Andrea Toso - Louis Schwitzer Award

As Verizon IndyCar Series drivers have utilized the Dallara driving simulator at its facility in Speedway, Ind., Andrea Toso jokes that the two-story, multimillion dollar tool should be nicknamed the "stimulator."

The simulator, which is a first cousin to the one at Dallara Automobili's headquarters in Italy, is a cost-effective means for drivers and engineers to evaluate the on-track performance of race car components and system designs.

Toso, head of research and development and U.S. Racing Leader for Dallara, was presented the BorgWarner Louis Schwitzer Award that recognizes individuals for innovation and engineering excellence in race car design associated with the Indianapolis 500. Dallara is the official supplier of the Verizon IndyCar Series chassis introduced in 2012.

The $10,000 award, sponsored by BorgWarner, is presented by the Indiana Section of SAE International.

"I'm proud to be in his group," said Toso of Schwitzer, an engineer and race car driver who won the first auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909 and designed the "Marmon Yellow Jacket" engine that powered the Ray Harroun and the Marmon Wasp to victory in the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911. "Second, I think I belong to the Speedway, so it's an honor for me to be a part of this tradition. Third, I have a great group of engineers.

Dallara Simulator"The simulator is not just a great tool for drivers as you may imagine, but is a great tool for engineers. Quite rarely engineers get an opportunity to learn on the job. The simulator gives them such an opportunity. That means it stimulates ideas -- fresh, out-of-the-box thinking. The limit is really the fantasy. I will like to name the simulator after Louis Schwitzer, the engineer."

The high-tech, spider-like structure immerses drivers in a virtual race car complete with full controls, active seat belts, 180-degree video screen, Dolby surround-sound system, heat generators and vehicle motion based on laser scans of the corresponding racetrack. Team engineers can run simulation programs independent of Dallara software without having to expend energy and funds at the racetrack.

Dallara engineers also recently have used programs in the simulator to model a hydraulic steering damper built into the steering rack at the request of INDYCAR to minimize shock loads and create a prototype, which will be evaluated in on-track testing.

“I’ll give you another example of its use,” Toso said. “There's talk about a race in Brazil next year. There is a track, but probably the track needs some rework. We got a visit from those guys and the idea is let's have drivers run on a modified track.  Let's make sure they like the overtake zones, flow, so on and so on. Once they are happy, people would start the construction work with a good enough confidence that the track will be OK.

“But imagine going wrong, spending big money, and having all drivers and teams fly to Brazil, because they have no time to test before, just to realize that it's wrong. So we can model a track that does not exist yet.”

Andy Granatelli was the initial winner of the award for the innovation of the turbine-powered car. The 50th anniversary of the BorgWarner Louis Schwitzer Award coincides with the 100th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

Dallara principals also are exploring avenues for local police departments to utilize the simulator in training for car chases (the tool can simulate varying weather conditions), for local university engineering programs and young race car drivers.

Clauson and Byrd family team up for 2015 race

Bryan Clauson, who made his Indianapolis 500 debut in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, was named as the driver of the Jonathan Byrd entry in the 500 Mile Race in 2015.

Clauson (below) is a two-time USAC National Sprint Car Champion, two-time USAC National Midget Champion, three-time USAC National Driver's Champion and two-time National Midget Driver of the Year. The entry will be paired with an existing Verizon IndyCar Series team.

"I'm extremely excited to be headed back to the Indy 500," he said. "The Byrd family has a tremendous history not only at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but also among the short track community as well. To add my name to an impressive list of Jonathan Byrd's Racing drivers that includes guys like Rich Vogler and Stan Fox is an honor. With what I learned from my previous Indy 500 experience, along with a full year to prepare, I can't wait to see what we can accomplish together."

Bryan Clauson