Nicknamed “The Yellow Submarine”, the Chaparral 2K was an Indy car built by Lola Cars which competed under the Jim Hall Racing banner from 1979 thru 1981. Jim Hall is notorious for his pioneering and innovative aerodynamic work with Can Am cars in the late sixties and early seventies.
The Chaparral 2K was designed and used some ground effects principles that Jim Hall previously used back in 1970 with the ultimately banned 2J CanAm design. In 1978, the Lotus 78 Formula One car was developed using the same principle but in a significantly different way. The 2J CanAm car used two auxiliary fans to pull the air from the underbody of the car thereby creating suction to the track. The 2J had skirts mounted in the 'side-pods' which sealed off the low-pressure area. The Lotus 78 had the underside of the car contoured like an inverted airfoil which created a low-pressure area beneath the car as the air passed through resulting in the same suction effect. This design was carried through the following year in the Lotus 79. The Chaparral 2K was no doubt, inspired by the Lotus designs.
Financed by Jim Hall, the Chaparral 2K was designed by John Barnard. Driven by Al Unser in the 1979 Indianapolis 500, the car was an immediate sensation. It was the first ever ground effect car to race at the Indy 500. Al Unser captured the lead from the very start and maintained a phenomenal pace until the transmission gave out ending his run. The following year, the Chaparral 2K was piloted by Johnny Rutherford to victory lane. The Yellow Submarine also won the 1980 Indy Car National Championship.
I was there for the years this car was raced at Indy. The car made a huge impression on me. It was such a huge leap forward in the technology at the time. It was an age where many different car designs were designed an fielded by the various teams and drivers. The car design could give a team a real edge as much as the driver’s skill.