John Force eager to put new Camaro body through its paces at Topeka

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It’s not very often that a new car body style draws such attention and is the topic of a major announcement by a team and a car manufacturer.

But that was certainly the case Tuesday, when 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force and Chevrolet announced a new, state-of-the-art Chevy Camaro body that Force will debut in this weekend’s race at Topeka, Kansas.

In most cases, teams or manufacturers just issue a press release and maybe add a photo or artist’s rendering. But that wasn’t the case this time, as this was big news for the Force camp and Chevrolet.

The press conference held at Force’s Midwest headquarters in Brownsburg, Indiana, was well-attended by the media. And judging by the response of Force, fellow drivers Courtney Force and Robert Hight and others in attendance, it’s likely this new body style will go a long way towards potentially taking all three John Force Racing Funny Car drivers to victory lane and the top of the standings.

When asked if this is the most advanced and aerodynamic body he’s ever had in his three-plus decade Funny Car career, Force didn’t hold back.

“Without a doubt,” he said. “They spent a year and a half on this. Robert Hight told me our team was involved, (crew chiefs) Mike Neff and Dean Antonelli, Robert and our shops, Chevrolet engineers, went to work on this for the basic concept.

“It wasn’t like we just built something. We wind tunneled in old days too, but not like this. They went through a lot of this. Took a year and a half and finally it’s here.”

Force will get first dibs on debuting the car. After all, he is the team’s star driver, owns the team and is the winningest driver and champion in NHRA history on any level of competition.

“This is the first body,” Force said. “We’ll run it and see how it all works. The second one is being mounted and will go on Robert’s car. The third will go on Courtney’s car. The changes they’ve made are beautiful.”

Plans are for Hight to debut his new ride in New Hampshire, while Courtney Force is slated to debut her new car in Chicago. However, John Force said he may reverse the order and have Courtney debut her car first at New Hampshire.

“The key is the things they did in safety and staying within the rules of the new car the way it was built,” John Force said when asked what are the top attributes of the new car. “We used to have the burst panels in front of the engine. When it explodes, it has to go that direction to get out.

“Now and then the panel blew up in front. At 300 mph, you’re trying to close it, everything works against it and destroys the body. We put the body right over where the burst panels are, and the manifold we built (has) four outlets.

“The biggest thing is the view of the window is like panoramic, like a movie theater. The engine has never moved. The roofline went up over the injector. There’s this thing you look over, and you only have got that much room. You can’t line your car up.

“Now with the setting back you can look down both sides of the motor. Now you can find where you’re at.”

Hight concurred with his boss and father-in-law about the better vision they’ll have behind the wheel.

“Just the shape of the whole: the roof, the windshield, side windows, there’s a lot of
strength in that shape that we don’t need a lot of reinforcement and structure in the car.

“That’s all just obstructions for the driver. The windshield’s moved back closer toward the driver so now your peripheral is wider. Like John said it’s a big old picture window.”

Courtney Force also likes what she sees in the new body style.

“There are 300 guys at John Force Racing that really took this project on from the beginning and the engineers at Chevrolet,” Courtney Force said. “We wanted it to look the Chevrolet Camaro SS, but we still wanted it to perform and we wanted it to be fast.

“I think we found the perfect balance in the 2016 Chevy body that we’re putting on this Funny Car and we’re definitely excited to see how it’s going to run.”

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