Just under a year since the concept was announced, two brand new 2009 Formula Nippon chassis, designed and built by California's Swift Engineering, have gone through shakedown trials at Fuji Speedway. Autoblog spoke to Team Toyota TOM'S Andre Lotterer, one of the first two F'pon pilots to take the radically designed machine out for a spin, to see what he thought of the exceptionally wide single seater.
First off, they seem to be pretty well put together. In an unusual turn of events for a brand new car, nothing broke or fell off during the its first outing in anger. Equally unusual, the new design is almost as quick as the Lola chassis it replaces, and with a few adjustments is destined to be even quicker. That's saying something: Andre has managed to lap Fuji in 1 minute 23 seconds in the 2008 Formula Nippon car, less than 5 seconds off Lewis Hamilton's record of 1:18.7
Although the chassis currently lacks mechanical grip, pitching the car in to crowd pleasing slides in slow corners, Andre reckons that the gigantic 6' 4" wide front wing and sculpted sidepods are generating plenty of downforce, keeping the car planted through higher-speed bends. Unfortunately, those advanced aerodynamics won't be able to prevent incidents such as F1 refugee Yuji Ide's aerobatics at Suzuka earlier this year, and super rookie Kohei Hirate's wince inducing flight into the barriers at Motegi a few weeks ago, but the Swift monocoque is even stronger than the 2008 Lola tub that saved those drivers from serious injury.