Since the inception of the National Hot
Rod Association in 1951, Chevrolet has built a rich tradition and
winning legacy unmatched by any manufacturer in the history of the
sport. With the entry of Monte Carlo onto the high-profile stage
of professional Funny Car competition in 2004, Chevy and GM Racing
have reestablished the red bow tie's commitment to excellence in
the nitro drag racing category and continued the American Revolution
that is uniquely Chevrolet.
Few vehicles have enjoyed the ongoing success of Chevrolet Monte
Carlo. A sophisticated street car with race-inspired styling, the
Monte Carlo is a classic Chevy nameplate that has withstood stiff
competition both on and off the racetrack. The strengths of today's
Monte Carlo make it one of America's best-selling cars in the midsize
coupe market and the most successful NASCAR racer. Now the storied
Monte Carlo nameplate is ready to take its place among the legends
of NHRA Drag Racing.
"We simply have a passion for racing at Chevrolet," said
Jim Campbell, Marketing Director for Monte Carlo. "If you look
at Chevrolet, our co-founder, Louis Chevrolet, was a terrific engineer,
but his real love was racing. We are clearly a leader in motorsports,
whether it be in the American Le Mans Series with the Corvette C5-R,
the Indy Racing League with the Chevy Indy V-8 or the Chevy Cavalier
in NHRA Pro Stock. Chevrolet has already established a rich legacy
in NASCAR with more than 400 Nextel Cup wins and 23 manufacturer's
championships in the modern era (1972 - present), and we look for
that success to continue with the Monte Carlo Funny Car in NHRA
Last summer, work began to develop GM Racing's vision of a Chevrolet
Monte Carlo Funny Car. The primary goals of the Monte Carlo marketing
team and the engineers assigned to this task were to keep the shape
and appearance of the new mold as true as possible to the current
production car, while adhering to the aerodynamic fundamentals needed
to create a competitive racecar.
"A Funny Car body has to make a tremendous amount
of downforce," explained Terry Laise, GM Racing aerodynamicist
and Monte Carlo project engineer. "The nitromethane engines
create an enormous amount of horsepower, so you've got to have enough
downforce to apply it all to the track. As the speed of the car
increases, you produce more traction by taking advantage of the
ambient air. You also need enough front downforce so that the driver
can steer the car down the track. Obviously, you don't want any
more drag than necessary, but with the amount of power that is created,
drag does not become a primary factor when designing the car.
"The Funny Car is so reshaped that you could probably make
a pretty good one out of most production cars. But we wanted our
Funny Car to actually look like a Monte Carlo. We've managed to
develop a racecar that looks a great deal like a Chevrolet Monte
Carlo but performs better than the cars we've raced in the past."
The first step in developing the new Monte Carlo was a performance
assessment of the Chevy Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird, the two
previous models used by GM Racing in NHRA competition. This included
a vigorous, comprehensive aerodynamic comparison of how the two
cars stacked up against the current roster of Funny Car participants.
think we just leveled the playing field. You have to remember
that the cars we raced in 2003 were ’99 production models.
That was the set of rules that we used to develop those bodies.
There have been several rules changes since then that allowed
the Ford and Mopar teams to take advantage of. We are several
years behind, but the Monte Carlo has allowed us to catch up.
This body meets the current rules and it took no more than just
being able to build a new car by the rules.” - Fred Simmonds
Working with Don Prudhomme's Snake Racing Funny Car team, extensive
research was conducted at the GM Aero Lab in Warren, Michigan, and
demonstrated to the delight of GM Racing engineers that the five-year-old
molds (the oldest in Funny Car competition) for both the Firebird
and the Camaro templates were still very competitive.
"That was really good to see," said Laise. "We knew
we needed to make some changes, but it was good to know that we
didn't have to take huge strides with this development project to
meet our goals. Our technical notes, wind tunnel data and various
feedback indicated we had to make minor adjustments to make the
Monte Carlo better right out of the box.
"I helped build the body for NASCAR, so some of the things
we applied there we were able to apply them to the Funny Car. At
GM Racing we clearly translate and share technology from the other
racing series we compete in. Sometimes it's difficult to specifically
pinpoint where, but you just don't forget what you did to develop
one racecar when you begin work on another. Although racing in NASCAR
and NHRA Funny Car are two completely different sports, the laws
of physics remain the same."
Through additional wind tunnel research, and information gleaned
from numerous Chevrolet and Pontiac Funny Car teams, improvements
were made over the previous designs. But there were also valuable
aspects of the Firebird and the Camaro that made it easier to establish
a basic framework for the Monte Carlo.
For example, the actual measurements of the Camaro and the Firebird
fell far short of the maximum dimensions allowed by the NHRA technical
department. The 2004 Monte Carlo has been constructed to take advantage
of these rules. The Camaro and the Firebird were also notably light
on the front, creating a slight front-to-rear balance deficit which
at times made the cars difficult to drive. The 2004 Monte Carlo
addresses these shortcomings, and with its new shape and overall
balance, a significant amount of aerodynamic efficiency has been
established without a great deal of additional drag.
"The nice thing is that the Camaro was an outstanding reference
point when we began building the Monte Carlo," said Josh Peterson,
GM Racing program manager. "You want to have downforce, but
you want to have a nice balance from front to rear on the car. You
want to have some adjustment built in so that the driver feels comfortable
steering the car. Every driver has a preference on how much front
downforce they like. Some drivers like it light, and some like it
heavy so that they know when they turn the wheel the car turns.
Obviously, you want to offset that with rear balance so that it
coincides with each crew chief's clutch setups on the car. Drag
is also an important point to consider, but not nearly as important
as getting the front and rear balance and overall downforce established
on the car.
"I think the biggest area we've been able to play with is
the greenhouse. Since we designed the 1999 Camaro, the NHRA has
mandated a maximum height where we were able to take advantage of
the production Monte Carlo's roof shape. We brought it down by a
small amount and tucked it in a little bit. That will improve the
air flow over the driver's compartment all the way back to the box.
We also shortened the overall length of the car by eight inches
and ended up constructing the greenhouse to match the overall shape
of the production car."
GM Racing engineers are also proud to point out new safety features
incorporated into the 2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. GM Racing's dedicated
safety research program actively seeks to improve safety in all
motorsports series. GM personnel and facilities have been instrumental
in the testing and validation of safety enhancements such as crash
data recorders, head and neck protection, rear impact attenuators,
seats and seat belts, and wheel restraints.
The 2004 Monte Carlo Funny Car has been made stronger and the carbon-fiber
body has been made stiffer and therefore more stable. The Monte
Carlo also includes a bigger burst panel to allow greater dissipation
of energy should an engine explosion occur, an enlarged roof-hatch
escape to compensate for the increasing number of drivers wearing
the HANS, and a wider windshield for better visibility.
The burst panel on the Monte Carlo measures 576 square inches, doubling
the NHRA minimum requirement of 288 square inches. The driver roof-hatch
opening measures 399 square inches and it exceeds the NHRA minimum
requirement of 306 square inches by just over 30 %.
"The 2004 Chevy Monte Carlo is going to be an outstanding racecar"
said Laise. "The body is lighter, it's stiffer, it's safer
and we know aerodynamically it's much better than the car we ran
before. The Monte Carlo also resembles a production car more than
any Funny Car out there. The front grill area is very detailed and
the overall look of the car, when you're looking at it up close
or from a distance, looks very much like a production car, even
the rear glass behind the passenger door.
"When it's all painted up and done, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo
Funny Car is going to look very similar to the production car, and
that's something we're all very proud of. We've managed to develop
a car that looks a great deal like a Chevrolet Monte Carlo you would
see in the showroom but performs better than the cars we've raced
in the past. That's great for GM and an important avenue for our
company to promote our technology and high-quality products. We're
quite optimistic that the Monte Carlo is going to be quite good
and I think everyone is going to be impressed."
Mike Green, crew chief on the Skoal Racing Chevrolet, shares Laise's
viewpoint and is also excited by the 2004 Monte Carlo's potential.
"We're just real pleased that GM sought to get this involved
in the development of the Monte Carlo Funny Car body," said
Green. "Terry Laise, Josh Peterson and everyone at GM Racing
engineering have just done a fabulous job.
"We've also been able to accomplish two things. The Monte Carlo
is a great looking racecar with excellent lines and features, and
from an aerodynamic standpoint, it's a much better package that
will be extremely competitive. The Chevy Monte Carlo is the best
Funny Car GM has ever produced.