DeltaWing Takes DC!
by Bob Kozak (Advanced Biofuels USA) Our friends at DeltaWing Racing brought their DeltaWing Prototype to the Indiana Society of Washington DC for their annual Indy 500 reception last week. “Senior Green Motor Sports Correspondent” and former Capitol Hill denizen Bob Kozak went to DC to see how it was received. Here’s his report.
Since I last wrote about this revolutionary effort to bring cutting-edge energy efficiency, lower production costs, and renewable materials technology to the legendary Indianapolis 500 (first race in 1911) things have gotten serious.
The prototype has been in the windtunnel and Ben Bowlby’s radically efficient design has been verified.
The Indy Racing League (IRL) also put together an advisory group to decide whether the revolutionary DeltaWing concept should be the future or should the current race car, based on a 1972 design, be continued with minor changes. The panel is called the ICONIC (Innovative, Competitive, Open-Wheel, New, Industry-Relevant, Cost-Effective) IZOD IndyCar Series Advisory Committee and is chaired by a retired Air Force General. Please don’t blame the acronym on him, IRL already had thought it up.
With Indy Car racing suffering financially from a shrinking and aging fan base, the fact that the DeltaWing will cost half the price of current cars is important to car owners. More important though, especially for sponsors, can the DeltaWing bring a new audience to the Indy Car series? Or, will the design and emphasis on energy efficiency turn people off?
Bringing the car to Capitol Hill, Washington DC while Congress is in session would certainly be a good test. I’m not sure if the DeltaWing folk knew it, but DC is a tough room to play. And Capitol Hill has about the toughest crowd. Just ask any President.
Congressional staff and lobbyists are measured by their ability not to show enthusiasm at anything. Anything less than a studied “I’ve seen it all” demeanor is simply not acceptable. Heck, even people coming from out-of-town to visit their representatives or “to petition the Government” (First Amendment) seem to fit in after a day or two.
“When will it be racing?”
“This is more advanced than F1.”
“Half the fuel used at 230 mph? Wow!”
The car almost seemed to draw people to it – especially women. One woman even stopped her taxi, opened the door, and started taking photos. In DC? For a car? I’ve never even heard of that.
The next generation of fans came by too.
To say the least this was exciting. People were smiling and talking about energy efficiency, biofuels, and biomaterials. They wanted the future. And they wanted it soon.
How about the Indiana Society reception? Oh right, the event I was sent to cover and I’m already over 500 words. Representatives Mike Pence (R) and Andre Carson (D) both pumped up the crowd (friendly and bi-partisan) and had good Indy 500 stories. Dan Partel, the CEO of DeltaWing, talked about the jobs that DeltaWing would create in Indiana which was really well received. But then, everyone there was already an Indy Car fan. As Representative Pence said, in Indiana that last weekend of May isn’t Memorial Day weekend, its Indianapolis 500 weekend.
What was important about this event, though, was what had been created outside on South Capitol Street. I don’t think it’s too much to say that the enthusiasm shown that evening can be the beginning of a new audience for Indy Car racing. A cool looking radical car that embodies “green” principles will pull in a new audience – women, kids, and people who live in urban areas that may know more about International F1 racing than Indy Car. Wait isn’t that the United States in 2010? I hope the ICONIC Committee sees that.
And what does that mean for the advanced biofuel and biomaterial industry? I think it means two things.
First, people want the future. And they want it to be clean and green. Advanced non-food biofuels and biomaterials should be leading the way.
Second, we have friends and potential allies out there.
For instance, Dan Partel the CEO of DeltaWing Racing. His background sounds like that of an advanced biofuels CEO. He graduated from Rutgers with a degree in agricultural science, with a lot of microbiology and biochemistry. He understands biofuels and biomaterials from the cell level on up. We need to reach out beyond our world and work together with other visionaries in the transportation and racing worlds. Then we’ll get to the future.
Another chance to see the DeltaWing (and other contenders) is at the 2010 Indianapolis 500, Wednesday, May 26, 2010, for the American Family Insurance 500 Festival Community Day. READ MORE