Trying to put a stop to runaway costs in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series, the sanctioning body announced today that it intends to clamp down on private testing and multiple engine changes, beginning January 1, 2004.
The Indy Racing League will continue to conduct open tests, as it has since the fall of 1995, starting with the January 27-29 sanctioned test at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Phoenix International Raceway will be the site of a second open test, set for February 10-12 and there will be two other open tests at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and new venue The Milwaukee Mile. A fifth open test may be announced, the League advised.
"One of the very first principles Tony George founded the Indy Racing League on in 1994 was controlling the costs associated with racing," Brian Barnhart, senior vice president of racing operations for the League acknowledged.
"As we enter the ninth season of IRL IndyCar Series competition, that principle remains as something we focus on each year. The 2004 rules changes (which include the private testing ban) are designed to control costs and ensure a level playing field."
Each of the engine suppliers to the IndyCar Series will be permitted three days of manufacturer testing for full-time teams utilizing their powerplants. These tests are available at any track except the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In addition, at the discretion of League officials, IRL rookie tests - normally done during private test sessions - can be conducted during the year.
"This measure levels the playing field and ensures each team has an equal opportunity to test during the year. This measure also cuts down costs incurred by individual teams when it comes to track rental, travel fees and the amount of money it costs per mile each time a car goes on-circuit," Barnhart said.
The Indy Racing League has also decided to regulate engine use on race weekends for the 2004 season.
On two-day race weekends, teams will be required to use the same engine for all practices, MBNA pole qualifying and the race. For three-day events, teams may change engines prior to qualifying, but then must participate in qualifying, final practice and the race using the same powerplant.
It is the League's intent to reduce the number of engine rebuilds required during the year by lowering the number of engine changes a team can make. This "saves money for teams and manufacturers," Barnhart advised. "This also eliminates teams using a purpose-built qualifying engine, which may focus on short-term power."
Fuel tanks will be smaller next season, reduced from 35 to 30 gallons. There will be a limit of five laps practice for a backup car on race weekends, unless the primary car is damaged in an accident during the race meeting.
"Our drivers, teams and manufacturers have been very cooperative with our rule changes for 2004," Barnhart concluded. "We feel these changes will control costs, level the playing field and keep IndyCar Series racing ultra- competitive."