- The first IndyCar chassis developed by Swift Engineering
- Driven to three podium finishes across nine races by Michael Andretti during the 1997 CART season
- One of six 007.i chassis developed exclusively for Newman/Haas Racing
- Finished in its period-correct Michael Andretti Havoline/Kmart/Duracell racing livery
- Equipped with its low-drag superspeedway aerodynamics package
A CHANGE COMES ALONG; NEWMAN/HAAS AND SWIFT ENGINEERING
For the 1997 rendition of the CART series, Newman/Haas Racing was a team in flux. Entering their fourth year removed from their most recent series championship in 1993, the team felt compelled to try something new. Co-owner Carl Haas had just pioneered a chassis supply deal with Swift Engineering, which would mark the company’s first foray into CART.
Unlike all other chassis suppliers utilized by the series, Swift was a US-based company based near California’s burgeoning, high-tech mecca of Silicon Valley. Their new chassis were to be developed exclusively for Newman-Haas, with a close collaboration between team operatives and Swift directors.
Swift already boasted a stellar reputation in open-wheel racing’s minor leagues, and so the team eagerly signed onto the deal. Their first collaborative effort, the 007.i, decidedly pushed the envelope for both IndyCar chassis, and aerodynamic, development.
Design of the new model fell onto the shoulders of Swift co-founder David Bruns, Newman/Haas Chief Aerodynamicist Dr. Mark Hanford, and team Race Engineers Brian Lisle and Peter Gibbons. The extensive development program, begun by Bruns in 1994, resulted in an exceptionally capable platform which introduced several novel features; these were quickly adopted as de rigeur components of future IndyCar chassis production.
Along with heavy use of CAD for several key components, never before had a CART entry utilized such a tightly nested exhaust system, elevated transaxle mounts, or “moving plane” diffusers mounted behind the car’s wheels to extract even more downforce from moving air. At 240 mph, the 007.i’s equipment provided loads of newfound grip, and progression of the 1997 season saw almost every other team rapidly develop their own aerodynamics in close approximation of the Swift-Newman/Haas machine.
Despite the all-American chassis change, the team continued their respective running gear deals with English firms Ford-Cosworth Racing and Hewland Engineering. During the preceding 1996 season Ford’s 2.65-liter turbocharged all aluminum XD V-8 engine and Hewland’s six-speed sequential transaxle had powered Newman/Haas driver Michael Andretti to a series-leading five victories.
Swift and Newman/Haas truly shocked the CART world when Andretti marched to a dominant victory in the 007.i’s debut race, the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead International Speedway on 2 March 1997. Despite nearly three years of painstaking development, it took the 007.i fewer than two hours of real-time competition to earn Swift Engineering their first CART victory as a constructor.
Newman/Haas Racing records show that at least six examples of the 007.i were produced for the team’s entry in the 1997 CART season, four of which are now offered for sale directly from the team’s headquarters in Lincolnshire, Illinois.
This Swift-Ford 007.i, chassis 003, is presented today in the period-correct Havoline/Kmart/Duracell livery of Michael Andretti. It wears a high-speed, low drag superspeedway aerodynamics package as detailed by its exceptionally small nose ailerons and elongated spoiler which is cantilevered far backwards into the car’s slipstream.
Chassis 003 was first paired with Andretti during the third round of the 1997 CART season, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach street circuit on 13 April. After qualifying 5th on the grid and running in 4th for the first few laps of the race, Chassis 003 suffered a tire puncture on lap 11 which saw Andretti sink all the way back to last place (26th). No good luck was to be found that day, with additional punctures on laps 35 and 70 forcing chassis 003’s retirement.
Despite their disappointing inauguration, Andretti and chassis 003 had surely hit their stride in time for the Nazareth Grand Prix on 27 April. Paul Tracy locked up pole position, with Andretti right alongside him to start the race. This dominant pair would finish as they started, though after 225 laps of head-to-head racing Andretti crossed the line just five-tenths of a second behind Tracy.
Andretti again replicated this impressive podium finish at the next two rounds, finishing runner-up to Greg Moore by three-tenths of a second at Milwaukee on 1 June, and again by 1.8-seconds at the Detroit Grand Prix on 8 June. Though victory seemed just out of Andretti’s reach on these occasions, chassis 003 was still earning Newman/Haas Racing critical points in the championship.
Andretti and this Swift 007.i next arrived at Portland for the Budweiser 200 taking place on 22 June. A mediocre qualifying session saw the Newman/Haas car deposited 6th to start the rain-soaked 78-lap contest. However, Michael Andretti survived the wet to finish in 8th place, pulling his season total to 91 points and third overall in the driver’s standings behind Tracy and Moore.
Andretti continued his pursuit at Toronto’s Exhibition Place on 20 July, having outqualified both Tracy and Moore to start at 4th on the grid. Better yet for the championship hopes of Newman/Haas, Moore crashed out on lap 69 of this 95-lap Canadian crucible, and Tracy came home six whole places behind Andretti in chassis 003. Finishing as they started–in 4th place–meant that just six points now separated Andretti and his chariot from a second CART championship title. Mechanical retirements at Cleveland on 13 July, Laguna Seca on 7 September, and Fontana on 28 September, however, ultimately spoiled Andretti’s chance at the driver’s championship.
Not presently fitted with an engine, 007.i would be a splendid addition to any collection of open-wheel racing cars, particularly those of American manufacture.