Chevrolet Brings Impala SS Funny Car to NHRA POWERade Series

23.01.2007: Chevrolet Brings Impala SS Funny Car to NHRA POWERade Series

Throughout its rich history as a leader in drag racing competition, Chevrolet has built a winning legacy unsurpassed by any manufacturer in the history of the sport. Now the red bowtie will continue to raise the performance bar in NHRA Funny Car this season with the introduction of the 2007 Impala SS beginning with the series' first event at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona (Calif.) on Feb. 8 - 11.

Few vehicles have enjoyed the ongoing success of the Chevy Impala. Its quiet strength is an inherited attribute that is blended into a sporty sedan that offers stylish design, captivating performance and surprising details, including the latest version of the legendary small-block V-8 in the Impala SS. The legendary nameplate is ready to reaffirm the red bowtie's commitment to excellence in NHRA Funny Car competition and continue the American Revolution that is uniquely Chevrolet.

"Chevrolet has firmly established itself as one of drag racing's most successful automotive brands," said Ed Peper, Chevrolet General Manager. "The Chevy red bowtie competes to win, and like its production counterpart, the new Impala SS Funny Car has been designed and engineered to carry forward that performance heritage."

The new Impala SS Funny Car, which has been over a year in the making, is the first GM drag race body devised and developed utilizing a 3-D computer-aided-design process, something GM Drag Racing Group Manager Dan Engel has wanted to do for a long time.

"There was no physical model that we were working from," said Engel. "It was all done on a computer. Once it was designed and a CAD file created, the file was sent to a CNC machine and it cut out the shape as it was designed on the computer screen."

Working within an extensive list of parameters established by the NHRA, GM engineers first had to accumulate mathematical data on the production Impala and then design the new racecar conforming to the tolerances established by the sanctioning body.

"We knew we had certain dimensions where we had to stay within tolerance," said Engel. "We took those measurements, and said, 'Okay, let's optimize those dimensions that would make a better racecar.' And that means either shortening the dimensions or lengthening them, or in the case of the angle of the windshield, we're allowed three degrees tolerance so we take advantage of the full three degrees. All those dimensions get optimized for the best aerodynamic conditions. Then it's a matter of, and although it's not as easy as it sounds, smoothing in the car."

The goal of GM Racing engineers is always to gives its Chevy teams the best body possible, but the key objective was to make the nitro version of the Impala SS look as similar as possible to its showroom counterpart.

"We wanted the new Impala to come out a slightly better car aerodynamically than the current Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Car," said Engel. "Even though there isn't a big advantage with the new car, there are some incremental advantages with the Impala SS that will certainly help our Chevrolet Funny Car teams. We really wanted it to look as much as possible like a production car. That's the direction we think the NHRA wants with this class."

After construction of the body, the Impala Funny Car was taken to the GM Aero Lab for a series of wind tests to confirm the aero numbers on the car and to gather additional data that will be distributed to all Chevy race teams.

"The wind tunnel test confirmed that we hit it pretty close right out of the box," said Engel. "We then went back for another test to get the car dialed in and we finished that up during the second week of January."

Safety changes made during production of the Monte Carlo Funny Car including a stronger carbon-fiber body, a larger burst panel to allow greater dissipation of energy from an engine explosion, and an enlarged roof-hatch escape to compensate for the increasing numbers of drivers wearing a HANS, have been incorporated into the new Chevrolet. An NHRA-mandated change to the escape hatch (which is now required on all new Funny Cars) will be an additional feature on the Impala SS.

"From a safety standpoint we did a great job with the Monte Carlo and were able to roll those features into the Impala," said Engel. "A new rule from the NHRA requires a little recess on the roof hatch so that somebody from outside can get a grip and get it opened. Those hatches tend to lay pretty flat so if the driver can't open it, you need a way to open it externally."

After a year in the making Engel is pleased with the final product and is anxious to see the new Impala on track.

"The Impala is a good looking Funny Car, and if you didn't have the big spoiler on it, it looks amazingly similar to a production car," said Engel. "A lot of people get deceived when they look at these cars because of the spoiler kind of camouflaging the car or even distorting it. But if you look at it without the spoiler it looks like a production car. The Impala is also a four-door and one of the things the teams will do is black out the second side window on the car and make it look like a real four-door. There's even a small quarter window on the side.

"To finally complete the Impala is a great feeling. This is the first Funny Car project I've been in charge of, and doing it in 3-D, and going through the whole process, I feel very excited about its potential and can't wait to see it race."

Crew chief Mike Green, whose Skoal Racing team was instrumental in the development of the Chevy Impala SS and received the first new body, shares Engel's enthusiasm for the new car.

"In the years I’ve worked with GM, this is the most comprehensive attempt at our making a competitive Funny Car body," said Green. "With the Monte Carlo, we kind of morphed what we had in the Camaro and made some improvements, but Dan Engel spearheaded this Impala SS project and started from a clean sheet of paper. The result is a much better racecar body than we’ve ever had before.

"It’s been great working with Dan because he’s an engineer and likes the engineering side of the sport. He’s really dedicated to making us a first-class body that will be competitive. We’ll hit the track for the first time when we test in Las Vegas on Jan. 19th, and we’ll expect the Impala to be competitive the first few runs down the racetrack. It’ll take us a few runs to get the aero balance right so Tommy (Johnson Jr.) can drive it, get the right amount of downforce on the rear, and get it balanced a little bit, but even then, we’ll have it really close coming out of the wind tunnel. When we first hit the track with it, I think it’ll give us the amount of downforce we need and have quite a bit less drag than our Monte Carlo."

And as one of the drivers who will be piloting one of the Impala SS in competition this year, Tommy Johnson Jr. is looking forward to his first race in the new Chevrolet.

"I'm excited to debut the Chevy Impala SS this season," said Johnson. "GM and Don Prudhomme Racing have worked closely on this new body and they've come up with one of the best looking Funny Cars I've seen in a long time. Not only does it look good, but the extensive wind tunnel time we have with the body tell it's going to be a fantastic racecar. I can't wait to get the car on the track and see how it performs.

"With a larger cockpit area, it is definitely a different view from a driver’s standpoint and will take a few runs to get used to. As with any change, after a couple of runs, I'll feel at home. This might be the thing we need to put us out in front of the competition."

 

- Jeff Romack-

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/nhra-powerade-series-chevrolet-impala-ss-funny-car-american-revolution-dan-engel-drag-racing-racecar-v8-pomona---18442.html

23.01.2007 / MaP

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