Like sports car racing, open-wheel racing teams use many full cars over the course of their programs. Unlike sports car racing, open-wheel cars generally do not have any collectible value of their own and, unless they are F1 champions or Indianapolis 500 race winners, are rarely ever stored in a complete state. As a result, the used racing car market is crawling with interesting rolling chassis options in need of an engine and some serious care. Most of these eventually become show cars or spares for more historically significant racers. One, however, has been earmarked for a much more interesting fate.
This is a 1997 Lola raced in CART by Richie Hearn of Della Penna Motorsports, its best finishing position in ninth. It now belongs to rotary customization icon Rob Dahm, who plans to put one of his signature Mazda-based rotary powerplants in the back of a car that was once powered by a Ford V-8. If he succeeds, it will be one of the most memorable engine swaps in history.
At least at the time of their introductory video posted late last week, Dahm and his team do not have a finalized plan to power the engine-less Lola chassis. They also seem to be figuring out the car in real-time, making a lot of (generally correct) guesses about what some of the features of the chassis are for rather than working off expertise on how the car would have run when it raced. Together, those two things leave the shop with an open-ended problem awaiting an interesting solution. The easy option is a 2-rotor swap, something like the Renesis-powered Star Mazda open-wheel racers that drivers ran in IndyCar’s development levels throughout the 2000s. The more exciting end of options, and the one more true to the spirit of CART, is a full-throated turbocharged four-rotor swap like the one Dahm put in his beastly AWD RX-7. For the full story, check out this article from Road & Track.