Formula One vs Indy Car
A Modern Comparison
Created Feb 3, 2003

Technical Comparison

Which cars are faster?

Indy Cars reach higher speeds on ovals than they do on road courses naturally. Formula One cars only race road courses and then, not on any courses that American open-wheelers race on (except for 1/2 of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway going the opposite direction.) Consequently its hard to compare. Both reach speeds in excess of 200 mph and Formula One has the most horsepower coupled with the lightest cars. You would think that would tell the story, however, F1 also have more downforce to help them handle their slow corners. This results in slowing down the car's top speed.

Indy Cars will qualify for this year's Indy 500 with average speeds over 220 mph. Arie Luyendyk qualified in 1996 with an average speed of 236 mph.

Peter Gethin qualified with the fastest time in F1 history at the Italian GP in 1971 with an average speed of 150.754. F1 cars, at the end of a straight, reach a maximum speed of around 212.5 mph (340 kph).

The IRL claim their cars can go from 0-100 mph in under 3 seconds. CART claims 4.2 seconds. The IRL is using new 3.5 Liter normally-aspirated V8 engines this year with horsepower in the 650-750 range. F1 used to use 1.5 liter turbos back in the 80's. Although these cars had over 1000 hp, today's F1 cars go faster with ~830 hp due to advances in the technology of other parts of the race car. CART, while down to 1 engine manufacturer, is at least sticking with their 2.65L Turbo engines which have dropped off in power to about 800 HP.

The tracks as well as the car's engine, suspension, aerodynamics, tires, etc. determine how fast they go. But you must realize that the sanctioning bodies of these race series are often changing the rules, trying to slow the cars down in an attempt to maintain safey and reach a good level of competition.

Engine Comparison

Here is a sampling of 3 cars from each series:


Chevy V8

Turbo Ford

Number of Cylinders 10 in V/80 degrees 8 in V/90 degrees 8 in v/90 degrees
Number of Valves 40 32 32
Displacement 2,997 cc 3,500 cc 2,646.9 cc (161.5 ci.)
Max. Power 830 H.P. 720 H.P. 800
Fuel System Magneti Marelli digital efi Sequential EFI Mercedes-Benz/Ilmor Injection
Fuel Capacity ? 35 gallon 35 gallon
Fuel Type Unleaded Petrol Methanol Methanol
Engine Price A season costs $5-35 million. $1.5-2 million. Of course you have to rebuild them practically after every race, you need several, etc.- $150,000 leases you one

Engine List

List of Engines available for each league

Formula One



Ford 3.0L V10 Chevrolet 3.5L V8 Ford 2.6L V8 Turbo
Toyota 3.0L V10 Toyota 3.5L V8
Honda 3.0L V10 Honda 3.5L V8
Mercedes 3.0L V10
BMW 3.0L V10
Ferrari 3.0 V10
Saubers 3.0L V10
Really last years
Ferrari Engine
Renault 3.0L V10

While F1 engines are not reused from race to race, Indy Car engines are often rebuilt and used in more than one race.

Currently, all F1 engines are V10's and they sound similar. A few years ago you had a variety of engines, such as the Ford V8's and the Ferrari V12's. This made for an interesting racing sound.

The Indy Racing League's system of engine building is much like the one used in NASCAR: The manufacturer supplies the parts and an approved builder puts them together.

In the IRL, there are approx 5 Chevy engine builders: Roush, TWR, Speedway, Menard and VDS. Honda and Toyota have at least one each also.

These engine builders vary in size. Speedway Engines has 11 employees in a small shop south of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Roush Technologies of Livonia, Mich., employs 1,500 people and uses more than 30 dynometers to test both race and passenger car engines. IRL engine builders' fees vary, but on average, rebuilds cost $17,000. Most builders do more than 100 rebuilds in a season.

The IRL's engine program was born out of league founder Tony George's disdain for CART's lease arrangement, which puts teams (and arguably the series) at the mercy of the engine manufacturers. CART has since become a spec series - with everyone running the same Ford motor and chassis.

Some builders sacrifice horsepower in the name of reliability. A few of the better-financed teams, such as Menard, Kelley and Foyt, have both a qualifying and a race motor. In the latter, sturdier parts are used.

Chassis, Etc




Brakes Ventilated carbon discs Ventilated carbon discs disc
Gearbox Ferrari longitudinal gearbox, semiautomatic sequential electronically controlled, 7speeds+reverse XTRAC gearbox standard w/6 forward gears Manual with 6 forward gears
Front & Rear Suspension Independent, push-rod activated torsion spring Push-rod with double wishbones and Riley Rocker Parrell Spring/Damper Pushrod
Weight with water, lubricant and driver: 600 kg (1323 lbs) 735 kg (1,620 lbs) DRY (minimum) 703 kg (1,550 lbs) DRY (minimum)
Chassis Carbon fiber and honeycomb composite structure Carbon/aluminum honeycomb construction with machined aluminum bulkheads Carbon Fiber
Wheel Diameter 13 inches 15 inches 15 inches
Drive Rear Rear Rear
Chassis Price A season costs $6-33 million $299,000 for one $430,000 for one
Wheel Base 2,953 mm (116 inches) (110 inches) (123 inches)
Front Track 1,490 mm (59 inches) 1,702 mm (67 inches) 1,727 mm (68 inches)
Rear Track 1,405 mm (55 inches) 1,613 mm (63.5 inches) 1,727 mm (68 inches)
Length 4,340 mm (171 inches) 4,889 mm (192.5 inches) 4,826 mm (190 inches)
Width (70.87 inches) (78.5 inches) (78.5 inches)
Height 961 mm (37.8 inches) (38 inches) 940 mm (37 inches)

Misc data on various cars:

Other Riley & Scott data:
Cockpit Width; 533 mm (21.0 inches)
Clutch: 140 mm (5.5 inches)
Drive Shaft: Tubular steel with tri-pod joints
Steering: Rack and pinion
Wheels: Magnesium alloy one-piece
Brake Calipers: Single, six-position
Water Coolers: Two-side-pod mounted radiators
Engine Oil Coolers: One heat exchanger in left side pod
Max RPM: 10,500

Other Reynard 98I/Mercedes-Benz IC-108E data:
Steering Type: Reynard rack and pinion
Turns: 1 (lock to lock)
Weight Dist: 41/59 (front/rear)
Turbocharger: Allied Signal/Garrett
Clutch: 4-plate diaphragm spring
Shock Absorbers: Ohlins
Wheels: BBS/Forged Magnesium
Instruments: Pi
Spark Plugs: Bosch

1999 Peugeot A18 Engine
Number of cylinders: 10 at 72�
Cubic capacity: 2998 cc
Timing: by gear group
Valves: 4 per cylinders, with pneumatic return
Cylinder block and cylinder beads: light alloy
Camshafts: 2 per row of cylinders
Fuel feed and ignition: TAG Electronic control
Dimensions (mm): 620 x 512 x 393
Weight: less than 120 kg

Chassis List

List of Chassis available for each series

Formula One



Ferrari Falcon Lola
Toyota G Force
Renault Dallara IR7


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