Due, in part, to two horrific accidents within the space of ten days including one that resulted in the death of rising star Tony Renna, the Indy Racing League is apparently taking steps to make their flying cars a bit slower.
According to a copyrighted story in today's Indianapolis Star newspaper, the League will amend its technical specifications for the 2004 IndyCar Series season and all three engine makers - Chevrolet/Cosworth, Honda and Toyota - will produce new crankshafts that reduce travel distance for pistons.
Engine displacement will be reduced from 3.5 liters to 3.0 liters, a change Toyota's Lee White had requested prior to entering League competition in 2003.
The change will be implemented at the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, giving engine makers time to effect proper design work and to use up the crankshafts already on their shelves for the first three races of the year.
It is expected concurrent aerodynamic changes will accompany this move and those may be announced in early February. There is even talk, the Indy Star said, of decreasing Firestone Firehawk tire width to slow the cars.
Speeds at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have increased dramatically - again - over the past few years. In 1997, the first year of Indy Racing League competition with its own set of rules, Arie Luyendyk took pole position at 218.263mph. Last May, defending two-time winner Helio Castroneves clocked in at 231.725mph.
White believes these changes should result in qualifying speeds about 15- 17mph slower than those recorded in 2003 at the Brickyard. With the pending aerodynamic and tire changes, speeds could come down even more.
This should enhance competition in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, particularly if the IRL continues to permit five degrees of rear wing adjustment, commented Team Penske president Tim Cindric. "Because some people get [the sweet spot] right and some don't, it separates the cars in qualifying and, more importantly, in the race. With drivers at different levels, too, there's even more opportunities to pass."
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