CHAMPCAR/CART: Drivers Lose on Downforce

Drivers Lose on Downforce By Robin Miller After meeting with the tire companies, CART owners decide to forgo changing to larger wings in time for Nazareth. MOTEGI, Japan -- Against the very vocal wishes of their drivers, CART's owners...

Drivers Lose on Downforce By Robin Miller After meeting with the tire companies, CART owners decide to forgo changing to larger wings in time for Nazareth.

MOTEGI, Japan -- Against the very vocal wishes of their drivers, CART's owners opted to stick with the game plan for short ovals -- at least through Nazareth, Pa., on May 2.

Following a Friday meeting between the franchise owners and tire companies, it was decided the super speedway rear wings would not be replaced by the larger wings which create more downforce and more speed.

"There was a lot of discussion from all parties, and it was decided to stay as we are," said veteran owner Derrick Walker. "[Nazareth] might be a terrible race, because we're basically going from 5,000 to 3,000 pounds of downforce. If it's cold, there will be very minimal grip and even less downforce.

"We don't want anybody to get hurt. We also don't want 18-second lap times and cars going through the second turn at 185 mph. So we'll hope for the best and see what happens."

Following recent testing at Nazareth and several accidents, the drivers were nearly unanimous in their disapproval. "It's like having 900 horsepower on roller skates -- it's not fun, and it's not racy," said Robby Gordon.

While the owners seemed to be leaning toward a change, Goodyear and Firestone pretty much made the final determination.

"We thought if we cut the downforce to 4,500 pounds with a wing blocker and have them test an optional tire Thursday before practice begins and then chose which tire they want, if they agreed, we'd go back to the old rule," continued Walker. "One tire company said it didn't like the idea, but they'd do their best.

"The other one said they'd already made 50 percent of [Nazareth's] tires and they were not in favor of it. So their answer was no."

Bruce McCaw, who owns PacWest Racing, said it wasn't a case of not listening to the drivers. "We care what they think, and we're trying to do the right."

Jimmy Vasser said he understands the situation but wants the right decision to eventually be made.

"The owners are in a tough spot, and there are so many special interests involved," said the 1996 CART champion. "But to reduce the downforce 40 percent without testing is ridiculous. CART needs to do a better job of decision making."

Walker agrees. "When we went with the Hanford device [to slow the cars on super speedways], we kicked it around with the engineers, made pieces and tested it in the wind tunnel. That process was not applied when we decided on this speedway wing rule.

"The rules have been decided [but not announced] for next year, and it's great, because it will allow us to adjust the aero package, and it will solve the problem.

"But right now we're just trying to get from here to there without crashing everybody."

Source: CART Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Jimmy Vasser , Bruce McCaw , Robin Miller