September 26, 2020

The Little-Known Racing Legend Underneath the Logos

Yet to motor racing outsiders, the name Dallara, the chassis maker, is unlikely to ring many bells. One specialist magazine recently described the company as “the world’s most successful yet understated racing car builder.”

“We prefer to let the facts speak for themselves,” said Andrea Pontremoli, chief executive and general manager of Dallara. “If we win races we’re good.” He paused. “And we win a lot of races.”

The chassis of a racecar tends to go unnoticed under the logos and brand names blazoned on the bodywork by sponsors. Yet the chassis “is the foundation for everything,” said Arturo Rizzoli, a journalist for “Autosprint,” an Italian magazine that follows motor racing. “It is the key” to making a winning racecar.

In Formula One — the pinnacle of auto racing and also the richest series — each of the 12 teams is now required to build its own chassis. But most other series, from karting to the lower formulas that feed Formula One, buy chassis from companies like Dallara. Such series exist in dozens of countries around the world at both international and national levels. They usually make their money from corporate sponsorship, private investors and rich enthusiasts.

It is in several of the lower series that Dallara has increasingly dominated the competition.

Dallara, for example, is the single chassis maker for the GP2 series, considered the final step on the ladder leading to Formula One. Starting in 2012, it will provide the chassis for all GP3 cars, a newer series that is also a Formula One support race.

By Mr. Pontremoli’s calculations, 196 of the 200 cars that race in Formula Three, considered two steps down from Formula One, are manufactured by Dallara.

Dallara cars also race in the World Series by Renault, Grand-Am, the North American series and the German junior series Formel Master — more series used as stepping stones to the higher levels and ultimately to Formula One.

The company’s design consulting business, which brings in 40 percent of revenue, even extends into the rarefied reaches of Formula One racing, where the company last year provided the chassis to the Hispania team before the new rules required a team to build its own chassis. Dallara is still involved in the series, “but we can’t say what we do or for whom,” Mr. Pontremoli said with a smile.

Last summer, Dallara scored a coup by beating out other manufacturers to build the new 2012 car for the Izod IndyCar Series, the premier level of American formula racing that opened its season last month. The company will build the undercarriage and the safety cell, where the driver sits. The bodywork dressing the cars will be provided by various manufacturers, including Chevrolet and Lotus, as well as Dallara.

Using a single chassis maker like Dallara makes the cars more economically viable for teams and increases competition. When all teams use the same chassis company, they all pay the same price for the chassis, so richer teams cannot buy their way to victory. And instead of the speed difference between teams coming mostly from the chassis — as in Formula One — it comes mostly from the skill of the driver.

The chassis — which includes everything but the driver’s seat — will cost $349,000.

A news release to announce the choice of Dallara last year for Izod estimated that the price was a 45 percent decrease from the cost of the cars racing in 2010-11, no small saving for teams.

The contract will also swell the company’s revenue, which this year hovers at €32 million, or $46 million. Next year, when Dallara will build both the new IndyCar and the new GP3 chassis, revenue will top €56 million. The privately held company does not disclose profit figures; all profits are reinvested in innovation and technology, Mr. Pontremoli said.

Much of that investment goes to preserving a key competitive advantage: safety.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=4db6e341d72510ee09c5de015342894f

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