- NASCAR will debut the Car of Tomorrow (COT) this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race.
- The COT was designed from the ground up to be safer, more competitive and more cost-effective for NASCAR teams.
- Bristol is the first of 16 scheduled appearances for the COT in the 2007 season.
For nearly all of the 21st century, auto manufacturers – including Ford – racing engineers, and NASCAR have worked together to develop a new, safer race car.
The end result, now known as the Car of Tomorrow (COT), will make its NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series debut this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. Ford will keep the Fusion brand name on its entry.
“It’s been a pretty lengthy process and started back in the 2000-01 year and really accelerated around March 2005; that’s when the Car of Tomorrow project really started accelerating and we got involved pretty in depth,” said Ben Leslie, NASCAR Field Manager for Ford Racing Technology.
The COT is very similar to the current NASCAR race car; but it is 2.5 inches taller, 2.5 inches wider and the driver sits four inches closer to the center. Most noticeably, it has an adjustable splitter across the bottom front of the car, and an adjustable wing replaces the fixed spoiler on the back deck lid.
The COT was designed from the ground up to be safer, more competitive and more cost-effective for NASCAR teams. The COT spent extensive time on the drawing board, in computer simulations, in the wind tunnel and on the track as NASCAR aimed to design the ideal Nextel Cup car for the future.
“Ford got into doing some 40-percent scale testing for NASCAR as far as trying different philosophies with roof shapes and things of that nature,” Leslie said. “We took a fairly active approach at that point as far as offering up a fair amount of model time and things of that nature to least help understand exactly what we were changing for the real world.
“At the same time, we were trying to keep things open that we felt we could work on to benefit our teams.”
From the design components, NASCAR required manufacturers to build the new race car with less aerodynamics. Compared to the traditional 2007 NASCAR Ford Fusion , the COT Ford Fusion’s windshield is straighter and taller, causing it to catch more wind, increasing drag and slowing the cars. Since it is less aero-dependent, the COT is supposed to drive better in traffic and allow for more opportunities to pass.
In addition to the driver being moved closer to the center of the car, other COT safety features include: the roll cage being moved three inches toward the rear; more crush zones on the side body panels to absorb impact and increase driver protection; and the fuel cell is stronger, with a smaller capacity (17.75 gallons, down from 22 at most tracks).
Also, the exhaust is run through the body and exits on the right side, diverted from the driver.
Part of Leslie’s challenge was to provide a strong Ford identity to the COT Fusion and maintain race-car performance.
“We had some flexibility to give it some individuality around the upper part of the nose,” Leslie said. “The lower part of the nose is 100 percent common for all brands because it’s a performance area, but the middle part of the bumper line up is 100 percent brand identity. The hood is brand identity.
“We did a lot of testing on what was available as far as performance gains, and then we worked in styling cues to complement the type of performance gain that we felt we could get.
“You never stop learning and testing, but right now we feel like we’ve go the best balance that we could as far as the performance aspect and putting as much brand identity as what we could into it.”
Starting with Sunday’s event at Bristol, the COT will be used in 16 of the 36 points races this year. All of the COT races will be held at oval tracks that are less than 1.5 miles in length – Bristol , Martinsville, Phoenix, Richmond, Dover, New Hampshire and Darlington – and the circuit’s two road courses – Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen.
Because Bristol is one of the smallest tracks on the circuit, Leslie said the fans probably won’t see any noticeable change in the racing this weekend.