PART 2: DALLARA DAYS
Dallara won its first Indianapolis 500 in 1988 with Eddie Cheever and Dallara chassis’ have won the prized race twenty-one times.
The IRL and CART conflict finally ended some years later and Dallara was again in an excellent position to become the chassis supplier to the unified IRL/CART Championship in 2008 after nearly 12 years of the two parties being split. It has been a very successful partnership.
“The relationship with Indy Car is very good. They want the aero design of the car to make it very easy to pass, and the Indy Car technical department plays a very big role in the car design. It is very easy working with them because we have the same objectives. We work with them on every aspect of the car,” Dallara said. “They judge a great deal of success on the ability of the cars to pass. It is a very demanding relationship, but it is also very rewarding.”
Safety is obviously a huge part of the design and manufacture of the Dallara Indy Car Chassis, as the speeds and in turn the nature of any accident is critical to the driver’s safety.
“The safety aspect is a very important to Indy Car. Every accident is properly examined, and we see if there is anything we can learn.” he added. “We constantly review these things with Indy Car.”
Turning attention back to Europe, Dallara used its original success in Formula 3 to now be the exclusive chassis supplier to the current FIA F2 and F3 Championships. In recent years these F1 supporting classes have grown from strength to strength and now provide a clear pathway for a young driver to break into Formula 1.
Once again Dallara has been at the forefront of design and production of the current era of these exciting open wheel racing cars, but it also has seen a huge workload to get the car to the grid.
Dallara explained the timeline.
“Normally we need to have one protype car ready to test in May of the year prior to competition. We then have extensive testing of up to 8000kms. Then we adjust and commence production. The chassis are planned to last three years in an effort by the FIA to reduce the costs,” Dallara explained.
“With the old Formula 3 we changed the chassis every year.”
As far as design goes, Dallara and the FIA had major discussion on key points.
“Up until now, we will discuss on three or four basic points. First was a new level of safety. Normally with Formula 2 and Formula 3 they (the FIA) say, we apply the rules of the previous Formula 1 level. But there are many things such as the vertical load test, the level of protection for the driver etc. They define the rule package, and we adjust accordingly,” Dallara explained. “It is then their decision which engine and gearbox will be used.”
There is also some degree of testing future F1 developments as well. Dallara explained how now in Formula 2 the cars are running on 18-inch tyres in 2021 so they can have a year of data running on that configuration before it is introduced to Formula 1 next year.
Looking at the company itself you can start to see the size and scale Dallara has grown to. Employing nearly 850 people in Italy and the USA, on an average year the company produces around 70 new racing chassis. Of course, this will go up in large numbers when a new category chassis for Formula 2, Formula 3, or Indy Car or Formula E swings into production.
On top of the production is servicing, restoration, and repairs, and that is only the motor sports division. The company also undertakes design, composite, and joint venture projects with major manufacturers such as Audi, Bugatti. Ferrari, KTM and Maserati.
But racing is a strong element of the Dallara DNA. It was interesting then to ask Gian Paolo Dallara about some of the famous drivers who have driven Dallara racing cars.
“When I first went to Maserati, I had the chance to go to the Sebring 12 Hour Sports Car Race in the USA. The drivers in our Cooper Maserati were Roger Penske and Bruce McLaren. It was my first race, and I was with the top of the top!’ Dallara recalled.
Jean Alesi, Dario Franchitti and Jan Magnussen all hold a special place with Dallara as they each contributed significantly to the success of Dallara throughout the key milestone achievements.
But a driver who is not aligned to the Dallara brand was perhaps the most fondly mentioned by Gian Paolo. That driver is Mario Andretti.
“A driver who did not drive our cars but is a fantastic driver is Mario Andretti. Every time we meet, we talk not only about racing, but also about our history in Italy, but of course he is now an American! We grew up not far from each other in Italy, so we enjoy talking about those times,” Dallara recalled fondly.
A remarkable story of a company which has been at the forefront of innovation in motor sports for fitty years. The Dallara brand sets the standards in one make Formula cars across the globe and is now entrenched as one of the great racing brands. Diverse projects using the technology and expertise learned in the competitive world of professional motor sports continues to see Dallara expand into high end collaborations with many of the world’s premium auto manufacturers.
The next major projects where we will see yet more development will be next generation Indy Cars and the key FIA categories.
Dallara and his team will be at the forefront of these programs.