All cars in the race use a standardized 1,550-pound chassis known as the DP01, which is manufactured by Panoz. Unlike Formula One cars, Champ Car series race car chassis are allowed to make use of underfloor aerodynamics, which uses airflow to create downforce to stick the car to the track. According to the CDW/RSports team, the current chassis design provides as much as 5,000 pounds of downforce--enough suction to (theoretically) enable the car to stick to a track upside-down at high speeds.
As well as sponsoring the team, CDW provides networking and IT products to the RSports team, equipment that allows the car's diagnostics to be monitored in real time. Engineers monitor information on engine temperature, fuel level, damper settings, and hundreds of other systems relayed from sensors placed throughout the chassis. During the race, the team congregates on the timing stand, monitoring six different LCD displays, each of which provides a separate set of data related to the car.
All cars in the Champ Car series are required to race on Bridgestone Potenza tires. Each car is also required to use at least one set of the softer (and therefore grippier) Bridgestone alternate tires--or "reds"--during the course of the race.
This color-coding of tires is intended to give spectators a better idea of race strategy, and has been adopted by Formula One this year.
The CDW/RSports car's $20,000 steering wheel is made from carbon fiber to save weight. The grips are molded specifically to the hands of driver Justin Wilson. The green button on the upper-left-hand side lets the driver access the car's Power to Pass function, which raises the boost pressure of the engines to give the driver an extra 50 horsepower for as long as 60 seconds per race. The blue button allows Wilson to access his onboard drinking water.
All cars in the Champ Car series run on 100 percent methanol, which burns cleaner than gasoline and at a lower temperature, making it a safer fuel in the event of a crash. During pit stops, the team can change all four tires and fill the car with 30 gallons of fuel in less than 10 seconds.
With the car in the pit lane between qualifying laps, heaters are applied to the brakes to keep them warm. During a race, the cars' six-piston steel brake rotors can reach temperatures exceeding 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. When out on the track, the driver can adjust the car's brake bias from the cockpit.
As the car laps the track, CDW/RSports team engineers use a telematics application called Pi to monitor steering angle, engine speed, damper activity, and gear changes. In a race with standardized engines and chassis, the tweaks that the engineers make based on this kind of data can mean the difference between first and last place.
After each session, engineers use probes to test the temperature of each of the car's tires, checking for underinflation or overinflation. Three readings are taken across the span of each tire: if the middle is hotter than the outsides, it means that the center section of the tire is getting more ground contact than the edges, in which case the tire is overinflated. If the edges are hotter, then the tire is underinflated.
One of the post-session analyses involves a damper testing machine (right), which uses the data collected from the car to replay the race on individual dampers. The computer monitor displays a graph that plots force against velocity, enabling the engineers to adjust the dampers for optimum performance on subsequent runs.
Like all the other Champ Car series cars, the CDW/RSports car is powered by a turbocharged 2.65-liter Ford-Cosworth XFE engine. This potent power plant puts out a maximum of 750 horsepower, enough to catapult the car from 0 to 60 mph in 2.2 seconds and from standing to 100 mph in a staggering 4.2 seconds.
During testing, Wilson (left) compares his experiences behind the wheel with the data collected from the car's telemetry. The engineers then make adjustments to the car's steering and suspension accordingly.