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Who Wins In The Formula 1 Vs. Champ Cars Drag Race?
From time to time I get asked what the difference is between a Formula 1 and a Champ Car chassis. How many people actually know what Champ Car is? (Because I’m often asked to explain what they are)
Unfortunately, most non-racing people today only know what a “RASSCAR” (Nextel Cup) is… So my simple answer is: Do you know the cars that run in the Indianapolis 500? These are the “Indycars” Champ Car loosely resembles.
Although technically speaking, the Indy 500 is the only Indy Racing League jurisdiction that is NOT Champ Cars. This is due to the fact that the current state of open wheel racing was split between two opposing sanctioning bodies when the CART-IRL split occurred in 1996.
The most noticeable visual difference between the Champ Car and the IRL chassis is the rear engine cover. Turbocharged Champ Cars do not use an airbox. The IRL cars feature a “Formula 1-esque” airbox that pushes air into the engines buried inside the carbon fiber bodywork.
However, this year’s all-new Panoz DP-01 Champ Car appears to be a hybrid of the series’ former Lola B2K chassis and current Formula 1 competitor, complete with its new front wing treatment. The new Panoz also uses a similar F1 steering wheel-mounted gear shifter and a host of new electronic engine management features, including the removal of the ubiquitous ‘pop-off’ valve…
An interesting twist on the top speed of open-wheel racing cars was the announcement that F1’s BAR-Honda will attack the Bonneville salt flats in October 2006 in an attempt to break 400km/h…
Additional details stood out when watching Formula 1 qualifying at Silverstone last July. (Saturday, 07/09/06) when SPEED’s Bob Varsha made some interesting comments on the 5:00 show.
Varsha noted that the BAR-Honda “jalopy” is expected to reach a top speed of 250+mph using a modified Formula 1 chassis with the front and rear wings removed and using a parachute…
This leads back to another question I’m often asked: Which is faster: “The chicken or the egg. The coyote or the road runner?” ERR, Formula 1 or “chUmp carZs?”
This naturally leads to comparisons between rival machines. The 2005 BAR-Honda 007 chassis is powered by a 3.0-liter naturally aspirated V-10,
rumored to produce 955bhp @ 19,200rpm… Yet in July 2005, BAR-Honda was LAST in the F1 constructor’s standings.
Meanwhile, the 2005 Champ Car Lola/Cosworth’s 2.65-liter turbocharged V-8 produced 750 hp @ 37 in. The use of Cosworth’s “Push-to Pass” technology allows drivers a 60-second turbo boost, creating an additional 50 hp. claimed maximum power of 800 hp.
In the waning years of Factory-sponsored Champ Car (CART) racing, engines quickly approached 900 hp. And in 2000, Gil de Ferran Honda recorded a fifth consecutive CART Drivers’ Championship while setting a new world closed track speed record of 241.428 mph at California Speedway. (Fontana, CA: 2.5-mile tri-oval)
Meanwhile, the F1 circus has hit an Indianapolis front straight “top speed” of 221+ mph, while doing a long blast straight down, going 21 seconds at full throttle… (Before the Michelin tire DEBACLE of 2005!!! Fortunately, I attended Portland’s GI Joe instead at the Champ car race…)
This was before Formula 1 engines were downsized from a 3.0-liter naturally aspirated V-10 to a 2.4-liter V-8, removing two cylinders to reduce power, which threatened to exceed 1,000 hp!
This was in the mid-1980s during F1’s turbo era, which had seen 1,100+ hp during qualifying from tiny 1.5-liter 4s and twin-turbo V-6s. The spiraling increase in horsepower led to the FIA (Formula 1’s sanctioning body) deciding to return to naturally aspirated engines, introducing a maximum displacement of 3.5 liters in 1989, which was reduced to 3.0 liters in 1990… (This engine formula remained in place until 1990 -2005)
The all-time monsters were known as the Can Am, which competed from 1966 to 1974. This evolved into the all-conquering German Panzer, otherwise known as the Porsche 917/30, with a turbocharged flat 12 engine rumored to produce over 1,300 hp…
But in the mid-90s, Porsche was a direct descendant of the 917s: the 956s, followed by the dominant 962s vs. Jaguar XJRs (Lemans prototypes), both flew under 250 mph on the 3.0-mile Mulsane straight. (246+ mph) This resulted in the addition of two chicanes to carve out an immediate…
Of course top speed just depends on the vehicle application…
On October 15, 1997, the British Thrust SSC became the first jet-powered “car” to exceed the speed of SOUND! (Mach 1) A twin-engine land jet achieved a two-way average speed of 766.609 miles per hour…
And where do the limits of ultimate speed end?
For example, the Lockheed SR-71 flies FASTER than a speeding bullet (3000 mph), while the XB-70 Valkerie broke ALL records with a top speed of Mach 5! (3700+ mph)
So which is faster in the end: Formula 1 or Champ Cars? Unfortunately, there will NEVER be a real answer to this, as the two different forms of open wheel cruise missiles correspond to different engine formulas, rule packages, different tires, weights, fuels, gear ratios, etc. And the biggest limiting factor is the different aerodynamic rules enforced by Formula 1 vs Champ Cars.
Even the racing is a little different. While both ride on traditional road courses and apply the same “Point ‘N Squirt” racing theory. F1 chassis are better suited for corner-to-corner acceleration, while Champ Cars in the late 1990s or during today’s Indy 500 running were able to achieve a higher top speed by constantly circling the banked superspeedway ovals…
Yet during the 2006 Champ Car World Series at Circuit Gilles Villenuve in Montreal, home of Canada’s Formula 1 race, their lap times were almost 7 seconds SLOWER than the F1 cars… (Lap time comparison: F1 = 1:14.942 vs. Champ Car = 1:21.856)
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