Fully electric cars are impractical for most purposes because of the long periods they must sit while the batteries recharge. "By Ruining the 24 Hours of Le Mans [with the aid of] a single set of batteries, we hope to establish the credibility of this technology," says Panoz. "We believe our system will show that environmentally responsible vehicles don't have to sacrifice performance."
New Chicago Oval
Safety First In Track Design
Chicago Motor Speedway, scheduled to open with a CART race in the fall of 1999, might be the most sensibly designed project undertaken in the recent rash of track building. The best safety feature in all of motor racing will be in place there: flexible retaining walls that should greatly reduce injuries to drivers. The one-mile Chicago oval also will be low-banked and wide (75 feet, compared with the usual 50 to 60), which should produce the side-by-side racing that fans love.
Construction will begin this summer around the horse racing track at Sportsman's Park in Cicero, Ill., with new grandstands that will increase seating capacity from 11,000 to 67,000 for either form of racing. Though the project's primary developer, Chip Ganassi, is a CART team owner, he says he will try to lure all forms of motor racing. "Everybody in CART wants to get back to a wide, one-mile oval where they can race two and three abreast and not worry about superhigh speeds," says Ganassi.
Indeed, many NASCAR team owners and drivers are fed up with the excessive speed and dangerous collisions on the high-banked tracks that are predominant on their schedule. Truth is, Winston Cup cars no longer need high banking to facilitate fast cornering. When they do race on high-banked tracks, they run too fast for comfort. Last year 13 qualifying- and race-speed records were set in the 32 Winston Cup races.
The new wall, made of stacked tires banded together and covered with fiber-reinforced rubber, has been used on temporary street circuits. Rather than slamming into unyielding concrete, cars will crash into barriers that give, yet "don't bounce you back into traffic," says Ganassi.