnowesqe Formula 1 concern which ultimately failed after being placed into Bankruptcy by its greedy Bank Owners at the end of the 2011 F1 season.

Thus the mighty Dallara Motorsports concern has been entirely successful in every motor racing category its contested with the exception of thee Pinnacle ‘O Motorsports, nee Formula 1, as Dallara has been the supplier to multiple Open Wheel Racing series including current & Former GP2; GP3; F3; Indy Lights and IndyCar, with its current sole supplier “Spec” DW12 racecar and its predecessor ‘CRAPWAGON Indy Cars.

Factory Tour
I’ll refrain from mentioning the young lady’s name who was our tour guide, as she seemed somewhat predisposed, like time for another FREAKIN’ tour - as I think ‘CARPETS commented she looked fresh out of either High School or College?

While my only complaint about her was: Hey Lady, I’m BLIND! After having split our group into two, in order to give us a better tour; Hmm? She seemed to not notice my white cane as Dave instantly told me you’ll need to speed up (repeatedly) as she took off like a bolt ‘O lightning with either NO idea I cannot track fast moving random motion like normal individuals, or... As this occurred more than once!

Tour began with us entering small cinema setting with nice plush pedalsted leather seats to watch short movie upon the founders and company’s history.

Then we were off for our tour after transiting the Security garage style door to pass thru with coded entry-keypad.

She took us thru various shop departments, starting by showing us where composites are put into molds, giving us two different types of fabric cloth to hold, as I think they were in regards to weave application, strength/rigidity usages? Have NO idea if they’re allowed to be as clever as Formula 1 Constructors who’ve allegedly figured out how to align weave patterns in order to allow front wings flex underneath their massive ‘Aero loads?

Showed us the autoclave along with telling us that their most profitable part is the front wing which retails for $15,000 apiece and they expect an average of four replacements per race I believe...

Got to hold a fabricated front suspension A-arm, made from single piece of billet stock, ARSE-sumin’ it was an upper A-arm? Also believe it was in the pre-finished green paint, which they place under some sort of Ultra Violet inspection which can reveal any cracks or welding blemishes...

Showed us the Grinding station, where typically three people would be working on assorted composite pieces but they’d given them Memorial Day off.

Showed us the cavernous hole with concrete pad where the country’s first and only full blown Dallara simulator will be placed, of which I passed upon viewing since I’d be trying to look at a somewhat deep hole in a dark cavernous space... As we were told that the building was designed around this forthcoming instillation, which I think is slated for use in either 2014/15?

Said once it’s fully functional, teams will be able to rent it out for $15,000 per six-hour session which should be cheaper than actual track time plus added benefits of no actual chassis damage.

Same as the only two full-tilt ‘boogey Dallara simulators in the world with one currently housed at Ferrari and the other at Dallara’s Italian home base.

Dallara DW12 Chassis No. 1 utilized by the late Dan Wheldon sits mounted upon the wall in its requisite carbon black test scheme - as tested by ‘Dannyboy with hopes to potentially renovate it at a sometime later date?  

Chassis Tubs No. 71 and 72 were sitting available, as a brand new stock Dallara DW12 (minus engine lease) will set you back a cool $389,000.

Currently 45% of DW12 chassis is produced in-house in Indiana, as our guide claimed that Dallara was reluctant to ramp-up to 100% capacity since the current contract is only valid until 2016 - yet surely they’re somewhat confident of continuing on by installing said simulator, right? As you’d have to assume Dallara’s in for the long haul or else it wouldn’t have agreed to be one of the anchor tenants for the Speedway Redevelopment project on Main Street, eh?

On a side note, just listened to Scott “Somenex Goodyear on Autosport Radio where he’s typically much more lively then upon the staid ABC broadcasts - telling many funny stories ‘bout booth partner Eddie Cheever, as Goodyear promptly noted how fortunate Indy Cars are to have the Dallara chassis who’s overall safety record is massively impressive. (As truly the Wheldon tragedy wasn’t a fault of their chassis...)

After a very pleasant tour, albeit I was hesitant to ask too many questions since our Tour Guide didn’t seem overly excited to interact with us, we decided to have lunch at the adjoining Biestro/Restaurante where we decided upon another Italian invention known as pizza before wandering off to our next stop, IMS’s Hall of Fame museo...

Kudos to ‘CARPETS for taking me to the Factory and being my Roving Personal Assistant!