Double-wide restarts on ovals and the restart area moving closer to the start/finish line were among the 2011 rules alterations announced by IZOD IndyCar Series president of competition and racing operations Brian Barnhart during the State of INDYCAR program in Indianapolis.
On-track changes incorporated in the rulebook followed input from team owners and drivers, along with communication with fans.
“We’re trying to increase the excitement and drama around the events,” Barnhart said. “Much of it is a response to fans’ expectations.”
Double-wide restarts will be implemented at an oval to be determined following further discussion with drivers. The race director will instruct drivers to line up according to running order on the final caution lap, with the race leader taking the inside position of Row 1.
The rule won’t be applied to road and street events because of their physical characteristics (narrow and quick corners that don’t allow for cars side by side) plus the build-up of tire tread “marbles” off-line as the race proceeds, though INDYCAR officials will monitor the racing at each venue to potentially integrate it for future seasons.
“At venues such as Barber, you have a right-hander and left-hander coming up on the start/finish line,” Barnhart said. “You don’t have time to get two wide. It’s easier to do that coming for the initial start because guys are willing to run off-line because the track is clean. They won’t do that an hour into the race.”
When the field hears “green next time by,” the restart zone will be closer to the start/finish line and be identified according to each venue’s characteristics. On ovals, the restart area had been between Turns 3 and 4.
“It’s a fan’s expectation that it’s where the restart should take place. It should be an exciting change,” Barnhart said.
Other changes include:
• Pit order for the field will be based on the qualifying performance from the previous similar venue instead of based on entrant points standings. An example: The starting order from the St. Petersburg race will determine the pit box location for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.
The pit box order for the March 27 season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be determined by entrant points from the 2010 season, while the Indianapolis 500 pit selection process will remain the same as past years.
“We were looking for ways to reward drivers for their efforts in qualifying,” said Barnhart, who noted that pit order for the first race hasn’t been decided. “By changing the pit selection process, it provides some variety so it’s not always the same teams and drivers at pit out, which can be an advantageous pit location. I think it will be really good to mix things up a bit.”
• The pit commit line is moving to avoid drivers being caught in “no-man’s land.”
“Pit lane is technically defined by where the speed limit begins and ends,” Barnhart said. “Everything else is racetrack. At a track like Homestead, where the pit entrance is off the backstretch onto the deceleration lane in Turn 3, you could find yourself on that decel lane heading to pit lane and if it went caution you could not stop because you’re not within the pit boundaries – the speed limit zone.
“Now, if you make the decision to leave the racing surface and head to a pit box and a caution comes out while you are within that extended zone you will be able to stop.”
A marker, such as a cone, will identify the start of the zone.
• The first session of a race weekend will be 75 minutes, with rookies and cars outside the top 10 on the track for the initial 45 minutes followed by all cars for the duration. As a complementary rule change, an extra set of tires will be made available to those participating in the 45-minute session. At the conclusion of the 75 minutes, the top 10 cars will have to turn in one set and the other cars will have to turn in at least one, if not two if they chose to get the second set (teams will be charged for the second set).
• One set of tires will be allowed for each segment of road and street course qualifying (a maximum of three sets for the first, second and Firestone Fast Six sessions). “It’s their choice whether they use reds or blacks in any of the three segments, but whatever set they bolt on and start the segment with that’s the only set they can use,” Barnhart said.
Additionally, the IZOD IndyCar Series announced that it will reduce specifications for all 2012 engines from 2.4 to 2.2 liters.
“One of our goals with the new engine was to challenge the automotive industry to balance power, efficiency and durability,” Barnhart said. “As we've progressed defining our engine rules with the INDYCAR Engine Committee, we felt it necessary to reduce displacement to a maximum of 2.2 liters to be in line with our smaller, lighter and more efficient direction.”
The INDYCAR Engine Committee is a working group comprised of representatives from participating engine manufacturers, under the chairmanship of INDYCAR. This group meets several times a year to discuss manufacturer goals and emerging technologies while developing a road map for the future.
Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus have committed to building engines for the next generation IZOD IndyCar Series car in 2012 and are represented on the INDYCAR Engine Committee.
The 2012 platform allows manufacturers to produce engines with a maximum of six cylinders. The engines will be turbo charged, producing between 550 and 700 horsepower to suit the diverse set of tracks on which the IZOD IndyCar Series competes. All engines will run on E85 with additional details on the fuel platform to be announced at a later date.