IRL: Controlling costs goal of 2004 rule changes

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2003 -- The elimination of private testing is a highlight of several 2004 rule changes for the Indy Racing League(R) IndyCar(R) Series aimed at controlling costs, IRL officials announced Dec. 17. Other rule ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2003 -- The elimination of private testing is a highlight of several 2004 rule changes for the Indy Racing League(R) IndyCar(R) Series aimed at controlling costs, IRL officials announced Dec. 17.

Other rule changes involve engine changes on race weekends, engine manufacturer testing rules, fuel tank reduction, Open Tests and backup car use on race weekends.

"One of the very first principles Tony George founded the Indy Racing League on in 1994 was controlling the costs associated with racing," said Brian Barnhart, senior vice president of racing operations for the Indy Racing League. "As we enter the ninth season of IRL IndyCar Series competition, that principle remains as something we focus on each year. The 2004 rule changes are designed to control costs and ensure a level playing field for the IRL IndyCar Series."

Teams will not be allowed to conduct private tests, beginning Jan. 1, 2004. The Indy Racing League, which has sanctioned Open Tests since the fall of 1995, will sanction Open Tests at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jan, 27-29), Phoenix International Raceway (Feb 10-12), the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and The Milwaukee Mile. One other Open Test may be announced in the near future, and the Open Test dates for Indianapolis and Milwaukee will be announced at a later date.

Engine manufacturers Chevrolet, Honda and Toyota will be allowed three days of manufacturer testing for full-time teams that use their engines. The tests can take place at any track except Indianapolis.

Indy Racing League Rookie Tests, which are typically done during private test sessions, will be conducted at the discretion of IRL officials.

"Limiting testing to Open Tests and manufacturer tests will level the playing field, ensuring that each team has an equal opportunity to test during the year," Barnhart said. "This measure will also cut down the costs incurred by the individual teams when it comes to track rental, travel and the amount of money that it costs per mile each time a car goes on track."

Rules regarding engine use on race weekends have also been changed for 2004.

For race weekends that are two days long, teams will be required to use the same engine for practice, MBNA Pole Qualifying and the race. On weekends that are three days long, teams may change engines prior to MBNA Pole Qualifying, but then must participate in qualifying, final practice and the race with the same engine.

Should teams be required to change engines after MBNA Pole Qualifying, they will start the race from the rear of the starting field.

"By reducing the number of engine changes that a team can make, we reduce the number of engine rebuilds required during the year, which saves money for teams and manufacturers," Barnhart said. "This also eliminates teams using a purpose-built qualifying engine, which may focus on short-term power."

Other rule changes for 2004 include reducing the fuel tank from 35 to 30 gallons and a limit of five laps for a backup or "T" car on race weekends, unless the primary car is damaged in an accident.

"Our drivers, teams and manufacturers have been very cooperative with our rule changes for 2004," Barnhart said. "We feel these changes will control costs, level the playing field and keep IndyCar Series racing ultra-competitive."

The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season begins with the Toyota Indy 300 on Feb. 29, 2004, at Homestead-Miami Speeedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN.

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